Ecommerce isn’t easy. Or, to be more precise, it isn’t easy if you want to do it right from the start. If you want a good, quality product, you must be ready to invest a lot of time and effort in research.
In this blog post, we have written down some of the most common questions intended for eCommerce clients to make things quicker and more fluid.
They represent just a few examples from which clients can get a general sense of everything the agency shall discuss in a potential eCommerce project. Of course, any question can & should be additionally explained if requested.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss
Also, it’s essential to be on the same page with expectations of potential clients from the start. If there are some mistakes or misunderstandings – we both could lose our nerves, time, and money. And that is what we want to avoid at any cost.
To put it very simply. The agency is trying to get to information from which it will make decisions on how many developers will be needed, how much time it would need to finish, what functionality it will need to work on/develop, what will the structure of the entire site will be, what User Experience elements are essential, and any other info that can help achieve the intended goal of the eCommerce site.
There are no irrelevant questions
But, before we go to questions, we must address one important thing. At the beginning of the project, there are usually a lot of questions for clients. Sometimes, the details the agency asks for might be perceived as insignificant, which honestly can not be further away from the truth.
It can certainly be understood that a client can be in a hurry and rushing his eCommerce projects to start ASAP, but that is not necessarily the best approach. A bit of preparation can help things move along once the project begins, and can influence both qualitative and financial results. And that is true not just for questions that the agency is asking potential clients, but also for questions that the client is asking an eCommerce agency.
We can say that questions are also essential because the relationship between an eCommerce agency and a client/merchant must be based on understanding and sincerity.
List of questions to ask eCommerce clients:
- What is your company about?
- What features do you want?
- What data do you need to migrate and what systems do you need integrated?
- What is your investment budget?
- Do you have a certain time-frame?
- How do you determine success?
What is your company about?
It’s always good to hear a bit about the client company and its whereabouts. It helps to put things into perspective when trying to provide the approach that will make a difference. At Inchoo, we like to hear as many details about client company as possible, such as company history, industry, type of products/services, type of audience, geographic reach, plans, leading competitors, etc.
We also value hearing the details that might be perceived as subjective, such as the feelings you wish your business/website to evoke, etc. Again, all of this would help the agency to see the bigger picture and finally provide the client with a service fit for their business correctly.
What is your product or service?
An eCommerce project is all about selling products (or services) to potential customers. Learning all about a product can steer design and development in specific ways. Depending on the answers, there will be crucial decisions for the general setup and functionalities of an online store, and the overall user experience.
- What are you selling?
- Why would someone buy your product/service?
- What is your best product line?
- What is your most recognizable and most profitable product/service?
- Which products (product lines) are your best-sellers?
- How many products/SKUs do you have?
- Is the price listed or will your customers going to be quoted on request?
Who is your audience?
Although the primary goal of an eCommerce site is to sell, it’s also essential to know to whom it is to be sold. Again, the design and features of the planned project are dependent on this information.
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What customer represents the majority of your customer base?
- What type of customers you don’t really want (but have them now)?
- Who is the most profitable customer?
Who is your competition?
Sometimes the competition has already solved one of the problems you have. But, the trick here is not to simply copy their solution. It’s actually to try to take that solution and to make it even better. Because the client doesn’t want to be as good as its competitors – the client wants to be better than its competitors.
- Name your top 5 competitors (both online and offline)
- What is your advantage over your competitors?
- Where are you at a disadvantage over your competitors?
Who is responsible for your digital marketing and visuals?
Although some would think that this type of question is not essential – information that can be later discovered can help quite a bit. For example, data from digital marketing campaigns can reveal the types of demographics of clients’ best customers.
Also, everybody knows that photos sell your product. Great images sell even better. We live in a world where potential customers need to see the product from every angle before deciding on buying one. The main task of a great product photo/video is to catch a visitor’s attention and eventually turn them into a customer.
- Do you have a digital marketing agency, or do you have an in-house marketing team?
- What types of marketing activities do you do?
- On what platforms do you run your digital marketing campaigns?
- Do you have professional photos of your products?
- Are creatives done in-house or outsourced to agencies/freelancers?
- Do you have videos of your products/services?
What are the trends for your industry?
Building an online store is very complicated sometimes. It’s not only to give efficient solutions for today’s customers but also for future customers and their future “needs.” It is a digital world in which we are living, and it is constantly changing. To know, even approximately, the future trends can help build an online store that can be “future-proof.”
- What is the single trend that is changing your industry right now?
- Can you describe the trends for the next five years that will influence your industry?
What features do you want?
Sometimes the client wants everything incorporated into a single website — every single idea. But, sometimes, that would mean that the site would be cluttered, and potential customers would not have a good experience.
For new businesses starting in online selling, it’s always a good idea to listen to eCommerce agency and their suggestions for needed features. Given the experience, the agency should suggest what is best for the client. However, if the client is doing a re-platform (from an old platform) agency would need to know if any specific features are present on the current site, that also needs to be present on the new site.
All this information can mean a ton of difference regarding site structure and its navigation. Not to mention Search Engine Optimization. Generally speaking, every needed feature can be done. But, it’s always a question of time and budget.
- Do you only want an eCommerce or multipurpose site?
- Do you sell your products/services internationally?
- Are there any features where you want to emulate your competitors?
- Do you already have an eCommerce website(s)?
Do you have an eCommerce returns management process, or do you plan for one?
- If you have several websites, what’s the distinguishing factor between them?
- What are the features that you want to transfer to the new site(s)?
- What features are you not satisfied with on your old site(s)?
- What is the main challenge with your existing (old) eCommerce platform?
What data you need to migrate and what systems do you need integrated?
If a client is doing a replatform from another system, there is always a question of data migration. Depending on the data the client would like to migrate, the eCommerce agency needs to check the database structure and prepare a tool for migration.
The Agency must know what kind of systems the online store needs to integrate with.
Businesses are using various external systems, and it is of paramount importance to integrate as much of them as possible.
For example, ERP systems are easily one of the most important, as well as most common systems that are integrated with client’s sites. Knowing which version is going to be used, as well as what data is going to be “pulled” and how the workflows should be set up helps quite a bit.
Covering all the points of eCommerce business workflow is crucial in setting up automated and successful processes wherever possible.
- What data do you need to migrate from old to a new one if you already have an online store?
- What data would you love to migrate from old to a new online store?
- Which payment gateway would you like to use?
- Do you accept multiple currencies or just a single one?
- Which shipping provider would you like to use?
- What ERP system and version would you like to use?
- Do you have developer documentation for that ERP system and version?
What is your investment budget?
This is one very important factor from both perspectives – of a client and that of an agency. It’s important because of the approach the agency is going to use. The right agency should properly implement project management rules to maximize the available budget.
In essence, an agency should do its best to provide the best possible model that the client’s money (budget) can buy. To be able to do that, the agency would need to balance: needs vs wishes, custom code vs plugins, and short-term vs long-term objectives.
But, genuinely successful agencies are also trying to analyze every detail of client’s budget and revenue to suggest a final solution that will fit clients’ needs and goals perfectly.
- What is your budget for this eCommerce project?
- If you already have an eCommerce shop – how much revenue do you earn from it monthly?
- Are you seeing some trends around your monthly revenues for the past year or two?
- What is the AOV (average order value) from your customers?
- Are you seeing some trends in the amount of average order value for the past year or two?
Do you have a certain time-frame?
Timeframes are very important, sometimes even critical. These often have a lot of influence on the project, but not always in the right way. Generally speaking, it is better to have some “breathing space”, because then people in production tend to have better ideas and more time to rethink possible approaches.
Also, with any project that is in development, there is always a chance that something might not go as planned, especially with complex projects. Any shift, be it the major one or something not as crucial, is expected to influence the final timeline.
- What is your expected timeframe for the delivery of this project?
- Are there any events that are influencing that timeframe?
After we lined up all these details, it is hard not to mention the famous triangle, and it is even harder not to stress it once again. There are always those three that are in the loop: fast, cheap, good. But you only get to choose 2!
So, choose wisely!
How do you determine success?
Sometimes there is a disagreement between the agency and the client on what is actually a successfully delivered project. To avoid this, it’s very important right from the start to agree on what and how success will be defined and measured.
- Do you have a plan on how to measure if the eCommerce project is successful or not?
- If you do have a plan – how will you measure it?
- What analytics solution are you using?
What must be remembered is that the goal of asking these questions is to find out all information which will then potentially be used to create a full functioning eCommerce store based on the set goals.
After the agency has gathered all the above info, it is in a position to talk about the potential project more solidly. Only then can the agency offer some numbers/timelines and talk about the next steps.
I hope this gives you a better idea of what is needed to approach an eCommerce agency in a way that will ensure saving some valuable time and starting the project in the best possible manner.