This is possibly the single point where most ecommerce projects fail to make it to market or function. It is the stress point of business, as they are investing money and not getting any revenue until the site goes live.
The way you define the product on the outset determines the response and the type of partners you will attract.
A specification that consists of a phone call “all I want is a stand shop no frills just all the regular things for about 30 items “. If this happens to be your specification, you are not serious or prepared. We would see this as the owner does not have enough interest in the project to think long enough to write a specification ! That said some people know so little about the channel that they cannot write the specification, in this case you are well advised to employ a company to write this specification for you so as to ensure there is nothing left out and you get the best possible start.
When you specify a project for ecommerce you need to have the following titles.
- what are you selling online
- what market is it aimed at, demographic, demographic
- how many products you hope to stock
- are there options on the products like colour and size
- can the products be grouped
- are you selling to the public
- what account package do you have, do you want the ecommerce to communicate with your accounts
- what are your sales targets
- what are your sales territories
- what payment types do you want
- who are your competition, include some URLS.
- do you have a product you would prefer to implement the site in and why
- what kind of functionality do you want on the:
- front page
- category listing page
- detail product page ( images, descriptions, options, supporting documents like manuals )
- checkout page
- account creation page
- what payment types you require
- what time-scale you are planning
- multi-channel is to be considered
- multi-lingual ?
- hosting required
When looking for a development partner you need to be able to ask the following and get straight answers, note them down and get them in an email if possible.
- where is the physical location of the offices ( good to see the environment they operate from, sloppy office=sloppy work )
- how many live customers are they supporting
- names of other clients they deal with and contacts for references
- questions to ask other customers
- are tasks carried out on time
- is there tracking and auditing of works carried out
- is there outsourcing if so, where to and by whom
- is there a support desk, is it efficient
- is there a Service Level Agreement on support
- has there been any errors and if so how were they handled
- if you were starting out again, would you use them again
- has the company professional indemnity insurance
- if they claim to have won awards check the awarding website, lots of people showing awards logos but they have won nothing. Bare in mind some awards are achieved by buying 2 tables at the awards dinner !
Now it comes down to price. Be careful of going for the cheapest. Many companies are champions at their own sales but perform badly after the initial sale. You need your partner close to you so that if there is a crises you can call around or you know the call is always returned fast.
Lastly make sure that the product your new ecommerce partner is delivering your new site on is well supported internationally. If you fall out with your current development partner you will need to be able to have a choice of other partners you can move to.