Building an eCommerce site? Ask these questions first [Checklist]

Many eCommerce sites have failed at the hands of poor design, copy, and — ultimately — communication. Every agency (or network structure) is different. Some will focus on design while others will optimise 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.

Building The Portfolio

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?

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 optimised 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 analyse my business, market, and competitors to better understand my industry?

Product Catalog

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?

Catalog Browsing

Will the products be presented horizontally or vertically? Why?

How will customers be able to organise the catalog when they’re viewing it?

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?

Conversion Optimisation

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?

Website Features

How do I create discount or voucher codes for my customers?

Will I be able to personalise 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 Optimisation

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 optimise 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?

Site Management

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?

Tools Integration

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?

Security Precautions

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?

Are you ready?

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.

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