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TechnologyFeb 23, 2010

The Importance of an Experienced eCommerce Partner

Matt Allen

It might be obvious, but it is worth stating: eCommerce is more than just a website. Most companies figured this out 10 years ago when everyone just wanted an “e-presence.” Now, we all know that a lot more goes into an eCommerce strategy than HTML. eCommerce implementations are complex programs that receive input from most business functions of a company. Add that to the challenge of integrating the technology stack with an existing infrastructure and you could very well have a major program on your hands.

You need to answer several questions first:

  • What are our goals for ecommerce? Are we trying to extend our current brick-and-mortar presence or are we ecommerce only? What is our overall business strategy and how does ecommerce fit into that?

  • Where are we today, from an ecommerce standpoint? What type of systems, processes, order volume, traffic patterns, etc. are in place?

  • What do we want our ecommerce channel to be in 3 years? How can we get from where we are today to where we want to go?

  • What is our target audience? How can we best reach them?

  • Do we need a marketing campaign to announce our new program? To whom do we announce it? Do we even know who our customers are?

  • Is our master data sufficient, or will we need to change it? Do we even know what master data we need?

  • What development process should we use? What tools are best suited for this process?

  • Is our architecture robust enough? Do we need more servers? Do we need to think about mobile devices?

  • Do we have enough FTEs? Do we hire more? Does anyone have experience doing this?

The questions go on…

According to an article in The Journal of Academy of Business and Economics, company size and number of prior eCommerce implementations greatly influence the success of an eCommerce project. Of course, this makes sense. Experience matters, as well as resource availability. Many organizations do not have the resources to implement a full eCommerce program, or even to develop the strategy for that matter. Many organizations just do not have the experience. These organizations need a partner who can come aboard to fill in those gaps. That is why choosing an experienced eCommerce partner is critical.

When you are looking for a partner, consider the following factors:

  • Competence – does this company have experience in eCommerce?

  • Innovation – will this company provide creative insight into your specific circumstances?

  • Unbiased – is this company open to all possible solutions, or are they focused on one or two?

  • Pragmatism – while standardization has its benefits, there is no cookie cutter solution. A big-box retailer is much different from a specialty boutique.

  • Trust – finding a long-term, trusted partner is critical with ecommerce. Make sure you find a partner that you believe has your best long-term interests in mind and can help you accomplish your ecommerce vision.

In your interviews, ask for client references and sample deliverables. Determine what that company’s point of view is concerning your issue to be solved. Does it match what you were thinking? Of course, you will need to know fee structures and payment schedules. Ask the interviewee to demonstrate that its fees are worth the value you will get out of the project. In addition to the factors above, there is also a less tangible factor. What type of culture and core values does the company have? Will it fit will with your culture?

Picking the right partner is important. It is something to which you should give much thought. In the end, the right partner will ensure the success your eCommerce program.

Here is what our partners say about us:

  • [Your team] hit home runs the entire time…”I didn’t think it could be done. You did it and its fantastic. Congratulations.“ This is the highest compliment your team can receive. I am thrilled! And you all should feel very proud and thrilled as well. Thank you to the entire team!”

Counsel, Law Dept. Internal Operations – Boeing

  • “We needed outside expertise that we did not have internally available. We now have a 3 year plan in place that we have been following for a little more than a year. We have a standard method to determine the ROI on all of our IT initiatives and have begun to consolidate all of our business systems to a common platform. We could not have accomplished this without [them]. They were crucial in allowing us to make this possible.”

EVP of Strategic Planning – Kerr-McGee

  • “The partnership between Credera and the US Postal Service delivered a successful working solution to a significant management problem in 12 weeks. Our VP of Engineering is not shy about his approval, support and use of the system. He frequently points to the development as an example of good systems management. I am not shy about telling anyone that will listen about how this project made me successful”

Program Manager – United States Postal Service

  • “They did an outstanding job for us. They truly endeared themselves with all of our people by engaging everyone from administration all the way to top management. They really earned everyone’s trust and allowed them to share information and opinions…as a result, we now have our roadmap. It has allowed us to better plan, prioritize and allocate resources more effectively for projects.”

EVP of Information Technology – Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group

  • “I appreciate all you do for us, but more importantly how much you have personally invested in our success”

VP Marketing – Freeman, The Leading Convention &Trade Show Organization

  • “Credera has been fabulous to work with .. their consultants are knowledgeable, professional and work great with our internal staff. Probably the best overall consulting company I have worked with in my 20+ years in IT”

SVP of IT – Alpha Natural Resources, A multi billion dollar coal producer

Would you like to say the same about your ecommerce partner?