Questions You Should Be Asking your eCommerce Vendor
Your online store needs more than an eCommerce platform to function–it also requires third-party software to manage your warehouse, control shipping and transportation, and assist in various other parts of your business's supply chain. When choosing these partners, it's important to ask the following questions:
Q: What is your process for compliance?
A: No retailer has been left untouched by the implementation of the GDPR on May 25th, despite it being a European Union regulation. Similarly, compliance issues like PCI and WCAG are crucial for not only retailers to comply with, but also any of the third-party vendors that they work with. Lack of compliance with these regulations can increase business risk and exposure and lead to hefty fines. Ensure the vendors you are working with are compliant from the very beginning of the partnership.
Q: How much will I need to budget for in the next year?
A: Third-party vendors can not only increase your risk, but also your total cost of ownership. Are there any additional pieces of software or services that this vendor will require you to purchase throughout the relationship? Under what circumstances could your costs go up? Many of these additional charges come up later on, so make sure you clarify upfront what the total cost for the next year will be so you can budget accordingly.
Q: What is the timeline for implementation?
A: This question is particularly important if you are working with an implementer on your eCommerce site. Make sure you outline a specific timeline that both parties agree to. You don't want to pay hefty costs up front only to have your go-live date continually pushed out by the vendor.
Q: Will a support team be available to assist beyond the initial implementation and will they monitor ongoing issues with the site?
A: Your eCommerce site is your business, and your vendors should make it their business as well. The “set it and forget it” method does not work when it comes to tech, and any vendor worth their salt will continuously be available for support questions and even anticipate the types of challenges you may face so that they can best assist you.
Q: Will there be any fees for training our team on this technology/service?
A: This is particularly critical when working with any type of new service provider. If your team is unfamiliar with the service, they will need training to get up to speed. There are certain service providers that will add fees for training your team, so it's best to account for this up front.
Q: Who will my team be working with from your company?
A: The charming salespeople you speak to in the early stages of a new vendor relationship are usually not the people you will end up working with day-to-day. Clarify who you will be working with most closely, and meet with them early on to ensure your strategies and processes are aligned.
Q: Do you have a satisfied customer that we can speak with?
A: Our team has received this question before. Really, the underlying question is, "What kind of relationship do you have with your clients?" We believe it is just as important to have a strong, healthy relationship as it is to have the greatest piece of automated machine-learning software in the world.
Q: Can I extract the data created from your solution after a certain period of time?
A: Good, clean data is priceless. Being able to access your data and extract it to cross-reference with other systems or research can enable your team to make more strategic business decisions. Some vendors do not allow full access to customer data before or after a certain period of time.
When choosing vendors for your eCommerce business, look at them as an extension of your brand, because ultimately, they will be. And remember that your customers don't really care who you partner with. They just want a seamless shopping experience, and it's up to you to provide it.