18 Questions To Ask Your Prospective E-commerce Consultant

Are you simple looking for a brochure site? Will you be selling products or services online? What type of products or services? Will you be capturing information on a database? Do you intend to host the site or are you going to outsource hosting? Once clear about what you need, it will be easier to find the right match for an e-commerce consultant. The answers to this list of questions should help you determine if there’s a fit.

1. How long have they been in this business?

As with any business relationship, knowing how long a consultant has been doing this type of work indicates their level of experience. Although newcomers may have much to offer, you should know which level of the experience spectrum your consultant falls into.

2. How large is their organization?

A small organization may be able to offer better pricing because of lower overhead, but a larger organization offers depth. That knowledge may influence your final decision.

3. How many e-commerce sites have they set up?

You may find someone who has experience designing brochure sites but not with e-commerce sites. You need someone who understands the intricacies of e-commerce and is familiar with databases.

4. Have they developed any sites similar to yours? What did those sites cost?

Review those sites. Although no two sites are identical, experience with similar sites makes it unlikely that you will be paying for a learning curve. The consultant should be able to explain any differences in cost between your site and others.

5. What do they consider their “sweet spot”?

In a perfect world, your need would fit within that sweet spot. Both larger and smaller targeted consultants may be able to do the project, but the closer you come to that sweet spot, the greater the likelihood for success.

6. Do they have a business background?

If you require reporting or accounting from your site, a consultant with a business background will more easily understand your needs.

7. Do they have a technical background?

Subtle technical and engineering issues often arise, such as integrating third-party software, licensing, and platform dependencies. There may be difficult decisions that require tradeoffs between the budget, the feature list, and the delivery schedule. A strong technical background can help sort through these issues and assist in deciding where the best value lies.

8. What is their record for on-time delivery?

Projects do run over for a number of reasons, on the part of the developer and the client. However, overall, an experienced consultant should be able to anticipate and minimize time and cost overruns.

9. How much of your time do they think this will require? What will be required of you?

Developing any website is not an issue of simply hiring someone else to do it. This will be representative of your business. There will be many decisions to be made. There will be content to be written. Ask the consultant what client resources have been required for similar projects.

10. Can they describe the website development process they follow?

Check to see if their process includes steps such as discovery and planning, branding and interface concepts, page development, database programming and quality assurance/testing.

11. What about ongoing changes? Do you expect to manage your own site, or do you want your web developer to manage the site?

Consider both the look and feel of the site as well as content management. Someone on your staff must, at minimum, be able to manage the product database.

12. Will they arrange for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption?

If you are going to accept credit cards or other customer information online, the security of your customer data should be a top concern. There will be a cost associated with this.

13. Do they offer search engine optimization?

Unless you intend to use your site as a brochure site only and are expecting people to find you on the web, but only through referral to your site, you must be listed in search engines. If your consultant does not do this, ask for a referral to someone or a company who specializes in SEO.

14. Do they offer web hosting, or do they have a web hosting partner they work with regularly?

If not, make certain that the tools they use are compatible with the host you choose. Ask to see multiple examples of their work. You want to make certain that their graphic approach appeals to you.

15. Do they create the site, or do they outsource development? If they outsource, is it done locally or offshore?

There is no right answer here, but you should know how your site will be developed. If it is outsourced offshore, the specification must be highly detailed before being handed to the developers.

16. How does their personal style fit with your internal staff?

This is a relationship that you hope will continue over time. You want someone who works smoothly within your organization.

17. What type of project management do they use?

Their style needs to match yours for you to understand what is happening and how the project is progressing.

18. Last, but not least, what questions do they have for you?

This is a significant question. You can tell a great deal about a firm by the depth and scope of questions they ask you. The right consultant can help make the process easier and refine your approach to result in a top-notch site.

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