Find the right E-Commerce Partner
Matching your business needs with in-house and external capabilities to drive e-commerce growth. Learn how to find the right e-commerce partner.
If you are looking around for a new e-commerce partner, start by asking these four important questions:
- Do you know which potential new initiative will drive the most business value in the coming year? Don’t restrict yourself in potential candidates. It can be a tool, process improvement, or a brand new offering even.
- Do you know who needs to do what, to successfully complete or implement this new initiative?
- How can you make sure the results live up to their expectations, once the initiative is ready to go?
- How will you measure success? And what can be done to further improve the solution?
Your answers to these questions should provide some insights into your needs. These questions can be mapped to the three phases of an e-commerce strategy: PLAN - BUILD - RUN.
Before deciding on an e-commerce partner, it’s important to know what kind of support you’ll need in each of these phases. Let’s explore them more in-depth.
The Plan phase is all about ‘doing the right things before doing things right’. We’re convinced your successes are determined more heavily by the selection of tasks than the way you execute them. A positive business case can be made for most potential initiatives, but how does a new project compare to other potential improvements? What are the risks involved? When all is said and done, how much time have you really saved? These kind of analyses are often either not done correctly, not done often enough, or not done at all. The result is that valuable resources are sucked up by a few big projects with high visibility, supported by heavily invested stakeholders, with questionable business outcomes.
To illustrate, in 2018 a big news story broke that LIDL killed their SAP HANA project after seven years of development, and had to write off 500 million Euro. What wasn’t highlighted or taken into account in this story are the missed opportunities, which make the real costs of this cancelled project even higher. What could have been achieved if all this effort and budget had been spent on other value adding initiatives?
So which initiatives should you plot first on your roadmap? In our SQLI Roadmap Process Template, we describe a process that helps you collect, score, and map new initiatives. And equally important, how to keep iterating and improving the roadmap itself. This approach demands there are no siloed departments in the organization with their own goals and motivations. Organizational goals and priorities should be leading.
While having a good and clear process in place goes a long way, making unbiased decisions can still be challenging. It’s very common for different people in the organization to each have their own horse in the race. This is where an outside-in approach can make all the difference. Getting support from your e-commerce partner in the planning phase will help you rate all initiatives objectively, balance short term with long term initiatives, and weigh potential profit against risk. You will not only be able to make better decisions but also hard decisions, without losing the support of your team.
The Build phase is usually perceived as the terrain of e-commerce providers. You have a project, you need specialized consultancy, design, and development capabilities for a limited amount of time, so you hire an agency. Sounds simple enough, right?
As always, you should ask yourself what kind of services you really need, and if this matches what the agency can provide.
- Specialized experience: What kind of implementation experience does your e-commerce partner have, specifically with your application of choice? Do they have experience with organizations in your branch and of your size?
- Project methodology: If you prefer a classic waterfall project, but your preferred agency is heavily invested in an agile way of working, or vice versa, the collaboration might end in conflict. On the other hand, if you’re willing to embrace a new project management method, is your partner willing and able to provide the proper coaching?
- Product owner role: Who will be the liaison with senior management and other departments? Who will be in charge of managing the backlog? In our experience, a strong product owner is a deciding factor for success in most projects. Are you able to fill this role internally, or do you need support from your e-commerce partner?
- Blended teams: What other roles would you prefer to fill in-house? Is your agency flexible enough to work in a blended team consisting of in-house and external experts? Is your agency willing to transfer their knowledge to your internal team? And is there enough of a cultural fit to make this a success?
Often neglected or undervalued, the Run phase is crucial for defining the conditions of a new partnership. This is also the phase where investments should bear fruit, so it’s important to think ahead and organize yourself while you still have the time to do so. This includes deciding what to insource and outsource, which should depend on multiple factors. How strategic is the initiative? How specialized are the tasks involved, and for how long do you need them? Does the required expertise match your existing capabilities?
Let’s outline what your e-business agency can do for you in this regard:
- E-business P&L or business case: Do you need support in projecting your future resource needs? Creating a Profit & Loss statement and solid business case can be initiated in the Plan phase, but both should be kept up-to-date during the operational phase. A good plan will factor in the costs of in-sourced versus outsourced resources.
- Reporting & Business dashboard: If you’re serious about iterating your roadmap and keeping your P&L in sync, you have to be serious about measuring and reporting too. A high level business dashboard can provide insights that help you monitor progress, and decide what the best next step is. Do you need help with creating or updating this dashboard? What about daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports, or analyses and advice? A properly set up dashboard can do it all.
- Training, coaching, or operational support: When the new solution is up and running, how do you guarantee your organization can get the most out of it? What kind of support do you expect from your e-commerce partner?
- Product management: We see a clear shift from project to product management, which we applaud. A product is usually not finished when the first delivery is made, it will still be improved and updated. Which related tasks are you able to support in-house? This includes stakeholder management, market research, customer experience management, product roadmapping, and the rollout of new updates. Do you have the ambition to insource any of these tasks? Is this practical and feasible? And how will this affect the relationship with your agency?
THE RIGHT PARTNER
Is SQLI the right E-commerce Partner for you?
We have extensive e-commerce experience, built on a strong technical foundation that dates all the way back to 1997, when online shops were just emerging. Since then, we’ve grown as an e-commerce provider and are continuously learning and extending our service portfolio. We’re genuinely passionate about what we do, and putting this experience to good use for you, our customer.
We can support and guide you in all three phases; Plan, Build, and Run. Without resorting to listing all our available services, rest assured that if it’s related to e-commerce or e-business, we have the means, experience, and ambition to support you. But our service portfolio isn’t the main reason to pick SQLI as your partner.
Our focus is on customer experience
SQLI is your customer’s advocate. In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, simply delivering a good product or service is no longer enough. We believe it’s essential for organizations to be customer centric, and it has become our second nature to think from the customer’s perspective. We have the tools to continuously monitor your customer experience, and the capabilities and drive to improve it.
We understand and respect your business drivers and restrictions
At SQLI, we get the bigger picture. We understand that driving a successful e-business demands that all components are aligned financially. Your team, marketing expenses, tooling, and fulfilment; different parts have their own separate business case, but we always focus on the complete story. If we believe there’s more business value in optimizing your current solution versus re-platforming, or vice versa, we’re not afraid to say so. And if we notice the budget spent on advertising is too high to be sustainable in a competitive environment, we’ll help you develop an alternative strategy. In short, we enable you to optimize your business value with the available resources.
We offer extensive knowledge and experience in IT
IT and the e-business solution landscape has been our bread and butter for over 20 years now. These days, e-commerce is more about being flexible than about having the most complete feature set. And that’s exactly what a smart, service based, ‘evolutionary’ architecture can deliver; a flexible environment with the ability to grow together with your business needs, whatever direction they may take you. We’d love to share our knowledge and experience with you, and work together on your business requirements, data, and processes. We can advise you on the best possible tools for your requirements, the best way to implement them, and the best architecture to support them. But we never lose sight of why we do this: to support your customers’ needs and optimize your business value.
We’re flexible and entrepreneurial
SQLI is ready to support you when and where you need it most. This means we can focus on providing only one of our services, if that proves to be the best course of action. This could mean support on your RFP process, hosting a roadmap exercise, creating a new visual design, or the technical implementation of your new commerce solution. Our partnership can be limited to setting up a good business dashboard, or simply helping you make your value proposition clear.
We care about your business
We can deliver only and exactly the services you need, assuming you have the complementing capabilities in-house to successfully run and maintain an e-business. If we feel this isn’t the case, we’ll always be truthful about what we believe is important and needed for your project to succeed. Not because we are stubborn or arrogant. But because as your partner, we care about your business.
Let’s conclude by summarizing when SQLI is the right partner and e-commerce provider for you:
- You value an unbiased outside-in view on your business, your technical architecture & your customer relations.
- You need a partner that can support you during all three phases: Plan, Build, and Run.
- You want to move beyond projects, towards a product centric approach.
- You need a partner that’s willing and able to share their knowledge, and co-create with you in a blended team.
- You need a partner that’s capable of delivering the exact roles and expertise you need, when you need it.
Simply put, we’re the right partner for you if you need an agile and versatile partner that’s just as focused on creating real business value as you, and can do this together with you.
E-Commerce Solution Audit
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