Venturing into ecommerce/scaling up

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Hi, i'm supporting a friend at present who is running a small ecommerce store to support the main business and they are looking to scale up but are unsure on where to start, they have a few issues with current provider (hosting slow, slow incident response, to/fro on what items are covered in monthly invoice etc) but are keen to expand online. the existing site acts as both an ecommerce site for smaller products but also as a general brochure type site for larger more offline purchases.

So i'm looking for some guidance a checklist sort of approach on what to look for in a new provider.

I'm quite happy to understand if the support solution should be split into hosting, website design/maintenance, SEO providers but its some guidance on the where to start initially.

We've identified website ecommerce upgrades, website theme and hosting being important to address immediate concerns, but certainly any advice would be great

Any help would be great but not looking for recommendations at this stage just the 'what to look for'

Hi @downsouth

If you are searching for a single partner to support you in scaling the business then should be asking lots of questions. There are many digital agencies out there who build sites and have turned their hand to PPC, SEO and Social ads. In my experience, many of them have never run an e-commerce store or even sold anything online, so they often have no idea about profit. They also have limited knowledge when it comes to customer targeting, on-site content to create engagement, conversion, customer loyalty, increasing basket value, etc. If you are going to scale then you need this knowledge.

It may be a case that you may need multiple partners. You need to go with what you feel comfortable with and the people who you believe have the drive to make it happen. They should also have a proven track record.

Whichever route you take, you should be asking questions like:

Web Hosting, Maintenance & Support
  • Who do you use for your hosting? (This is useful so you can gauge the reviews)
  • Does your hosting include security patches and plugin updates?
  • How often do you make back-ups of my site?
  • Is the SSL certificate included?
  • What is your response time with regards to bugs or downtime?
  • Are there any additional charges?
  • Can I speak with some of your clients?

Commercial knowledge
  • What other brands have you worked with and grown?
  • What would be your strategy to grow our brand?
  • Where do you think is the low-hanging fruit?
  • How would you increase on-site conversion? Any immediate improvements?
  • How would you create loyalty?
  • What investment should we expect to make and what targets do you think are achievable?

  • What would be your SEO strategy for increasing exposure and driving sales? (Important to note that you don't just want traffic. You must convert it! Something many SEO companies ignore)
  • What are to top tier keywords you would target first and why?
  • How would you make our site an authority in its niche?
  • What type of content would we need to produce to ensure our SEO performs?
  • Do you any limitations with the site that would prevent sales conversion from SEO?
  • What input do you need from me to make this happen?
  • Are you buying links? If so, from where? (This can be damaging)

  • What would be your strategy for using paid ads to grow my business?
  • How will you ensure my budget is tested and spent wisely?
  • How should my budget be split?
  • What ads do you think will perform the best for my type of product?
  • What other brands have you worked with?
  • What advertising budget should I be expecting to start with?

Yes, pricing is important when you are a small business but don't be swayed by a low-cost because you often get what you pay for. Remember, this is an investment in the future of the business, not just any old website. If you want a solid platform, first-class support and ongoing knowledge to grow the business then there is a cost associated with that.

I hope that helps.

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I'm quite happy to understand if the support solution should be split into hosting, website design/maintenance, SEO providers but its some guidance on the where to start initially.
Some good advice from @WebshopMechanic, but you are probably not ready for this yet.

Do you have a plan you're working towards, both for the website and marketing, with improvements and sales/ROI goals that you're trying to achieve?

That's the place to start, as your request is for so many disparate services its impossible really to give a simple guide/checklist, as its not simple and will vary a lot requirement wise from business to business.

Essentially this should be approached the other way around; e.g. with proper research first to identify the goals. As you may need a new website, new PPC, new copy/content, product descriptions, shopping feed, SEO etc, or you may only need elements of this.

You need to do some analysis of what works well for the current setup and campaigns, what doesn't; plus some customer and competitor research to set out what your trying to achieve, at that stage you start looking at work required, budgets, ROI etc.
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