Updated: Sep 18
You’ve decided you're going to take on a new project and you realize - “I might need some help on this one.” Whatever the project is, you can bet there is an agency out there that is willing to help.
Agencies come in all shapes, sizes, and specialties: eCommerce website developers, digital marketing agencies, SEO experts, and a variety of retail business software solutions (SaaS) are out there to help retail businesses automate functions, simplify operations, and grow their business.
The question becomes, who should you choose and why?
There are pros and cons with all agency types.
Sometimes, when engaging with these companies, you get the founders. Other times, it's a team of contributors.
Some have been around for years, while others are in their first few years.
Some are quite pricey, while other agencies are extremely affordable.
Because there are so many agencies out there that satisfy a variety of retail business needs, finding the best one for the specific needs of your business can be a challenging, even daunting task. FOMO agency has a team of retail industry automation experts who can help you get started on defining your scope of work - contact us!
Before evaluating any agencies, however, you'll need to look internally and ask yourself these seven questions:
1. Who internally should manage the project?
You should assign project responsibility to 1-2 individuals. This person/team should be empowered to make decisions, schedule deadlines, communicate with cross-functional partners, and present findings to the key decision-makers in your company.
Having a dedicated mind on the project will ensure that all of your needs can be met within your timeline and budget.
2. What is the desired go-live date for this project?
You will need to determine the latest date you can go live with this project. Doing this can help you rule out certain vendors, and understand, realistically, if your project can be done according to your desired timeline.
If you need to go live in six months, then make sure prospective vendors know your project timeline is four-five months so you’ll have the opportunity to test and make edits before your desired launch date.
On the other side of the coin, if you learn that the project cannot be done in the desired timeline, you need to determine if you can be flexible and push the project back a bit, or if you need to find a different vendor.
3. What budget do we have for this project?
The word BUDGET often strikes fear, but it shouldn’t. You absolutely should have a ballpark for your desired budget.
The budget should always be flexible and be able to change under the right circumstances.
Outlining what financial commitment your company is able to make on the project will help you:
avoid wasting time with unsuitable vendors early on,
understand what assets and flexibility you have to work with,
and increase your chances of completing your project successfully.
If you are worried about an agency taking advantage of your budget, then you might be talking to the wrong people in the first place. It helps to look for an agency that is billing with relative transparency. The more details they share about their process, the better.
How many hours are they projecting the project will take? What is their hourly rate? What happens if the project takes more time than projected? What happens if all the hours are not used?
4. What type of experience are you looking for?
There are many ways to think about experience:
Do you want an agency with many years of experience or are you open to fresher eyes?
Do you want an agency that will be consultative and make suggestions?
Do you want an agency that will just take your directions and execute?
The decisions you make here will have a pretty large impact on the outcome of your project. An agency with years of experience is probably going to be more expensive, but it’s also more proven, so, inherently, the risk level is lower.
An agency with less experience is probably going to be more affordable, and less proven, but it’s also going to be motivated to execute your project well to build a good reputation with its early customers.
5. Would it help to have a consultant guide you through the project?
Do you want a consultant help you find the best options to evaluate?
Do you want a consultant to interact with other vendors on your behalf?
It’s worth considering a consultant to help you simplify things. They can help you avoid wasting time in conversations that aren't the right fit, and that the solutions you purchase are truly the solutions to YOUR business problems/needs.
A Retail Consultant can help with:
interacting with vendors
negotiating with vendors
providing constructive feedback
Need help defining - or refining - your eCommerce Operations or Merchandising Strategies?
Let FOMO agency help solve your retail puzzle.
From website design and digital marketing to visual merchandising and inventory planning, our experts will help answer all your retail questions.
6. What are the requirements for this project?
You may not know every requirement for your project. It might take a few consultations to develop a full Scope of Work (SOW). At this stage, it is best to be as detailed as possible to understand what is required for your project. These three questions can help get you started:
How will my team interact with this product?
How will customers interact with this product?
What features do I NEED to accomplish my goals most efficiently?
7. What is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
Speaking of NEEDS - when thinking about your MVP, you need to list out your NEED-to-haves and your NICE-to-haves.
Your MVP should include all of the NEED-to-haves; making that happen within your budget is your top priority. If you can find ways to get the NICE-to-haves also, then bonus points to you!
Following these steps will lead to better agency experiences and provide a clear path for successful partnerships and projects.
💡 A FEW EXTRA TIPS for your agency evaluations:
1) Determine fit as early as possible.
Determining fit with a vendor as quickly as possible is helpful for everyone involved.
You don’t want to:
be harassed by a vendor who didn’t get the message
go down the rabbit hole with a vendor to find out your budget cannot support their product
get to the end of a project and feel like you made the wrong decision
and so on...
There are going to be good and bad experiences when dealing with vendors and agencies. Ideally, you come as prepared as possible to these conversations and maximize your chances that the experience will be a good one.
Determining fit is as easy as (1) presenting the vendor with a timeline, budget, and MVP, and (2) asking questions that determine if they can give you the experience you are looking for.
2) Blind trust.
The relationship between an agency and their employer is a relationship initiated with mutual blind trust.
Sure, you've had a few discovery calls, received a nice proposal, and asked all the questions you can think of.
However, there is still no guarantee you will like where the project goes.
Many agencies bill upfront, so you must instill blind trust that your payments will result in a project completed to your specifications.
On the flip side, the agency is also putting blind trust in YOU - in the notion that you have accurately disclosed all the details of the project, and are responsive to feedback and follow-ups.
If both parties can be open, honest, and transparent throughout the process, then magic is bound to happen.
About the Author:
Dustin D. Thede has spent over a decade in retail with a foundation on the front lines as a sales leader and has been helping retail businesses adopt new software and pursue custom development projects since 2016.
Today, Dustin focuses his efforts on helping small to medium businesses (SMB’s) make more informed business decisions in the age of Digital Transformation.
“There is a lot of opportunity online and in stores for retailers. The ability to develop creative, data-driven strategies is key to success in an ever-evolving retail world. A plan today is a vision for tomorrow.”
Dustin D. Thede
President | FOMO agency