The major players in ecommerce platforms offer a lot of features and functionality for your business. However, at some point in your retail journey, whether you are spinning up a brand-new website or re-platforming an existing business, you will likely realize that you need more than what comes standard.

There’s a myriad of companies offering products to fulfill all your commerce dreams, including chatbots, shipment tracking and return services, user-generated content, ratings and reviews, payment service providers, AI product recommendations, and more. Wherever you are on your ecommerce site journey, this guide should help you understand how to make the right choices with your third-party tools.

 

Features & Functionality

When is a tool not a tool? When it’s the wrong tool for the job. Some questions you should ask yourself and the sales team who are trying to sell you on this product include:

  • Does your business need this functionality? Will it offer an improved consumer experience, increase revenue, or improve your internal operations?
  • Does your current platform or another existing vendor offer a similar feature, or could it be built in-house?
  • Does this product do what you need it to do today? And does this product do what you need it to do in the future?
  • Is the company innovating and staying current?
  • Do their customers get the chance to give input on their product roadmap?

While an ecommerce site is never finished, no one wants to be implementing a new SaaS product every 12 months because what you implemented last time was unable to keep up with industry best practices. The company’s product roadmap is just as essential as its current offering. Understanding how they are ever-evolving their product for their customers should help you determine which service is right for you.

 

Service & Support

It’s easy to get swept up in the sales pitch, but at the end of the day, your team will be onboarding, using this product every day, and regularly interacting with your account manager. Before making a choice, take the time to get references from real customers to get a sense of what the day-to-day will be like.

Some questions you can ask include:

  • What are the contract SLAs? Does the vendor publish its uptime rates? What are the escalation options if service becomes disrupted?
  • Is there adequate product support and account management for your team? Can you speak to existing customers and get references?
  • Does the vendor share similar brand values to your company? Does it publish employee satisfaction scores, or can it share employee turnover? If the account managers are unhappy, it’s unlikely you’ll get the support you need.
  • What training and guidance opportunities exist? Will your team be supported in understanding how to use this software and execute your day today?
  • What is their process for rolling out and educating customers about new product features?

 

Cost

When looking at the cost of adding a new third-party tool, you should know there is more to consider beyond the monthly SaaS fees.

Don’t forget to think about the following.

  • Implementation costs and timelines:
    • Depending on your commerce platform, the implementation cost and timeline can vary wildly. Make sure you understand what the LOE will be to implement the product with your commerce solution. For example, if you are using Salesforce Commerce Cloud, it’s always a good idea to ask if the product has a certified Commerce Cloud cartridge.
    • If there are downstream requirements with other business areas, consider that these could impact the timeline. For example, spinning up a post-purchase shipping tracking tool requires implementation directly with shippers like UPS.
    • Many third-party tools will agree to help cover part or all of the cost of implementation. Always ask for this!
  • Maintenance costs:
    • Who is responsible for maintaining the system? Will this take up internal resources or require additional fees?
    • What happens if there are bugs or data-stream errors between systems?
  • Operational costs:
    • Does this product create more work for your team? For example, user-generated content tools require a person or group to review and approve content before publishing it to your website. Do you have the staff available to handle this?
    • Does this product allow you to save costs in other areas of your business? For example, implementing a returns service provider may reduce the number of calls to customer service.

 

Return on Investment

Before making a final decision, you ultimately need to calculate the return on investment for the third-party tool you are exploring. Most sales teams will happily provide an ROI tool showing how your business will recoup the cost, but don’t rely on their metrics. Hopefully, this guide provided you some key information to make a more informed decision.

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