Selecting A New eCommerce Platform: The RFP Process

Blog, eCommerce Operations

GUEST POST BY NIGEL STEVENS, SEO & CONTENT MARKETING, BIGCOMMERCE

Deciding that it’s time to choose a new ecommerce platform is no small undertaking. This is your business we’re talking about here, and the platform it’s built on has a significant impact on not just your day-to-day activities, but your overall well-being.

If you’re thinking about the move at all, odds are you’re not completely content with your existing solution. Whether it’s limited SKUs, unreliable hosting or the constant need for custom development, you know that greener pastures are around the corner.

The only question: how do you ensure you make the right decision?

Like doing anything properly, the answer is research. And to research effectively, you need to ask the right questions.

At BigCommerce, we have a standard 188-question RFP template that we give to large brands, covering 16 categories and every conceivable consideration. The following list includes one question from every category. For the full list and ecommerce RFP template, head over to the BigCommerce Blog.

1. Company Overview
Please provide the size & scope of your top 5 clients. List 3 customers that are similar in size and scope to us.

Understand how the ecommerce platform has helped similar companies looking to solve the same challenges that you face.

2. Site Design, Development and UX
Do you offer full access to HTML & CSS?

Customization is important for many retailers. You’ll likely want to make changes to your site’s design at some point; finding how easy this is and whether there are risks involved can make or break your decision by itself.

3. IT + Hosting
How do you manage automatic backups? How often do you backup?

It’s an online store’s worst nightmare: you fire up your control panel, only to find that your latest changes didn’t save. Automatic backups are essential for peace of mind and always having quick access to undo a mistake.

4. Security + PCI Compliance
Describe how Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as customer names, addresses, preferences and shopping habits are stored and handled in a secure manner.

Security is becoming more and more important for customers. With Chrome’s latest security update, online shops that don’t take the recommended precautions will be flagged as insecure.

A platform should be able to expertly describe their processes around handling PII, and what they do to ensure this information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

5. Administration + Ease of Use
Do you provide a Staging & Preview environment so we can test before launch?

When you make changes to your online store, you shouldn’t be seeing them for the first time on your live website. Staging and Preview environments allow you to test and tweak your design changes, so when you’re ready to go live, the changes have been completed vetted and confirmed to function smoothly.

6. Customer Service
Do you support wish lists?

Customers aren’t always ready to buy when they come across your products. Keep them engaged with wish lists, which also gives you the potential to remarket to them later on.

7. Analytics
Does your solution offer built-In Analytics or via 3rd party app?

Built-in analytics are often the most seamless, but you may also have another tool that you prefer to use (such as Google Analytics). Preferably, the answer to this question is “both.”

8. Checkout and Payments
Can customers use Amazon Pay or Apple Pay?

Mobile wallets are the next big thing in mobile commerce, and customers have been shown to greatly prefer the ease of logging into a familiar wallet over registering as a user from scratch. Mobile wallets not only set you up for immediate sales, but put you in a position to capitalize further as usage of these technologies continues its upward trend.

9. Marketing + Promotions
How can promotions be limited to specific products?

Promotions can be your best friend, providing a way to lure in new customers or re-engage with existing ones. But when executed poorly, they can be your worst enemy. Make sure that you can easily offer promotions on specific products, avoiding the disastrous scenario of inadvertently offering a big discount on a slim-margin product.

10. Email Marketing
How are Abandoned Cart emails handled?

One of the lowest-hanging fruit for online businesses are people who add-to-cart but fail to convert. Abandoned cart emails provide so much opportunity for several reasons: they are automated, targeted to interested customers, and have been proven to increase conversion.

11. SEO + SEM
How do you support 301 redirects?

When you want to change the location of a page on your site, it may seem innocently straightforward — but there are potentially detrimental consequences for not handling it properly. To retain the SEO “juice” of a page you’re moving, 301 redirects will tell people (and search engines) where to find the new page, ensuring that you maintain your search rankings.

12. Social Media
Does your product meta data include Open Graph Tags?

Open Graph tags convey information to social media platforms such as Facebook, which are extremely helpful if you’re currently using Facebook Advertising — or even considering it for future experimentation.

13. Products + Categories
Are Custom Product Attributes supported?

Many online businesses have thousands of products, each with variants. This is another small issue that’s easy to overlook but can significantly affect the day-to-day operations of your business.

14. Omnichannel
How can you promote your products via Google Shopping?

Omni-channel retailing represents the next wave of business and should be an essential component of your platform vetting process. Google Shopping is a key channel used by many merchants to drive the majority of their sales. Your next ecommerce solution can make this channel immensely easier by integrating directly with Google, allowing you to automatically push products from your online store without having to manually upload them.

15. Services
Please provide details about your on-boarding processes for new clients.

All of the above criteria is important to decide what it’s like once you’re up and running — but how do you get up and running in the first place? Even the world’s best-designed, most intuitive tools take some getting used to. Find out how a prospective ecommerce platform gets you acquainted with their software.

16. Customer Support
Please detail your Phone Support offering. Is it available 24/7? Is there an additional cost associated with this service?

Chat support is often the most convenient, and email customer service is easiest for non-urgent requests. But sometimes you simply need to talk to another human being to help you work through a business-imperative problem.

Knowing that you have access to phone support at any time of day is not just good to know for practical application (aka when you actually need the help) — it will help you slip into a deeper sleep every single night. Being a business owner is daunting, and having one less thing to worry about will make your life just that much easier.