How important is eCommerce maintenance?
Maintenance of eCommerce websites is always discussed amongst the eshop owners as a thing that might and might not be important. Of course, from their perspective, any additional investment after they already paid the website development cost is something that is not all too welcome. On the other hand, there are some who are more than happy to keep their eCommerce development company engaged even when the project has been finished, so they continue working with them within the eCommerce website maintenance contract. The logical question that pops into the mind is – which ones are right?
The answer can be best seen if you take a look at who the most successful merchants are. The companies that are constantly engaging their web developers and designers on maintenance and upgrade tasks obviously constantly have an upper hand, and these are the reasons why:
- Increased up time
- Faster working websites
- Always up to date features
- Better user experience
Increased up time
Increased up time means more website reliability, more customers, and more sales. Of course, you can argue that SaaS options provide constant or near to constant up time, but that is just a superficial view at the issue. Each eCommerce website consists of an entire ecosystem of services, and although in SaaS environment most of these things are covered automatically, there are still 3rd party services that require regular maintenance in terms of versioning. Sometimes, this causes the system to become unstable and requires small fixes in order to allow your merchant to operate normally. With stand-alone eCommerce platforms such as Magento, this issue is even more visible. This means that the eCommerce maintenance needs to be taken seriously. Critical outages, especially during sales season can cause much more damage than the maintenance services cost. Having someone to intervene in a very short period and fix the problems is more than handy. This is why all big retailers and brands have their web development agencies as a backup, and that is why they were able to provide consistency of service to their customers. Of course, this results in increased authority, increased trust into them, and increased sales.
Faster working websites
Any eCommerce website if developed and designed properly works really nicely and fast in the beginning. Still, the maintenance prolongs this responsiveness and speed of operation. Without it, during time there are hidden bugs and glitches that will cause the website to slow down. Fixing these minor issues along the way and introducing new protocols that can additionally speed it up are more than handy when you are competing with companies who offer similar services and products. The customers will evaluate every segment of your business, and they do tend to get rather frustrated with laggy shopping experience. Even if they successfully make a purchase, it is not very likely that they will return for more.
Always up to date features
The realm of digital commerce is a fast paced environment. Things do not get stale there, as there are more and more features being added and becoming standard every single day. Sometimes these features are a part of the eCommerce platform you are using, sometimes they are native things that need some extra website development, and sometimes they include upgrades of 3rd party services.
No matter which of the mentioned is the case, there is a need to keep the pace with the competition, and in most cases – you won’t have the internal resources to carry out these operations. Of course, it is possible to hire web agencies on per project basis for these small fixes and upgrades, but then again, there are no guarantees that the best of them will be available always to take the project, and it is not certain that the replacement will be as good as the agency you hired to develop your eCommerce website in the beginning. Also, these smaller value projects often accumulate more value over the year than a standard maintenance contract. Digital agencies do tend to reward loyalty of their clients by applying lower rates or including extra hours to the standard maintenance plans.
Better user experience
UX design that converts is the most important part of the eCommerce website design. Sure, when you finished your website and launched it, the UX design was up to date and done exactly as you wanted it to be. But, it may turn out that there is space for improvements from the very start. Also, this is the segment of eCommerce business that really tends to develop fast and new tricks are being added to the bag of successful retailers pretty often. In both cases, there are alterations to design that have to be made, and it is the web development and design agency who should make them happen. Once again, it is possible to obtain those services on per-project basis, but again it can accumulate expenses that are higher than the costs of eCommerce maintenance, and there are no guarantees that the agency will have unallocated resources to cover those tweaks fast. It is better to be safe than sorry and have a backup if the need occurs.
So, when all of this has been said, there is a question what kind of maintenance packages do you actually need and how to determine the volume of improvements you might need? In order to explain this, we will segment the analysis into 4 segments:
- Depending on the age of your online shop
- Depending on the size of your business
- Depending on the channels you use
- Depending whether you are running the SaaS or on premises eCommerce platform
Age of the shop
The well-established online shops have a certain history behind them. This means that you have some experience with how much of maintenance and support you actually require and how many working hours it takes to keep everything running.
On the other hand, the start-ups or retailers who have brand new eshops don’t have the insight on these issues, and it is harder to determine what is the average maintenance time needed to keep everything under control.
Completely opposite to this point, the new shops are more likely to be up to date with the latest trends than the old ones, so they require less working hours for tweaking UX design and maintenance of the integrations. The older ones, consecutively – most probably need more time for these issues.
Still, the best way to eliminate guessing and be sure that the maintenance package will cover your needs is to consult with your web agency. It is certain that you will be able to work out the details and find the solution that will be satisfactory for both parties.
Size of the business
It is quite normal that the smaller businesses will have modest needs for maintenance of their online shops. It is rather simple to explain – smaller merchants usually have smaller number of products, and that means smaller number of pages. Also, they usually have the most basic ecosystem of services incorporated into their website, without many advanced 3rd party services being involved into the process. Finally, the goals of smaller shops are usually limited and they do not aim to compete in every segment with the leaders on the market. With limited traffic, limited volume of sales, just a few sales channels, and no aspiration to compete in the major league, these retailers require minimum maintenance.
Larger businesses require quite a lot of attention. Their traffic and sales volumes are high, their eCommerce websites complex, and the number of channels they are present at is usually high. This means they will need a lot of maintenance work in order to keep everything run smoothly. On top of that, these larger companies are usually aiming to be very competitive in the market. This means they will aim to have constant improvements to their UX, they usually use a wide variety of external services in their eshop ecosystem, and there are many things that can go wrong in this case.
Again, the best approach when determining the need for maintenance hours is to speak to your web agency, discuss the details, and find the solution that will be satisfactory for each user involved.
There is a huge difference between companies who are running only standard online shops and those which use multichannel or omnichannel approach.
The fewer channels are involved, the lower is the need for maintenance services. Simple online shops with maybe one or two channels connecting them to marketplaces are relatively easy to maintain in top shape.
The larger operations which involve standard eshops, marketplaces, and even brick and mortar stores are a needy endeavour that needs constant monitoring, as there are many services that need to operate under a single system. In omnichannel approach this is brought to a whole new level as it requires not only that these services run at the same time, but also to work together in order to create a single system.
SaaS versus on premises
We already touched the issue of SaaS eCommerce platforms in one of the previous paragraphs. These platforms definitely require less maintenance than the on premises options, as they have a centralised system that usually means the updates will be applied automatically. Still, there is a need to keep an eye on how the updates in the back end will reflect the front end of the stores. Also, with SaaS platforms there is no need to invest in connectivity and hardware as these things are provided by the vendor. On the down side, this means that you will be paying that maintenance anyway through the percentage these platforms usually take from every sale you make.
On premises platforms such as Magento require maintenance in terms of hardware and connectivity (unless this part is solved through hosting companies), and a special attention when it comes to versioning and updates. Since these platforms are on premises, the updates are not seamless and they need to be carried out by experts. It is possible, once again to determine them on per project basis, but as we already mentioned – that is far from the fail proof method.
Once again, the number of working hours needed for maintenance to be impeccable is something you should agree upon with your digital agency.
We at Studioworx always offer maintenance packages to our clients based on the mentioned parameters. Our company policy follows the philosophy that only the best is good enough, and we always propose to our clients to include the improvements in the maintenance package plans.
We are able to offer everything that might be required for smooth and trouble free operation of your business in post website development period. This means providing the updates related to versioning, tweaks of the UX design, bug fixing when needed, dealing with glitches that may appear in the system and everything else you might need in order to make your business become a story of success.
Our expertise is not platform related, so we are able to provide these services for any website, no matter whether it has been developed as a native tech, on Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, Volo Commerce, or any other platform out there.
Also, we have an extensive knowledge of marketplaces and operations carried out there. This helps us create a better picture on how many improvements you might require in a single fiscal year in that segment. For example, eBay came up with a whole new set of rules recently, and thanks to our expertise in this segment, all our client managed to meet the active content rules change ready, and had no setbacks in their operations on that marketplace.
We are also always up to date with the latest trends in UX design. It means you will always be notified in advance about the important changes that might affect your business in any way.
If you would like us to make an assessment of your eCommerce maintenance needs, feel free to contact us via our website or by phone whenever it is convenient.