What can the tool do and what can I do with it?
How to get the tool is one thing, what you can do with it is even more important.
Will the solution make your day to day easier or will it introduce a new burden that requires dedicated staff hours to manage? How do you tweak the performance or can you? How difficult is it to make changes and optimize?
If you have a dedicated dev team you’ll have one set of needs while another store who has a dedicated merchandising team with limited technical abilities will have categorically different requirements.
Is the solution built more for one team structure vs the other, or is it a one size fits all? Is a one size fits all optimal, or is that even possible?
How you will use the tool and who it’s built for should be at the top of your list. Get the tool that’s made for your way of doing things. It shouldn’t force you to change how you operate for the worse.
How automated is the automation and what settings can you set?
How much does the tool do on its own, and how much are you responsible for doing?
If it’s fully automated, and you want that, are all settings globally set?
If they’re global, are the settings the same for you as they will be for someone making 300% less revenue, 1/10th your SKU count, 20% of your traffic volume, in a completely different industry, with a team 1/5th your size?
Maybe, the tool is automated but gives you control to modify settings. How much control? Do you know the optimal settings for your store? How much time and effort will it take for you to trial and error those settings?
None of this is to stay you shouldn’t do it, but… can you?
If so, great.
If not, make sure you’re actually getting the solution optimized for you and your unique needs. If you need expert help, make sure that’s included.
And what about after integration. What happens with your day-to-day?
- Can you optimize to make the tool better?
- Does the tool give you the appropriate data to make those types of moves or is it a guessing game?
- Is your team technically proficient enough to make those optimizations?
- Do you have the bandwidth to do so?
- Do you even want to do so?
Some stores have the team knowledge, the bandwidth, and the expertise to fully utilize a robust tool on their own. Other stores can quickly drown with an identical solution.
Make sure the solution you’re getting matches your team’s technical proficiency and bandwidth. Ensure you’re going to get a tool you can actually use the way you want and need.
What happens to your merchandising campaigns?
Along the same lines of losing your data equity, what happens to any merchandising campaigns you’ve set up?
Actually, let’s back up a few steps. Does your current solution offer merchandising control? Do you need merchandising moving forward? If so, what level of control do you need?
That alone will scratch off several providers from your list of potential options.
If you do currently have merchandising, and you have a considerable campaign strategy implemented, how much work will be involved in moving those campaigns to the new tool?
If site search settings are different between providers, the merchandising controls will be even more different.
Ensure the merchandising being offered is compatible with your way of doing business. At the very least, make sure the differences are not going to limit your ability to create, monitor, and optimize your merchandising in the future.
For example, if you’re accustomed to boosting your highest margin products to the top of the product results, can you afford to lose that functionality or not.
You will probably have to change a few things moving forward, just make sure you’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater – meaning, don’t force yourself to re-learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to merchandising.
Is it easy or hard learning how to manage the new software?
Can the tool do what you need it to do or does it require hacks and convoluted processes to get you there?
Can you continue to do what you’ve been doing on your own or do you have to create a support ticket to make even the simplest of changes?
Do you prefer to have the solution provider make the changes or is your team hands-on and likes to move fast?
Do you get adequate training on the new tool or are you thrown into the deep-end and expected to swim on your own? Can you swim?
It seems simple, but it’s often overshadowed by the flashier features. How simple is the tool to learn and use? Is it robust enough to do what you need or is it too much?
As mentioned before, some tools are built for stores who have teams of merchandisers, developers, and a host of other staff. Other tools are built to be left on auto-pilot with little to no management needed.
If you have teams, don’t get something that limits their ability to perform their tasks, and vice versa, if you’re leaner, don’t get a tool that is unmanageable – regardless of what flashy features and ROI numbers they’re showing in a demo.
If it doesn’t fit, then it’s not going to work the way it should, not for you.
Do you get support for when things go wrong?
It’s inevitable, something is going to go wrong. It might not be anyone’s fault, but an asteroid is going to fall someday. Coffee will be spilled on a keyboard. A problem is going to happen to your store.
What happens then?
Maybe your next marketing campaign blows up and you get 100x’s the expected engagement. Not a bad problem at all. It’s awesome… unless something breaks.
Are you and your team savvy enough and enjoy the technical challenges? Do you need to get on the phone with an expert?
What does the problem to resolution roadmap look like?
Make sure the tool you’re integrating is looking to the future and you’re going to get the control and/or support that you’ll need.