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Jan 21, 2009 | 6 minute read

Webinar Recap: Selecting the Right Ecommerce Software in Six Weeks or Less

written by Linda Bustos

This post is a recap of today’s webinar: Selecting the Right Ecommerce Software in Six Weeks or Less. If you missed it you can catch the on-demand version. About our guest speaker: Bill Mirabito has over a decade’s experience managing e-business activities as both a marketer and technologist for brands across the world as a senior retail analyst with Forrester Research. Bill also held the reins at BJ’s Wholesale Club’s online division and presently runs his own retail specialty shop. B2C Partners is Bill’s consultancy which helps enterprise retailers with ecommerce vendor evaluation and product selection. Bill was our special guest in October's webinar: Holiday Wishlist for Mobile Commerce which is available on-demand or mp4 download or in blog-post format.

Five Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mistake #1: Impulse decisions Many people using ecommerce technology get really dissatisfied with the solution they currently have and discover the vendor they're with is not perfect for them. They believe the grass must be greener on other side. But the grass is NOT always greener on the other side. If you don't do your homework up front, when the hiccups do come on the other side of the fence, it will raise indecision again, and companies hop from vendor to vendor looking for that perfect solution. Mistake #2: Subjective influence It's important to have consultants and advisors, but it can be a mistake to rely too heavily on their guidance. Integrators and platform providers themselves who help with RFP and selection process introduces bias. You want objective parties that will not be part of the implementation to help you through. Mistake #3: Generalized guidance

The Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave can be helpful, but there is no "one size fit all" for ecommerce software. Bill knows many companies that found that the leaders in the guides were not the right fit for them. Take in all your requirements, the nature of your business and your scope when deciding what is a good fit. Mistake #4: Proposals without scope "Blindfold bidding" means vendors bid on the project without fully understanding the scope and requirements. Without them it's like pinning a tail on a donkey. One vendor bids high, one bids low, and the lowest cost vendor may end up costing you more if the scope and requirements are not fully laid out before the RFP goes out. Mistake #5: Data without structured analysisSending an RFP and gathering mountains of data without a clear understanding on how you will analyze and score that data is a set-up for frustration.

Five Step Plan to Find the Right Fit

Recommended approach: 5 step plan, 6 week period

Step One: Document RequirementsInterview Stakeholders:

  • Executive Sponsors
  • Online Marketing
  • Online Merchandising
  • Development and Integration
  • Network and Systems Support
  • Distribution and Fulfillment
  • Customer Care
  • Corporate Finance
  • Channels / Sales Operations
  • Other

Capturing requirements is essential for “What do you need? How important is it? When do you need it?” Step Two: Short List OptionsChoose the Model:

  • Custom - Enterprise Software (Buy or Build)
  • Console - Software as a Service (Lease Technology)
  • Crew - Full Service Providers (3rd Party End to End Solution)
  • Catalyst - Small Business Solutions (Starters), less than $5Million in revenue online

Clarification: On-Demand vs. Software as a Service (SaaS), on-demand actually covers both custom and console, it means you get your solution in a hosted environment. Licensed, custom software - if it is not hosted on your own servers - is considered on-demand. Also, "Managed service" (Crew) and "Software as a Service" is considered on-demand. Custom solutions provide more flexibility but also require more maintenance vs. other models. A question from an attendee arose regarding a full in-house build from scratch. If you go through the process Bill outlines, and no vendor scores above 50% you may want to build in-house. Even if you do an in-house build, you may want to buy a platform (like Elastic Path) that includes the basic components that you need like shopping cart, promotions engine, catalog management etc but gives you the flexibility to build your complex, custom features and capabilities on top of them. You may be interested in our Build Vs. Buy white paper. A mistake is to compare one vendor from different models against each other. A better way is to choose your model, then evaluate vendors. Also, vendors may cover more than one model depending on their offerings (i.e. if a company has a custom and a managed/hosted service). Qualify vendors for the RFP:

  • Does the deployment model meet your need?
  • Can your budget afford this solution? (capital and recurring expense)
  • What client URLs has the vendor brought live in the last 18 months?
  • What clients have left the vendor, and why?
  • Is the vendor profitable?
  • Is the vendor’s management team stable?
  • What's coming on the product roadmap?
  • Who is in the partner ecosystem?

Step Three: Weigh Criteria Organize your selection criteria in a nested model. Bill's company B2CPartnersuses its own proprietary FAST Score Analysis Model for scoring vendors (it's not just about features!):

  • Features: Marketing, merchandising, order capture, order management and customer self service.
  • Administration: System requirements, architecture, security, reporting and analytics etc.
  • Services: Platform integration, site maintenance, design and user experience etc.
  • Traction: Employees, clients, partners, profitability etc.

B2CPartners has already done much of the due diligence on vendors. Contact Bill if you're interested in working with him through the evaluation process and the FAST model.

  • Estimates Proposed: Capital expenditures, recurring expenses, related estimates
  • RFP Distinctives: Integration points, legacy and 3rd party, other storefront features required etc.

Step Four: Distribute RFPAvoid “no-bid” RFP responses (when vendor looks at your RFP and decides it's not worth their time to respond to you):

  • Ability to pay: Do you expect at least $400,000 in online revenue per month?
  • Possibility of success: Can you wait 5 months from contract date for your site launch?
  • Availability for relationship: Are stakeholders available for vendor meetings in this period?
  • Likelihood of transaction: Will you allow vendors at least 2 weeks to respond to the RFP?

If you said YES, then distribute an RFP document. Otherwise, gather information however you can (RFI, demos, client ref.) Send RFP to no more than 8 candidates. Score top 3-4. Step Five: Evaluate for Fit Review written proposals & score vendor responses: 1 – Sans: Unavailable, undisclosed 2 – Soft: Partial fit, but limited; no clear way to meet requirements 3 – Suitable: Partial fit; can fully meet requirements with developers/partners 4 – Strong: Natively meets most requirements through configuration 5 – Superb: Fully meets requirements; delivers something more/unique


  • Five common mistakes to avoid
  • Impulse decisions
  • Subjective influence
  • Generalized guidance
  • Proposals without scope
  • Data without structured analysis
  • Five step plan to find the best fit
  • Document your requirements
  • Short list your options
  • Weigh your selection criteria
  • Distribute your RFP
  • Evaluate for fit

Contact Bill Mirabito

Bill Mirabito, Founder & Principal Analyst B2C Partners web: bmirabito at b2cpartners dot com Twitter: @bmirabito

Next Month’s Webinar…

The Ecommerce Platform of the FutureWednesday, February 18, 2009 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM PST

Ecommerce platforms have evolved tremendously in the last 13 years to meet the changing needs of the consumer, online and multi-channel merchants, marketers, and operations professionals. But what are the key market forces and trends that will shape the changes yet to come? What can we expect from the leading ecommerce platform solutions to meet these needs? How should this factor into the decisions that ecommerce executives and CIOs are making today? In this one hour webinar, Brian Walker, senior analyst for ecommerce technology at Forrester Research will present some ways in which ecommerce platforms will likely evolve in the future and what that means for enterprises. Webinar takeaways: • Key forces shaping ecommerce platforms today • Key trends impacting ecommerce platforms in the future • The shape ecommerce platforms may take • What this means for the business decisions enterprises need to make today

Presenter: Forrester Research Register today, and if you have a co-worker who would be interested, please invite them.