What is a Paid Discovery & Why Does Our Agency Require Them?

9 Benefits of Shopify Plus
6 min read
by: John Surdakowski02/05/2021

Quick Summary When you’re searching for your next agency to build or optimize your Shopify Plus ecommerce website or even start a new Klaviyo email marketing retainer, you may hear the term “Paid Discovery”. What is a paid discovery and why are we requiring them for all of our projects?


What is a paid discovery phase?

The paid discovery phase is the next step after our proposal and the first step before officially breaking ground on the project. Our team of designers, strategists, solution engineers and developers, take a deep dive into your business, analytics and tech stack. This important step in our process allows us to accurately scope all the technical requirements, identify areas of opportunity, solve problems and create a detailed timeline. Initially, we discuss the core functionality, requirements, what success looks like, and what are the must haves for the project. This allows us to provide some high level quotes to make sure we are aligned on the budget and goals. From there, we take a 10% deposit, conduct our discovery and ensure we are still within scope.

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How we scoped out projects in the past.

Prior to incorporating a discovery phase into our process, the presale stage would look similar to the following:

  • Intro conversations

  • Ask questions

  • Scope out all functionality

  • Add in our “best guesses”

  • Create an arbitrary timeline

  • Send an SOW

  • Pray we stayed within scope

  • Attempt to deliver on time

Why was this a problem?

The above scoping process posed many problems. Mainly, how on earth do we know exactly what you need without a deep dive into your analytics and current problems? How do you know the exact solution for your brand? Every project has its nuances, technical requirements and UX problems. It would be impossible to present a business case and a budget, that not only solves these problems, but is accurate with pricing and timeline. Most agencies scope projects this way and honestly we just felt it was completely wrong. Since we would be taking a guess on desired functionality, solutions and all the specifics, the outcome would be one or both of the following: 1. Our agency underestimated the work and the project goes out of scope. This puts us in a bad place, because it leads to awkward conversations about scope and budget. It also means we will likely go past the timeline. It’s never fun working on a project where you’re losing money. It produces poor results and cuts corners. 2. We drastically overestimated the scope and charged our clients more. Every agency adds in padding to make sure they cover risk on their end. But how is this fair to you?

Why not do a deep dive during scoping?

Of course, we can take a deep dive into your business, provide a solution and site architecture during presale, and spend many hours delivering a project plan. This would require a lot of upfront work, without a proper engagement and would cost our agency time and money. To be completely honest, we’re not in the business of providing free work. We want to deliver as much value as possible, and to do so, we need to be compensated.

What do our paid discoveries include?

So far we’ve covered the purpose for a paid discovery and why we require this phase for all of our projects. Here’s what you’ll get and what the outcome will be.

Analytics review

A deep dive into your analytics, conversion rate, average order value and customer lifetime value. We’ll see where customers are dropping off as well as identify where your ecommerce website can see improvements.

Stakeholder interviews

Our team asks the important questions to better understand your brand, business and goals.

User-experience review

On-site suggestions that will improve UX and CX. Our strategist identifies and suggests ways to improve conversions and the overall experience.

Site architecture

Our solutions engineer will take the audit report and turn it into a detailed site map and site architecture. This includes all functionality for both the front-end and backend.

SaaS suggestions

Shopify has an amazing ecosystem with some powerful apps and projects. We’ll identify and suggest the best products for personalization, customer service, returns, email marketing, AB testing and other ways to improve sales and the customer experience.

Back office Solutions

Beyond site experience we’ll help improve back office efficiency.  We help solve problems around shipping, 3PLs, ERP, IMS, CRM and other bespoke integrations

Timeline and project plan

The outcome will be a detailed project plan, ensuring we are in scope and a detailed timeline for launch.

Project plan and change requests

Now that we have a project plan, we can break ground and start to execute. We’ll stick to the project plan and timeline. We’ll deliver exactly what was promised, the solutions to improve sales and launch on time. Of course, new requests come up and some are not launch critical. For anything new to the project plan, we add it to a change requests tracking sheet. Post launch or after the project plan is executed, we’ll work together to rollout new functionality during a support period.

Wrapping it up

We’ve had some amazing results with paid discoveries for ecommerce projects. Our clients love the transparency and attention to detail. Since we are taking a deposit of the larger project, the costs are minimal and the additional time allows us to plan more accurately. The paid discovery results are far superior to the standard scoping process. Our projects launch on-time and within budget. Let’s talk about how Avex can help scale your business. 

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