How do you decide whether to hire staff or outsource resources for your eCommerce project? Getting the right talent in the right place is pivotal to the success of the project. It is also important to make sure your hiring decisions are being made strategically, instead of by convenience or based on faulty assumptions around need and cost.
Staffing for a project that will net you a controlled and stable site build is the goal. You will want a clean and intuitive User Interface (UI) to keep new customers engaged, and ongoing maintenance to keep everything running smoothly long-term.
And this is where your decision-making process can run into the first – and arguably most crucial – decision: Should the team be in-house hires? Or is outsourcing the right move?
Hiring Permanent Staff
The most intuitive option is hiring permanent staff. Salaried or full-time employees will generally cost less than hiring a freelance or agency resource for 2080 hours per year. So, of course, the first question is: does your business need this particular skill-set applied for 40 hours per week? If the need is greater than the cost of outsourcing on an as-needed basis, then that’s one hurdle cleared.
Keeping permanent eCommerce staff is a substantial ongoing commitment. Factor in the cost of initial and ongoing training requirements, along with salary and benefits. Some employees will come to you with skills in place but might demand a higher salary, while others may require a longer learning curve at a lower price. Make sure you are making this decision before interviewing candidates.
Thirdly, ask yourself if this role is core to your business or is, instead, an exotic appendage on your team. For instance, a generalist who has a flair for marketing and design will have the flexibility to adapt to changing projects and circumstances. A super-specialized programmer might not (unless that specialization is a core activity of your business). The point is to avoid letting current, urgent needs dictate the shape of your organization on a semi-permanent basis.
Outsourcing eCommerce Professionals
Especially for more complex eCommerce projects, outsourcing design, management, and development (or all three) is an increasingly common option. Collaboration with eCommerce-focused developers is a safer choice in most circumstances. Why?
Essentially, outsourcing allows flexibility and focus. Plus the outsource organization is working on projects like this all the time, so they develop strong institutional knowledge and experience. As the merchant, you contract the type and number of developers required to build and launch your eCommerce storefront. Rarely does a business need to keep a project-level capacity of technical staff on hand, even for installations that require ongoing customization and maintenance. It can be perilous to do so—all of a sudden you find yourself running a two-headed business: one retail and one IT support & development.
Instead, you can focus staffing on supply, customer service, and operations— centered around the goods and/or services you’re trying to sell. Train permanent staff on managing orders and consider opting for intermittent services from less staff in the future.
Permanent Staff vs. Outsourcing
Hiring and outsourcing each have their positives and negatives; the trick to choosing between the two is in taking a closer look at what the current status of the business is, and where it appears to be going in the future.
Hire permanent staff when:
- There is substantial early investment; so, rather than going with a smooth growth curve, you intend to launch aggressively and grow quickly
- Your eCommerce niche is extremely specific and requires a very particular kind of specialist to create an appropriate storefront
- You intend to implement a consistent stream of new features
However, outsourcing is the most common option for establishing a new eCommerce storefront when:
- You won’t have justification to keep a full development team on staff
- The project is front-loaded. Simpler storefronts (or powerful storefronts) that don’t continuously add new features or integrations
- Your focus is sharp. You’re not a development business and you don’t want to learn to lead an IT firm
Hiring certain permanent staff roles is appropriate in many situations. For the majority of eCommerce projects, though, it’s safer and financially prudent to instead outsource to a team of established professionals. While thoroughly established merchants sometimes transition to a permanent staff once the business reaches a certain size, plenty of businesses stick to the streamlined outsourcing plan.
Choosing the Right eCommerce Team for the Job
Once the decision is made to outsource, what is the next step in contracting with the right team to handle the job?
The best development teams are:
- Established, with a long track record of great customer feedback
- Capable of developing a scoping document that communicates requirements and clearly outlines deliverables
- Experts on the platform— not just the language on which the platform is built
- Available for ongoing maintenance when needed
- Able to integrate an advisory role into the project. Great development agencies aren’t afraid to tell you when they see an opportunity to improve or streamline a process
- Transparent about daily progress, quick to involve you in decision-making along the way and responsive to shifts in priorities
Every one of the above points, as well as a wealth of further expertise in the eCommerce space, is met by the team of professionals at InteractOne. Contact us to learn more about our industry-leading eCommerce storefront services.