How to Hire an eCommerce Development Company
In real estate, they tell you that the three most important things about a property are location, location, and location. And when it comes to sales and moving products or services, location is key, too. The difference is that the best location for most businesses is online.
This is where an eCommerce website comes in. While setting up a Facebook page, Instagram account, and basic website are already part of every business plan, moving to the next level and actually selling your goods or services through an online store requires a lot more effort and expertise. This is why so many companies, especially small businesses, choose to outsource their eCommerce business development to a dedicated team of specialists. Let’s take a look at just what eCommerce development entails, what the benefits of outsourcing eCommerce development can be, and how to hire the right eCommerce developers or firm for your business, industry, and budget.
What is eCommerce Development?
We’ll get started with the most basic info—what is eCommerce? Put most simply, eCommerce is the process of selling something (usually a product) through a website or mobile app, with the entire transaction being handled digitally through a website or similar outlet. When put that way, you can probably think of a million sites you have shopped at online, from artwork and artisanal coffee roasters to Amazon.
For businesses that want to be in charge of their own sales, inventory, and so on, going through Amazon or eBay is not the most desirable option. This is where eCommerce web development comes into play. Like many business processes, eCommerce development begins with a plan that includes an analysis of dozens of factors that may impact the development process.
What Platforms Do eCommerce Developers Work With?
From there, any eCommerce developers you hire will work with one or several different platforms for the process. There are dozens of options, but some of the most popular eCommerce platforms include Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, OpenCart, and others.
What Are the Most Common Types of eCommerce Development Services?
Some of the most common development services that businesses hire eCommerce developers for include:
Strategy and Consultation
Before even diving into the development process, a great partner will help you refine your strategy and consult on the best tools, approaches, and functions that best meet your eCommerce store needs.
Next up, eCommerce developers will offer both frontend and backend web design and development services that ensure a smooth workflow across all areas of your business (inventory management, product information, transactions, etc.)
You’ll need to be able to accept payments for those products, obviously, and the payment gateway handles this part of the process. Custom gateways are possible, and let you have full control of your checkout process in order to make the customer experience unique.
Data Management and Protection
Secure transactions are key for your customers and for your business’s reputation, so a great eCommerce partner will be well versed in data protection as part of the overall development and integration process.
There are numerous other areas where an eCommerce website development company will be able to offer tremendous skill and value to your project, and many of them depend on your specific business needs. For example, if you are migrating from an existing eCommerce platform to a new system, they will be able to provide services that reduce or eliminate downtime, transfer data and functionality smoothly, and improve your business’ services once the project is complete.
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Should I Hire an Agency or a Freelancer, or Handle eCommerce Development In-House?
As with any business decision, it’s always a good idea to weigh out the pros and cons when it comes to hiring an eCommerce development firm, a freelance developer, or bringing these functions in-house and creating a team.
Positives and Negatives of In-House eCommerce Development
Looking first at the option of developing your own in-house eCommerce development team, some of the benefits include:
Total Control Over the Development Process
With a team of your own handling development duties, you’ll be directly involved in the entire process. Additionally, the team you create will become deeply familiar with your products and your brand, and that can be an asset as the eCommerce project grows and changes.
On-Site Development Personnel
Related to the benefit above, having in-house developers and designers allows you to be in direct and constant contact with the team about progress, optimization and changes, and so on.
Built-in Growth Potential
As your eCommerce needs grow, you’ll be able to ensure that your team does, too. Adding experienced personnel as your business grows and shifts with changes to revenue, product offerings, and more, you have the option of expanding the eCommerce team that you have assembled, or strategically add eCommerce developers and designers as each project comes along.
On the other hand, reviewing the process of hiring in-house eCommerce developers reveals a few downsides. These might include:
Finding, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding your own eCommerce experts is definitely a time-consuming process. Even the most efficient HR teams or service providers can take several months to find qualified candidates for certain roles. Furthermore, getting new hires into your organization and started on a major project like this can take months as well.
When we say “less expertise,” specifically we’re meaning the lack of experience across a broad range of businesses and projects. Developing a team in-house generally means compromising on certain skills or experience areas. For example, your hires may be well versed in a particular eCommerce platform or system, but not as experienced at SEO or content management.
Finally, it can be incredibly expensive to create a department or team within your organization, staff it fully, and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.
Positives and Negatives of Freelance eCommerce Developers
Similarly, there are pros and cons to hiring a freelance eCommerce developer as well.
First among the positives is the fact that the cost will likely be lower. Hiring one individual is certainly going to cost much less than creating your own in-house eCommerce team.
Also, there are a number of eCommerce developers who are independent contractors, so finding a skilled and experienced person who can help you with your development project should be fairly easy.
As far as the negatives that come with hiring a freelancer for your eCommerce needs, there are a few. While finding skilled developers will be fairly easy, their experience is likely to be limited to certain parts of the eCommerce process, or certain functions or tools. They may also not be experienced in your particular industry or products, and that learning curve can come with additional time requirements for edits, changes, and corrections to the project.
Why You Should Hire an eCommerce Development Company
Looking at some of the downsides of developing an in-house team or working with freelance eCommerce developers, the right choice for your business is very likely to be outsourcing to a full-service eCommerce development company.
For instance, an eCommerce development firm will have a staff with a wide range of knowledge about the entire project. From specialization in many eCommerce platforms to front-end and back-end development experience, research, strategy, and more, a dedicated eCommerce development organization ensures that you are getting professional help.
You’ll also work with individuals dedicated to your project, including someone to help manage every aspect of the development process, communication with your team, and more.
And an eCommerce development company will already have a tremendous amount of experience in security, as well as the required software and tools to begin work right away.
Hiring an eCommerce Development Company
Now comes the big question—what is hiring a dedicated eCommerce development company going to cost? And you can probably guess the answer, which is: it can vary dramatically. We’ll dive into the details below:
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an eCommerce Development Company?
As a general rule, the simpler your eCommerce needs, the less expensive the project will be. Some of the most basic eCommerce sites can be developed for you for anywhere from $1000-$2000. Of course, don’t expect all the bells and whistles for that price tag, but as far as getting up and running as soon as possible, it is not as cost-prohibitive as you might think.
For more involved projects, and for more comprehensive services, a reasonable budget can easily fall between $50,000 and $100,000. While these numbers might look startling at first glance, consider how much less this would be compared to hiring 2-3 experienced in-house developers (which could easily run into several hundred thousand dollars each year).
How to Find a Reputable eCommerce Development Provider
If you’re ready to start looking for a reputable and experienced eCommerce development service, there are a number of ways to narrow down the search and find options that fit your business needs.
Like shopping for anything else for your home or business, the first step is often to check out reviews. Testimonials and ratings from previous clients can not only help you narrow down your list but can also provide you with valuable information about specific skill areas and development experience. Testimonials are also great because you are hearing directly from past or current clients themselves, and gaining insight into how the company adapts and adjusts for each project.
Online reputation can be another great way to find some of the best eCommerce development firms around. One quick way to gauge reputation is to see if companies show up on more than one or two “best eCommerce development companies” lists. If you are seeing a few of the same firms mentioned frequently, it’s likely that they have a lot of happy clients and an excellent track record.
What to Look For in an eCommerce Developer’s Portfolio
The first thing to look for as you dive into eCommerce development companies and their portfolios is whether or not they have experience in your industry. If your company sells candles, for instance, you may look for developers who have previous projects in home decor, decorative items, and so on.
You may also want to look for a company that has worked with clients both large and small. With a wide range of clients, from small businesses and individual retailers to larger chain stores or online distributors, you can be sure that the development company can handle your current project and also scale up as your business succeeds.
Questions to Ask an eCommerce Development Provider
The list of potential questions you can ask of a developer is incredibly long, but there are a few important questions to help you get your conversation with eCommerce developers started. These include:
- Does your team have a proven track record with SEO and user experience?
- What eCommerce platforms are your web developers well versed in?
- Is there an option for expanded mobile functionality and/or responsive design?
- What level of reporting will be built into the platform, and what data will we have access to?
- Will we be able to scale up easily as our product line expands?
- Will we have a dedicated project manager for our project?
You can probably think of several more questions that may be relevant to your company or project, but these are a great place to start as you hone in on what developer to choose.
Post-Hiring Expectations for PPC Companies
Once you’ve selected and contracted with an eCommerce development firm, you can look forward to some rapid progress on your project, and very professional results. Before all of that can happen, though, the post-hiring process will start with gathering in-depth information. This is where your team’s preparation will help speed the process along, but also where your chosen eCommerce partner will help you refine and improve your plan and strategy. The experience that your partner brings to the table will help everyone arrive at a robust, functional site that draws customers to your business.
You should also expect that you’ll have an account manager or other direct contact with the company, as well as an established timeline of communications and project updates.
Time to Get Started (and Get Selling)
Hopefully, this guide has made it a little easier for you to begin your eCommerce website design and development. There are countless benefits to hiring a dedicated eCommerce development agency, and your business can realize a new level of success with their expert assistance. It all starts with a little planning, a little information, and some new goals for your company.