For entrepreneurs who want to focus on growing their e-commerce business, building a sophisticated website with a seamless user experience is a necessary but often intimidating task. So much so that as of just last year, nearly half of all small businesses do not have a website.
Statista recently found the average revenue per online user (APRU) is currently $1,734 and projects e-commerce revenue will grow to half a trillion by 2020.
This represents a huge revenue opportunity for online merchants. However, even with these insights, it is often difficult for entrepreneurs to build or upgrade their websites to capture this lucrative market, hitting roadblocks such as time and monetary investment along the way.
The right tools can make or break your success
With more and more startups opting out of brick-and-mortar storefronts and opting into online stores, smart merchants are recognizing that development partners and technology can be a key competitive advantage. The right partner and e-commerce platform can simplify the process of creating and maintaining an online store that not only looks visually stunning but drives conversions.
Dice reported overall technology job postings have grown 30 percent year over year and the demand for full-time hires is growing fast at 35 percent. This has created a shortage in talent ensuring recent graduates a starting salary of $90,000. This is often too high a price for businesses just starting up, but the selection of the right partner can help rein in those costs by avoiding the need to hire a full-time technology-focused individual.
Emerging opportunities with “do it yourself” sites
One of the more exciting trends to emerge over the past few years is that technology is reaching the point where you can build your own website without the need for a technical resource. This empowers entrepreneurs to manage their site in-house, without requiring a technical resource.
Pros and cons of building your own company website
Pros: You will gain a lot of experience. You’ll understand all of the underlying components and how they work together. When you run into an issue down the line, you’ll be better equipped to troubleshoot it than if you’d outsourced the project.
You’ll also likely save money. If you are reasonably tech and design savvy, you should have little trouble building a basic e-commerce site on your own. In this case, the only real costs are platform fees and your time.
Cons: If you lack design and technical knowledge, it is going to take you a long time to learn the skills needed to build your site. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when you’re trying to run a business, there may be more productive ways to use your time.
You can save some time by using a design template to complete the front end of the site, but there’s a good chance your site will end up looking like many others.
Because you’re learning as you go, there’s a good chance parts of your site will not function properly or you will not make full use of the built-in tools an e-commerce platform or CMS gives you. This means you’ll be giving site visitors a poor user experience and not seeing the full ROI on the money invested in your platform.
Pros and cons of working with an agency
Pros: When you hire an agency, you’re essentially paying for their technical expertise. They’re a valuable resource that can help you build a more successful business than you likely can on your own.
Since you won’t be bogged down with creating the site, you’ll also have more time to focus on running and growing your business.
Cons: There can be challenges when communicating your vision to a third party that can result in a business ending up with a different final product than imagined. This can sour the relationship and leave the business feeling unhappy.
I encourage all entrepreneurs to put a premium on communication to ensure that this does not happen, including preparing a requirements document to capture not only what will be built, but most importantly what will not be built. It is often the absence of features/functionality that strains relationships and not the other way around.
Some see cost as a challenge when it comes to agencies. I think it is smart to view this as an investment versus a cost because a good agency should help you grow.
How to evaluate agencies
It’s important to ensure that the strengths of an agency align with the needs of your startup. Many agencies offer a broad range of services while specializing in a few. Not all provide everything; my former agency focused solely on technology, for instance.
Look at the agency’s portfolio of work and request references that can speak to what it’s like to work with the agency. The goal here is to evaluate the competence, professionalism and level of customer service the agency provides.
Finally, you should get estimates from several different agencies and compare the costs against one another, while also taking into account the quality of work the agency has done in the past. The goal is to find the right balance between quality, cost and time to go live.