What portion of your e-commerce marketing efforts should you outsource?

I see a dilemma growing in our industry. It involves balancing which e-commerce functions should be kept in-house vs. those that should be outsourced.

Before we answer that question, a little historical perspective is in order. First, take note that five years ago, most of us thought e-commerce was a lot less complicated than it’s turned out to be. Right? That said, the next five years will bring increasing levels of complexity in e-commerce.

I also want to point out that most B-to-B companies I know have gone through several e-commerce employees/teams and/or organizational structures. As the function has evolved, we’ve struggled to keep up with the staffing needs. And this “people change” has, collectively, cost us dearly.

Furthermore, finding and recruiting truly experienced and talented e-commerce leaders with relevant direct marketing experience is the hardest staffing job in our companies today.

So, where does that lead us? The “enlightened” companies I work with and see in the marketplace have come to the following conclusions:

* e-commerce will not get simpler; it’ll probably become increasingly complex in the years ahead;

* recruiting and keeping e-commerce leaders will not get easier or less expensive;

* the e-commerce learning curve is steep and constantly changing;

* e-commerce isn’t a core competency any more than catalog printing or telesales is a core competency; and

* Mistakes in e-commerce have both a real cost and, generally, a larger, lost-opportunity cost.

If you don’t believe any of this, you can stop reading right now. But if you agree as I think you should, you’re one of the “people with vision” in our industry who realizes that some limited number of e-commerce functions (e.g., keyword development, online product presentation, online testing, etc.) need to be handled in-house by qualified staff. But the vast majority of e-commerce functions (e.g., SEO, pay per click, podcasting, content production, video development, etc.) are best handled by an experienced vendor who performs the same function on behalf of many clients.

It’s this collective execution that facilitates learning, efficiency and effectiveness, while reducing risk. Five years from today, only the largest B-to-B direct marketers (sales greater than $100 million) and/or those running multiple catalog titles will perform the majority of their e-commerce functions in-house. By that time, these companies will have staffs of 20 or more employees and very large budgets to handle e-commerce. Smaller companies will be forced to outsource most of their e-commerce functions.

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence Inc., a strategic consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at www.b2bdmi.com or (954) 566-4451.
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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