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Ask a random group of retailers whether they built their own e-commerce technology or bought it, and there's a good chance you'll get close to an even split.
I know—I've asked that question repeatedly—and if you don't believe me, there's data from Top500Guide.com to convince you: 256 of the Top 500 retailers say they built their e-commerce platform in-house, 285 developed their own customer service software and 279 crafted their own order management software. In fact, no category of e-commerce technology reported in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide has fewer than 20 retailers listing "in-house" as their provider.
Then ask those retailers how they made the choice to build or buy. Their responses, and the stories of how they got to where they are now, will vary like so many virtual snowflakes.
Even after asking this question myriad times, the exercise never fails to teach me something new. That's why I highly recommend attending two sessions at IRCE designed to help a retailer plan and deploy technology smoothly and efficiently, whether they decide to do it themselves or rely on a vendor.
The first, "Get Smart: A Roadmap for Sound Technology Investments," features one of Internet Retailer's longtime contributors, Bernardine Wu, CEO of e-commerce consultancy FitForCommerce.
"The e-commerce ecosystem required to run and conquer an online business is now crowded with new and necessary types of technologies—personal information management, digital asset management, pricing optimizers—on top of the usual suspects like e-commerce platforms, order management systems, cross-channel and site optimization vendors," she tells me. "This session will provide a framework for creating a sound and forward-looking technology road map and review several case studies to help the audience plan smartly and holistically."
Then, for a more in-depth case study of how one retailer chose to switch from "buy" to "build" when it needed a technology overhaul, don't miss "Reassessing and Rebuilding: A DIY Approach to Customizing an E-Commerce Platform."
In that session, Rett Clevenger, CEO of gift, apparel and home furnishings retailer Steals.com, will explain how taking technology in-house helped the e-retailer cut costs and grow more quickly. Clevenger built Steals.com in six years from zero to more than $15 million in annual sales. "Retailers will learn from my mistakes, understand the difference between what's required and what's optional, and gain the basic knowledge needed to build a solution on their own," he says.
(The July issue of Internet Retailer magazine will feature a survey about e-commerce technology trends. Please click to take part in the short survey.)
Even if they don't decide to go in-house, he says, retailers "will learn what questions to ask before making a final decision that will have an enormous impact their business." He also promises to pass along "shortcuts to getting an online business off the ground without investing in an enterprise-level solution." In addition to e-commerce platforms, he'll also demonstrate how to wisely select such technologies as affordable payment processors, customer relationship management tools and e-mail providers. Just a few of those takeaways could make attending IRCE well worthwhile for any e-commerce executive.
Amy Dusto is an associate editor who covers e-commerce technology and fulfillment vendors for Internet Retailer and has attended two IRCEs.
Get Smart: A Roadmap for Sound Technology Investments Tuesday, June 10, 8:45-9:45 a.m.
Reassessing and Rebuilding: A DIY approach to customizing an e-commerce platform Thursday, June 12, 10:30-11:00 a.m.
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