eCommerce Project In House or Agency

One challenge that you might face as an eCommerce professional is deciding whether to handle that next eCommerce project internally or outsource it to an agency.

It’s definitely important to understand both options before starting down either road, and we want to help you make the best decision for your specific situation. Speaking of which, there are a million variables that could apply to your unique situation and make the decision quite complex, but we’ll try to lay out the general pros and cons of choosing to complete a project in-house versus hiring an agency to complete the project for you.

Pros of doing a project in-house

High level of control: The biggest benefit of using an in-house team comes in terms of control. You’re in the driver’s seat if you decide to do a project in-house, so you can create a team full of hand-chosen individuals who you know and trust. It can also be easier to control other factors such as timing of work since you have the whole team under one roof.
(Potentially) lower cost: Doing an eCommerce project in-house will probably result in a lower cost overall, as agencies tend to be a bit pricy. But, if you have to do any special hiring to keep your project in-house, this could quickly change the cost structure (not to mention the timeline).
Ease of communication: With an in-house team, the barriers to communication are likely going to be lower than they would be when working with an agency. Communicating internally can be complicated enough, and working with an outside organization can just add to the back-and-forth needed to ensure all the details are clearly communicated.

Cons of doing a project in-house

Risk of lower quality: The benefit of having lower costs oftentimes correlates to lower quality in the long-run. Agencies often possess unique capabilities that aren’t easily replicated by an in-house team, which can limit the scope of work that can actually be completed for the project and/or cause a reduction in the level of quality.

Opportunity cost: This is Econ 101, but assigning employees to work on an eCommerce project means that they won’t be able to work on other projects — other projects that might have had a higher ROI in the long-run.

Pros of hiring an agency for your project

Agencies specialize: The greatest benefit of outsourcing is that your project will be handled by people with specific knowledge using specialized tools. These guys and gals do this stuff for a living (literally — they don’t stay in business if they don’t produce results), so this can result in, well… better results.
More manpower: While you might not have the human resources necessary to complete a complex eCommerce project, or you might just not have the time to build an in-house team, any decently-sized agency already has a ton of people ready to get to work. This can be especially useful for time-sensitive or seasonal projects, as agencies can bring a ton of firepower to the project really quickly.

Cons of hiring an agency for your project

Cost: Agencies are generally pretty good at what they do, and they know it, and they make their clients pay for it. And if you’ve fallen into a situation where time is an issue, then you might be stuck paying premium rates to have the agency work around the clock to get your project completed.

Less accountability/transparency: Most agencies will have a good number of projects going on simultaneously, which could cause yours to receive less attention than it needs, especially if your account is one of the agency’s smaller ones. If that is the case, you might not figure it out right away, which wastes your time and puts your project deadline at risk.

In the end, it depends

As an agency, we’re naturally going to be inclined to encourage you to consider working with an agency on your next eCommerce project, but we realize that not every project has the budget that might be required to hire an agency. And not every project merits working with an agency — if you have the resources to spare and can do it in-house, you might as well try. But, if you run into issues that seem insurmountable, or if you just have some cool ideas that might not be feasible for an in-house team, then you really need to consider reaching out to an agency or two. There’s also the option of completing a hybrid project: allow an in-house team to complete as much as they can, and outsource the remainder to an agency.

At that, we definitely want to stress the importance of choosing a good agency to work with. By that, we mean choosing good people to work with. Some agencies are great and full of knowledgeable, skilled, and friendly people. Some other agencies, however, are what some might call subpar. The people who make up an agency that you choose to partner with will be the people who you interact with on a day-to-day basis for the duration of the project, so choose wisely.


Echidna Team
Echidna Team
Echidna is an eCommerce agency based in Minneapolis. We drive eCommerce transformation, create inspired customer experiences, enable eCommerce technologies, and help retailers attract and convert customers. Feel free to email us with any questions related to eCommerce design, technology, or marketing.