If you have decided that building a syndicated e-commerce service in-house is not a good use of your corporate IT department, you will need a good partner with which to work on an outsourcing basis. There are some firms that can offer this capability. Here are some keys for finding a good one.
The firm's core competency should be e-commerce. Good web design skills are essential but insufficient. Ask to see their e-commerce portfolio and find out if they have ever syndicated any of their design work. Many designers and developers will feel unfulfilled creatively if they are asked to work from templates.
A good syndication partner will bring along a great hosting company with excellent credentials for reliability an security.
The partner should have good "processes" for duplicating multiple websites in short periods of time. After all, if a manufacturer has 1000 dealers, no one wants to be number 954 if the production rate is 5 stores per month. The metaphor for producing syndicated e-commerce is more "assembly line" than "hand made". The partner should be capable of assembling an on-line group of workers that include web designers, programmers, system administrators, network administrators, database administrators, security specialists and data entry technicians. These resources may be disbursed, but brought together and managed over the Internet.
The prospective partner must have someone with experience in applying business models to e-commerce technology. You may have such a person in your company. If so, he/she may be the perfect project manager.
It will take some searching to find the right partner, but in the end remember that you are entrusting your channel partner relationships and online business success to a third party. They must be worthy!
The next blog: Off the shelf software or new development?