Balancing Your Budget and Investment: When is the Right Time to Outsource?
Many multichannel merchants focus on how they can lower operating costs when they consider outsourcing certain tasks. But when you outsource operations, you also outsource the investment. Sounds obvious, but maybe the magnitude isn’t all that clear until you’re faced with replacing an order-management system, moving into a new fulfillment space or upgrading your Web site.
When outsourcing your investment, you don’t have to invest in those upgrades as your business grows and changes. Let’s look at some examples that show the size of these investments.
* Order-management systems. Software as a service (SaaS) can free up a potential investment of $25,000 for an emerging company. If you’re a $500 million company — with several hundred users adopting a SaaS model — it eliminates an $8 million to $10 million investment. For a $20 million cataloger, the spend runs $280,000 to $400,000 to license and buy hardware. Then you implement an order-management system with call center and warehousing functions.
* Specialized forecasting and inventory management system (working in conjunction with your fulfillment system). Here, investment and implementation costs for a 10-user system will cost, on the low end, $150,000. Larger companies invest several million dollars.
* Replacing an e-commerce site. SaaS business models can eliminate an investment of $750,000 to $1.2 million for a multichannel cataloger with sales in excess of $100 million. With the e-commerce that growing companies experience, there’s also often a need for an e-mail management or chat-system investment.
* Call-center operations. Outsourcing eliminates investment in the required space, telecom terminals, headsets, ACD, scheduling software, call-monitoring hardware and software, e-mail management, chat systems, etc.
* Fulfillment center. You avoid investing in the construction and/or build-out costs, as well as the racking, conveyors, material handling, warehouse management systems, shipping systems, furniture and fixtures. Plus, you avoid a long-term lease.