Retail Marketing Software: Build vs. Buy

Image courtesy of iStock

Image courtesy of iStock

If you have the resources to do it, creating your own custom retail marketing software in-house may seem to make sense. Who else knows the ins and outs of your business like you and your team? You can build the software to your company’s unique specifications and control the way the software looks and behaves. You can ensure compatibility with other platforms your business is currently using. The tricky part, however, can be predicting whether a custom build will provide the required return on your investment.

Here are five important considerations when determining whether or not to build that retail marketing software in-house:

Consideration #1: Resources

Developing retail marketing software in-house will take up months of your IT team’s time and energy. To ensure a fully functional solution, you will first need to work across departments gathering requirements, brainstorming, and planning. You will need to consider if your team’s time would be better spent advancing the business by focusing on other priorities or working on developing this solution.

If you choose to build in-house, your team will have to manage their existing workload while building out the software. Managing a full workload plus an intensive software build is daunting at best. Rich LaSalle, Director of Professional Services at 3C Software with 23 years of experience designing software applications and leading development teams explains that “Internal development is often distracted by competing priorities.” Whether you shift responsibilities amongst the team, hire additional personnel, or have existing resources work overtime, something will likely be sacrificed.

Consideration #2: Expertise

Your team will almost always know more about your business than an outside consultant. However, when it comes to building advanced marketing software of a specific nature, internal expertise only goes so far: “An internal team member doesn’t automatically have the latest skillsets, insight or experience to develop requirements for custom software,” according to LaSalle. Team members simply aren’t going to be aware of the latest technologies, techniques, and approaches in every category in order to even articulate what’s needed. While your team may be highly competent, investing in a third-party with a constant focus, who lives and breathes a particular software might be your best option. Jason Lemkin, Founder of SaaStr, the largest online SaaS community, echoes this sentiment: “If your three engineers spent six months building something — of course, another three great engineers could do the same. In fact, they can do it faster and better than you did.”

Consideration #3: Maintenance & Enhancements

After months of programming, your software could be up and running. Once implemented, remember that quality assurance rests solely on your team - it is your team’s responsibility to find and fix bugs. Just as important, a solution you first developed could soon be rendered ineffective should the original setup be altered or should other software be introduced down the road. Lemkin notes, “Even if [your internal team] can maintain it — they can’t evolve it.” Investing in an external retail marketing solution means that the solution “…will be used by many companies and people, so bugs are found and fixed and you’ll benefit from enhancements requested by other clients,” says LaSalle.

Consideration #4: Customization

Once you decide to buy vs. build, it’s important to research whether or not off-the-shelf solutions exist that are flexible enough to be configured to your business. Choosing the right retail marketing solution means you won’t have to sacrifice on customization.

When shopping for a vendor, make sure you fully understand how their solution works. LaSalle advises retailers to “seek out tool-based applications vs. canned product structures, data tables, reports or methodologies. The ideal solution will model your company’s processes using your unique business rules. There’s great peace of mind investing in retail marketing software from experts who can guide you through set-up, implementation, and maintenance,” confirms LaSalle.

Consideration #5: Longevity

Finally, if choosing to work with a third-party, it’s important to consider vendors and solutions from a long-term versus short-term perspective. You’ll want to evaluate how a vendor can not only meet your current requirements but also the vendor’s ability to consult and provide solutions going forward. Selecting software partners that are at the forefront of innovation helps retailers remain ahead of the curve as customer needs and technologies continuously evolve.


flexReceipts has built, tested and successfully deployed a proven best-in-class digital receipt solution in use at over 12,000 retail locations worldwide. The team at flexReceipts is keenly focused on post-purchase shopper engagement and continues to innovate the product in order to meet the demands of a rapidly changing retail landscape. flexReceipts has developed technologies required to support a variety of Point of Sale (POS) configurations, retail servers, databases, internal and external tools and resources. The scalability of the platform and architecture is essential to retail clients like Under Armour, Signet Jewelers, GNC, Aldo and many others and allows flexReceipts to manage fluctuating transaction volumes while supporting rapid iterations without sacrificing response time and availability.

Learn more about flexReceipts’ digital receipt solution by visiting our PRODUCT PAGE.

flexReceipts Smart Digital Receipts for Retailers