Using a Magento agency: pros and cons
In our previous post on finding the balance of development cost vs quality, we looked at a number of different choices you have to find development talent for your store. Today we're focussing on affiliated and well-established Magento agencies. We'll be looking at some top agencies to approach if you decide to go down this route, as well as the general pros and cons of using agencies.
What is a Magento agency?
A Magento agency is any well-established business consisting of one or more teams of developers and other eCommerce professionals who are highly experienced in their field. A top agency will have a number of high-profile clients who have used their services, and they'll build stores that compete at the highest level. They'll be looking primarily for clients who want the very highest quality and have a strong budget to support that.
An agency can choose to be officially affiliated with Adobe (who owns Magento) or not. Being officially affiliated means the agency will be listed in the official Adobe partner directory, but it doesn't have any bearing on the quality of the work completed. Any high-quality, established, and time-proven agency will strive to deliver the best quality work to their clients.
An affiliated agency will pay Magento a hefty yearly fee to be listed as a partner, and this will often be reflected in the fee they charge their clients.
Why should I use a Magento agency?
A big benefit of using a Magento agency is that they'll offer a complete package of managing every aspect of your store build. This often includes much more than just development work. They may also have in-house graphic designers, UX designers, SEO specialists, copywriters, performance experts and more in order to cater for every aspect of your store build. Some may also offer marketing and sales services to build expectations and customer interest leading up to, and even after launch.
Using an agency means you get delivered a highly crafted and well-built store, which matches your spec and offers solid and long-lasting functionality. Basically, you're unlikely to find a better service or end product than when using a well-established Magento agency to build your store.
Pros and cons
So what are the pros and cons of using an established, time-proven Magento agency? It's true to say that an agencies ability to secure new clients and projects is highly dependant on it's reputation. Building and keeping a good reputation can only be done by consistently delivering clients a solid, high-quality end product. So what can you expect to like - and dislike when using a Magento agency?
One of the best things about using an agency is the service you receive. You can always expect to get:
An all-in-one package
The agency handles every requirement of your store build. They'll be highly experienced in all aspects of creating a truly effective eCommerce store from a solid design, great usability, strong functionality, SEO focussed content writing and more.
If you're after a largely hands-off approach and are happy to let the professionals handle your store build, that's exactly what an agency will aim to provide. They'll work on your store while delivering you regular updates and consulting you as needed for decisions that might not have been discussed yet.
The best version of your store
Having a team of experienced professionals working on your store, means they bring a lot of eCommerce experience to the table, and when you start working with them, they'll make every effort to understand your business. So you might for instance have an idea in your head about how an aspect of your store might work, but the agency might bring something to the table that you hadn't even thought of, but is actually better than the idea you had.
A high-quality end product
The ultimate goal is to end up with a really solid end product, and you'll never be delivered less than the best the agency can offer. That means a speedy store that matches or exceeds your spec, is upgrade friendly and future proof, looks great, and has strong, user-friendly functionality.
Hit the ground running with SEO, marketing and sales
Because the store will have been built with discoverability and conversions in mind, you can expect a store that's SEO optimised, and ready to work with your CRM and other marketing, sales and support tools you plan to use.
The cons certainly isn't a long list, conisting of predominantly just one item, and you can probably already guess what that is:
You've guessed it. The only real down side when using an agency is the cost involved. It would be unusual for an agency to accept a project with a budget as low as say £20k, so the expectation should instead be more around the £40k mark as a minimum, up to £100k, even 500k or more. Even with all the plus sides to using a Magento agency, simply the price tag alone makes it completely unfeasible for countless SMB's who know quality is important, but who's budget just doesn't stretch that far.
Which Magento agency should I use?
If you're considering using an agency for your store, there's plenty of great choices in the UK who have consitently delivered a really solid end product time and time again. Here are some good options to look at
Space48 were setup in 2008, and since then have expanded to a 100+ team with remote presence across Europe and beyond. They have a varied returning customer base including the likes of Ordinance Survey, Cox & Cox and Betty's. If you have a project budget of £100k or more, then Space48 is a good place to start.
JH are one of the more public facing agencies, also being the organisers of the Meet Magento UK conference each year. Started in 2010, they now have a large established team of eCommerce professionals and handle projects for brands such as Selco, Salons Direct and Woodie's. For projects of £50k or more, JH are a goto agency.
Screen Pages is an agency with a long history and vast experience, having been established in 1997. They've worked with some high profile businesses over the years such as the BBC, Avon, Dunelm, Salter and many more, perhaps giving them the greatest wealth of experience working with highly visible brands. For budgets of £30k and more, Screen Pages will be happy to work on your store build.
GENE was established in 2013, and has now expanded to a team of over 60 people. They have a strong client list including the likes of PayPal, Krispy Kreme and tommee tippee. They also created the first Magento page builder technology, now found in the core, and are PayPal's official Magento extension developer. For larger projects of £100k or more, GENE is a solid choice.
Media Lounge are an award winning agency with a team of over 30 eCommerce professionals. Founded in 2008 they've worked on stores for well known brands such as Humax and Lakeland. If you've got a project budget of £40k or more, then you won't be dissapointed with the service you recieve from Media Lounge.
Alternatives to an agency
It's certainly true to say that not everyones budget will stretch to using an agency, so are there any alternatives that will offer high-quality, but at a more accessible price point? We've looked at the cost vs quality debate in a previous blog post and I can safely say that yes ,it is possible to find high quality development talent to work on your store without breaking the bank.
If you can track down a Magento agency that's just started up, you might be able to seal a deal that gives you equivalent quality compared to an established agency, but at a reduced cost while the agency builds their customer base, and list of brands they've worked with.
A startup agency will have less expertise on board compared to an experienced agency, but it's still a great option, and you may be able to keep the more comeptitive rates longer term if you stay with them.
Not so easy to come by, but little counts for more than a personal recommendation of a developer from a colleague or friend.. They might be a freelancer, or small development business, but they can still deliver great quality, at a highly competitive price.
Some work agencies carry Magento developers on their books, but don't expect too much in terms of choice or guaranteed quality. An often sizeable commission can also make the cost involved unattractive. But that's not to say you can't find good, qualified and experienced Magento developers with work agencies - you definitely can.
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We meet you at the point of need - just making that connection with developers who are right for your project. We don't control anything beyond that, so you're free to work on and manage your project as you normally would, completely outside Developer Connection.
If you're interested in our service then you can find out more here.