Full Solution Service Provider vs. Specialist: Let Your Needs Dictate Your Choice

Written by Ed Higdon on . Posted in Uncategorized


When it comes to collecting data, mining said data, and translating it all into marketing and customer experience initiatives, retailers have two choices: work with a group of hand-picked specialists for each area of service or work with a full solution service provider. Which option is better? Does it make sense to work with a provider that offers end-to-end solutions, or is it more beneficial to choose subject matter experts to handle each step of the process? Well, the answer isn’t black and white.

Think about the medical profession. There are times when a general surgeon is the right provider for a specific procedure like an appendectomy or gall bladder removal. However, if a heart patient requires triple bypass surgery, a specialist such as a cardiothoracic surgeon is best equipped to perform it. Choosing partners for analytics is no different. Companies must consider their problems and the solutions they want, as well as their organizational goals, needs, and preferences.

Full Solution Service Providers: Convenient, Yet Rigid

Full solution service providers do everything in-house. They source, manage and analyze data, develop marketing campaigns and execute those campaigns on behalf of the client. Typically, the client is connected with an account manager who acts as the single point of contact for every step of the process. This type of arrangement can be ideal as a means of consolidating costs, as well as workflow. Coordination is streamlined, and the client knows precisely who to call in the event of a problem, concern, or a change in strategy.

However, working with a full service provider comes with trade-offs. First and foremost, those providers are generalists, not specialists. They can offer a broad spectrum of services, but they are not necessarily subject-matter experts (SMEs). It’s like going to a department store to shop for a pair of pants. You’ll certainly find pants there. You’ll probably find pants you like, plus you can shop in the same store for a matching shirt, belt, shoes and socks. However, if you’re looking for a pair of truly flattering pants for an important occasion, ones that fit well and will last a long time, you would likely visit a specialty store or tailor who would offer the fit and function you desire, but without the convenience of a one-stop shopping experience.

Full service providers bundle their solutions together, which can lead to snags down the line. For example, your team may determine that the provider’s email data services are insufficient, but they are happy with all other areas of service. In order to take email data to a new provider, it will have to be unbundled from the contract. This can significantly drive up the cost of the remaining services, or it can mean severing the entire relationship and starting from scratch. Customers tied to a full service provider can find it difficult to remain agile amid rapidly changing conditions.


What else should you consider when making decisions about your data services? Get our monthly newsletter for more tips.

Specialist Service Providers: Agile, But Narrow

In cases where a retailer is looking for a subject matter expert to take their data to the next level, a specialist is in order.

Choosing a specialist can often mean significant cost savings. Retailers may still require end-to-end service, and specialists can recommend providers who are also specialists, integrating their services to create a full-service solution. An a-la-carte approach allows retailers to shop around for serious SMEs who deliver results and ROI at a reasonable price point.

While specialists tend to be narrowly focussed on delivering one expert service, this does, however, allow retailers to gain a deeper knowledge of the subject matter and remain agile. There is no red tape to cut through if a campaign needs to shift direction on a dime. With larger providers, multiple approvals are required, work orders must be drafted, workflow must be altered and simple changes can take weeks to execute. If the retailer wants to take a different direction based on changing market conditions, a specialist can execute that change instantly.

Let Your Needs Drive Your Decision

There is no single answer to the question of whether a specialist or a full solution service provider is right for any one business. The best approach depends upon the needs and goals of the business and precisely what the company wants to accomplish with its big data.