All You Need to Know about Ecommerce Consulting Services

22 min read
Jun 28, 2024
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As an ecommerce entrepreneur, your goal should always be to grow your business. However, this is easier said than done, even if you have a lot of experience running an ecommerce business. 

Even with the best intentions, your sales figures may eventually plateau, customers may stop returning to your store, and business may take a turn for the worse. It doesn’t matter which specific problem is ailing your ecommerce business, but hiring an ecommerce consultant to solve it can be the fix you’re looking for. 

Ecommerce consulting services specialize in addressing business challenges for ecommerce companies and finding ways to address them.

In this article, we will look at how ecommerce consulting services can play an essential role in growing your company.  

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What are ecommerce consulting services?

Running an ecommerce business involves tracking and managing a lot of moving parts. From handling logistics and marketing strategies to designing a user-friendly customer experience, your company's success depends on many factors. 

Enter the expert ecommerce consultant. Ecommerce consultants are third-party professionals whose services you can hire to improve your company’s performance. Some consultants are specialists who focus on a particular area, such as sales or product development, and develop ways to streamline and improve your current processes. Other ecommerce consulting services take a more generalist approach, assisting their clients with an overall business strategy and taking their operations to another level.

Ultimately, specialist and generalist ecommerce consultants have the same goal: to help your business grow. After all, not every entrepreneur knows how to optimize processes and workflows in their ecommerce business for the best results. Working with ecommerce consulting services lets companies streamline their approach and get better results in areas that were being overlooked. 

When you work with an ecommerce consulting agency, you can expect support on the following fronts:

So far, we have an idea of the overall role of ecommerce consulting services. But what specific areas of your business will an ecommerce consultant affect? A short list of these operations includes:

Before working with an ecommerce consulting agency, it’s always important to evaluate your business’s needs and articulate exactly what you are looking for.  

Why ecommerce consulting services are important

When a plane moves to take off from the runway, the pilot does not do all of it alone. They need support from the ground staff, who monitor conditions on the ground and give the pilot directions that let them safely achieve lift-off. A smooth flight needs competent ground staff, alert air traffic controllers, and a confident, well-trained pilot. This is an apt analogy for the importance of ecommerce consulting services.

Your ecommerce company is the plane, and you are the pilot. It’s your job to get the plane up in the air (or get your business up and running). The ground staff and air traffic control personnel are your ecommerce consultants. Their assistance is invaluable and can make the difference between a smooth or bumpy journey. 

In the same way that ground staff surveys the runway to guide the plane to its destination, ecommerce consultants study market conditions and prepare a strategy for your company. The ecommerce consulting agency (ground staff) are not formal employees of your company (flight crew), but their contributions are essential just the same.

It doesn’t matter if your company focuses on B2B or B2C sales; the ecommerce industry is quite crowded and highly competitive across nearly all niches. Your business needs every advantage it can get for long-term success, and hiring appropriate ecommerce consulting services is an integral part of that process.

Five key areas of ecommerce consulting

The airplane analogy demonstrates a general idea of why ecommerce consulting services are important. However, ecommerce business owners need more than just a general idea. You need to know precisely which areas of your business will be affected by the contributions of an ecommerce consultant and how they will change for the better. 

There are five main areas where ecommerce consulting services have a significant impact:

  • Conversion rate
  • Business opportunities
  • Marketing strategy
  • Product profitability
  • Vendor negotiations

Let’s look closely at these key areas and see how e-commerce consulting services can help your company perform better in each of them.

1. Increase conversion rate

If your online store’s conversion rate has stagnated or started to decline, it’s a cause for alarm. It means you are leaking potential customers from your sales pipeline, losing out on prospects after they have already visited your store. Left unchecked, a plummeting conversion rate can be one of the first signs that your business is not doing well.

Hiring an ecommerce consulting agency can help with an underperforming conversion rate. As experts in selling strategies, ecommerce consultants can pinpoint existing issues with your customer experience or sales processes that are bringing down your online store’s conversion rate. 

Ecommerce consultants use several methods to increase your store’s conversion rate. For example, they could propose certain tweaks to the store’s user interface (UI) that improve the customer experience, thereby leading to more sales. Or they could conduct A/B testing on items in your store, identifying which product listings perform better and lead to more sales. Perhaps the only thing missing from your site is a single, transformative feature, like one-click checkout, and you need to hire ecommerce consulting services to identify what it is.

2. Act on business development opportunities

When you’re focused on the day-to-day operations of your ecommerce business, it’s easy to overlook growth opportunities. Over time, these missed opportunities add up and can adversely affect your company’s trajectory. Even successful business owners can benefit from an ecommerce consultant's expert advice on development opportunities.

You might have a vision of what you want your company to look like in terms of sales figures and customer base but lack clarity on how to bring it to life. Ecommerce consulting services can help you build a road map to your business goals. For example, the consultant can recommend certain certifications for your company or courses you can take to help you grow your business and improve its overall performance. 

As an impartial outsider, your ecommerce consultant is perfectly positioned to give you unbiased feedback on your current approach. This fresh perspective will help you see your own operations with new eyes, allowing you to spot avenues for growth that you might have missed earlier. 

Ecommerce consulting services bring your goals within reach by aligning your business operations under an overarching umbrella strategy.

3. Prepare marketing and advertising strategies

If your ecommerce store isn’t attracting new customers, it’s not experiencing any significant growth. Sure, repeat customers are a reliable source of revenue, but new customers allow your store to grow its base and expand into untapped markets. This is why ecommerce stores must ensure their sales funnel is providing a steady stream of warm prospects who will become customers as they proceed along their journey.

Customer acquisition is one of the primary functions of ecommerce consulting agencies. You can outsource your marketing and advertising concerns to ecommerce consultants, who will plan and implement a cohesive strategy on your company’s behalf. After your ads go live, these consultants monitor their performance, assess their effectiveness, and design a customer journey tailored to the ad campaign. 

Ecommerce consulting services can also help formulate your overall marketing strategy. Most consultants are experts in a given domain and have a wealth of knowledge about their chosen field. They can offer valuable insights about customer demographics and preferences, which you can use to find new markets for your company’s products. 

4. Improve profitability through product management

Every ecommerce retailer knows that certain items in their online store will be more popular than others. Promoting best-selling items is a sales strategy that ecommerce has borrowed from physical retail. Knowing what other consumers are spending their money on helps shoppers make their own purchasing decisions. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg when using sales and product data to improve profitability.

Two critical services an ecommerce consulting agency offers are product analysis and product development. Consultants can analyze sales data, conduct market research, and forecast customer behavior to accurately predict which products will sell well and when. Along with predicting bestsellers, ecommerce consultants can identify gaps in your product line and weak points in your pricing strategy.

For example, let’s say you run an ecommerce store selling camping goods. While you may stock high-value items like tents and portable stoves, your best-selling product is a stainless steel water bottle. An ecommerce consultant will be able to show you data that shows customer demand for more models of these bottles in different color variants. Based on the consultant’s research, you can launch a new range of colored bottles at an attractive discounted price for the first month. This will entice shoppers to support your brand—maybe even for the first time. Even though customers may not be buying your most expensive inventory items, smart product management from your ecommerce consultant can still increase your profits.

5. Negotiate mutually beneficial agreements with vendors and suppliers

Supply chains in ecommerce can be quite complex. Every retail ecommerce category has its own quirks related to logistics. Grocery retailers must prioritize freshness in their food products, while consumer electronics retailers can afford to sit on their inventory for a little longer. Whatever ecommerce category your store belongs to, managing delivery timelines and getting the best deals from your suppliers is a constant process.

One of the most valuable benefits of hiring ecommerce consulting services is having someone to negotiate with vendors and suppliers on your company’s behalf. An ecommerce consultant frees you from the responsibility of following up on shipments and performing inventory management. By optimizing timelines and streamlining processes, ecommerce consulting services introduce efficiency into your company operations. 

Some steps that ecommerce consultants could take to achieve this result include:

These are the five most important ways an ecommerce consultant can add value to your business. By putting their suggestions into action, you will see a general improvement in many key areas of your store’s performance. 

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Four benefits of hiring ecommerce consultants

At this point in our study of ecommerce consulting services, their value to your business has been made quite clear. Hiring an ecommerce consultant is an investment that can have impressive returns in several areas, from sales to operations, depending on what consulting services you’ve used. 

Working with ecommerce consulting services unlocks several advantages for your online store, including the ones mentioned below:

1. Expert insights

Emerging technology and new software are constantly rewriting the online retail market’s dynamics. For business owners who are just entering the ecommerce arena and seasoned sellers alike, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest industry trends and technological improvements. 

The advantage of working with ecommerce consultants is that they are experts in their fields. An ecommerce consulting agency’s job is to stay up-to-date with industry best practices and regulations so their clients don’t have to worry about those details. Their access to specialized knowledge enables your company to maximize its online store’s performance.

Since ecommerce consultants are not full-time employees of your company, they can approach your business problems with a fresh perspective. Coupled with their deep knowledge of ecommerce operations, they can develop new solutions that may not have occurred to you. Input from ecommerce consulting services results in out-of-the-box innovations that yield positive results. 

2. Cost and time efficiency

Your company is hardly the first one to need ecommerce consulting services. With a growing number of traditional retailers and legacy brands embracing digital transformation, many need help adapting to ecommerce operations. What might seem like a daunting problem for your company is, in fact, just another day at work for an ecommerce consulting expert.

Of course, it is entirely possible to grow your ecommerce store without hiring ecommerce consulting services. It’s just that it will take much longer and probably cost you more than it would just to hire expert consultants in the first place. The main objective of ecommerce consultants is to help grow their client’s business, so they have prior experience in solving the problems faced by your company.

Instead of following a trial-and-error approach to solving problems your business faces, you can simply benefit from the tried-and-tested approach of an ecommerce consulting agency. Since ecommerce consultants are third-party contractors and not full-time employees, your company saves on labor costs while outsourcing time-consuming tasks to qualified professionals.

3. Competitive edge

Growing an ecommerce company while also performing day-to-day tasks can be challenging. Once you’ve established a presence in the market and fostered a regular customer base, you have to focus on maintaining your brand’s position and reputation. This leaves you little time or energy to go after new opportunities, allowing competing stores to catch up or overtake your store.

The simplest solution to this problem is hiring ecommerce consulting services to help your store remain ahead of competitors while you focus on running the business. Ecommerce consultants help your store navigate challenges and cross new frontiers by implementing innovative solutions, like recommending new marketing tools or planning and executing effective ad campaigns.

An ecommerce consulting agency can also bring a keen analytical perspective to your store’s current market share. Ecommerce consultants are trained to perform competitive analysis, comparing your online store with similar businesses. You can learn from other retailers’ best practices and implement them for your ecommerce store.

4. Scalability

One of the most attractive features of ecommerce retail is its potential for long-term growth. A successful online store can easily expand into new markets all over the world and continually add new products to its inventory. All you need is the right strategy.

While you devote your energies to selling products, you can leave the strategizing to the experts. Ecommerce consulting services are valuable for online retailers at every stage of business operations, whether you are still in the pre-launch phase or are looking to take it to the next level. As your company develops a working relationship with an ecommerce consulting agency, the increasing familiarity will result in tailored solutions that are more likely to get positive results.

Ecommerce consultants can also help make your store’s operations scalable. For example, a clothing store with a strong customer base in Miami might want to expand to other cities in Florida. However, its logistics operations are geared towards local distribution. Ecommerce consultants can restructure its logistics and order fulfillment processes so that it can graduate from being a single-city brand to a statewide one. 

How to choose the right ecommerce consultant

When looking for ecommerce consulting services, you should choose an agency that can be a long-term fit for your company. Over time, they will acquire more knowledge about your specific strengths and weaknesses and will be able to offer solutions that play to those strengths and minimize the weaknesses. That’s why the decision to work with an ecommerce consulting agency must be thoughtful. 

Don’t rush the process. Take the time to find the right ecommerce consulting agency for your business, and you will get better returns on your investment. Carefully vet the ecommerce consultants you are considering before making a final decision. 

Here are some important things to consider and questions to ask before you spend your money on ecommerce consulting services:

Five key considerations for choosing an ecommerce consultant

Before reaching out to any ecommerce consulting agencies, you need to prepare an initial list of potential consultants. Establishing criteria as the basis for entry into this long list will help you determine which consultants or agencies will be a suitable fit for your company. 

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind for this list:

1. Business goals

You need a clear vision to get the most out of your investment in ecommerce consulting services. Ecommerce consulting firms can help your company achieve its objectives, but you must set them yourself. 

Setting defined goals lets you identify exactly which areas you need help in, and knowing this enables you to know which ecommerce consultants and specialists to approach. You will also have a framework to measure an ecommerce consultant’s performance. 

For example, if you are struggling with increasing your website visitor conversion rate, you should look for consultants with a proven record of boosting this metric for their clients. And when you hire them, you can track your conversions to evaluate their efficacy.

2. Consultant’s role

From product optimization to marketing strategy, ecommerce consultants can perform a number of roles within an organization. In many cases, external consultants are brought in to carry out tasks that fall outside of employees’ responsibilities or skill sets. The exact role you expect them to perform will depend on your company’s specific needs.

Before hiring any consultant, it’s essential to outline their role clearly. This will also allow you to see how the consultant will fit in with your internal staff and lighten their workload so that they can work on their core functions.

3. Company culture

A successful partnership is long-lasting, allowing the company to cross several important milestones thanks to the consultant’s guidance. One of the best ways to lay the foundation for a long-lived partnership is to seek out consultants who are a good fit for the company culture.

Shared values will go a long way in developing an understanding with your ecommerce consulting agency. It’s also important that your consulting firm has a deep knowledge of your company’s vision, goals, and customers. Finding the right partner who believes in your company culture is essential when looking for ecommerce consulting services. 

4. Budget

Rates for ecommerce consulting services vary a great deal depending on the brief. However, you can control costs by setting a reasonable budget for ecommerce consulting fees. Once your budget is in place, you can evaluate consultants’ rates and see which firms can offer your company the best possible deal.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that some ecommerce consulting firms have minimum contract terms. So, knowing how much you are willing to spend and comparing it to these contract terms is an easy way to narrow down the list of potential consultants. 

Remember, your budget will directly correlate to the extent of the consultant’s role. That is, if you want an ecommerce consultant to wear multiple hats for your business, you will have to pay them more as well.

5. Prior experience

From larger firms like McKinsey & Company and Bain & Co. to smaller agencies that serve and work with niche clients, there is no shortage of ecommerce consulting firms to choose from. To avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, you should narrow your list to those consultants who have already completed projects in your domain.

There are two main ways to evaluate an ecommerce consultant’s prior experience and whether it is relevant to your business. The first step is to look at the firm's user reviews. If they prominently feature companies in the same industry, you can expect valuable ecommerce consulting services.

Another way is to review consultant case studies. Since the consultants often prepare them, it’s important to view them with a critical eye. You can prepare your own questions about each case and get more information should you decide to take your engagement with the consultant further.

Four important questions to ask potential ecommerce consultants

Once you’ve prepared an initial list of consultants, you can narrow it down based on which ones fit your criteria the best. These ecommerce consultants are the ones you can reach out to and schedule a discovery call. 

In your first conversation with an ecommerce consultant you are considering working with, ask relevant questions to help you make an informed decision. Here are some examples:

“What is your working style?”

This should be your first question when meeting with an ecommerce consultant. The software tools they use, the business strategies they follow, and the operational processes they implement will tell you a lot about whether they are the right match for your company. You won’t be able to have a fruitful partnership with an ecommerce consulting agency unless their methods will benefit your operations.

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s simply a matter of finding an ecommerce consultant with a compatible approach. Ideally, the consultant’s answer will reveal that they use tools your internal employees are already familiar with and align with your views toward professionalism.

“How well-versed are you in this industry?”

While you don’t need to open with this question, it is still one of the most important ones to ask when looking for ecommerce consultants. There are good odds that they will already have some level of industry experience, or they wouldn’t have made the shortlist. The reason for asking this question at this stage is to develop a deeper understanding of their level of expertise and how they have helped businesses like yours.

After all, there are many different types of ecommerce companies. From local grocers to international beauty brands and everything in between, each ecommerce company is constantly trying to keep up with industry-specific trends and market forces. Having a consultant who shares or surpasses your industry knowledge is vital since it will improve your ability to communicate goals and evaluate performance together.

“What is your collaboration process like?”

While it’s okay to defer to an ecommerce consultant’s expertise and let them take the lead on certain initiatives, you should always remember that they are external contractors, not employees. This means any project you undertake must be collaborative, where both parties benefit from its success. An ecommerce consultant is a third party working for your company, and they should coordinate their efforts with your internal employees. 

“What metrics do you use to measure your performance?”

It’s risky to bring a consultant on board based only on the promises made during the interview process. To learn whether a consultant is positively impacting your business, you need reliable data demonstrating the changes they have brought about. It’s not enough just to agree on specific business goals; you need a way of tracking the consultant’s progress toward achieving them.

Depending on your stated goals, the ecommerce consultant can tell you which metrics are most relevant. From higher traffic, greater revenue, and improved conversion rates, there are many indicators of how well your ecommerce consultant’s strategies are performing.

Cost of working with an ecommerce consultant

Many ecommerce entrepreneurs choose not to hire external consultants because they believe it’s an additional expense they can’t afford. However, the idea that working with ecommerce consulting services is expensive is a misconception. Of course, large ecommerce consulting agencies and senior consultants charge very high rates, but the price range for ecommerce consulting services is quite broad. It’s not difficult to find a consultant that suits your company’s vision and budget.

The hourly rates charged by ecommerce consultants can range from $50 to $300, depending on the nature of the services and their experience level. Of course, this isn’t the only payment model available. Some may charge a flat rate based on predetermined deliverables, while others could charge a monthly retainer fee. 

Real-world success stories of ecommerce consulting services

In the last decade, online retail has risen to new heights of popularity with consumers all over the world. Undergoing a digital transformation and entering the ecommerce arena has become a must for any business looking for growth. 

To achieve success in this new market, companies and organizations have turned to ecommerce consulting firms with promising results. 

How Deloitte created new revenue streams for USTA

Live sports and ecommerce are not two things you would typically think about together. However, even the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the governing body of the globally watched US Open, has woken up to the potential of online retail.

The USTA invests 100% of its proceeds into supporting tennis at a grassroots level across the country, and tickets to the US Open have always been its big-ticket item. The USTA approached consultancy firm Deloitte to help formulate a global ecommerce strategy.

Deloitte’s answer involved intensive data analytics, mapping the increasing demand for US Open merchandise. The firm also evaluated the USTA’s online shopping experience, identifying opportunities to address customer problems and presenting a proposal to partner with a third-party logistics company that streamlined deliveries and returns. 

Finally, Deloitte provided the USTA with a roadmap for selling US Open-branded private-label merchandise, including potential manufacturers and specific revenue targets. 

How Bain & Co. increased productivity and savings for Marisa

Marisa is one of Brazil’s leading apparel brands for women, with over 350 physical stores across the country. But when the pandemic struck in 2020, all those outlets stood empty. In contrast, Marisa’s online store saw more traffic than ever before. It quickly became clear that its ecommerce platform, sales reps, and customer service agents were ill-equipped to handle this sudden uptick in sales volume.

The company contracted the services of Bain & Co., an international consulting firm. Bain & Co. proposed a solution that involved overhauling several processes and roles. The new approach relied heavily on productivity-enhancing tools and automation software. With the ability to serve more online customers at reduced costs, Marisa saw annual savings of $9.1 million (50 million BRL) and increased customer and employee satisfaction ratings.

The strategies implemented by Bain & Co. for Marisa were scalable and contributed to increased efficiency and superior performance in its ecommerce store.

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As we’ve seen, ecommerce consulting services can improve your business. Whether it involves recommending using a new tool, such as live chat for ecommerce stores, or targeting a new customer demographic for your products, ecommerce consultants can always find opportunities to grow your business. 

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