eCommerce may be an area where you lack specific marketing or technical abilities, and that can make it hard to determine how to hire an ecommerce consultant and how much to compensate them. Your business’s eCommerce needs may require a variety of tasks that need to be delivered at different points. And, eCommerce consultants have different backgrounds and expertise. This guide will help you understand what to expect when using eCommerce consultants and what to consider when choosing one.
What Do eCommerce Consultants Do?
While Amazon accounts for nearly 44% of all eCommerce revenue on the internet, there is ample room in the eCommerce marketplace for small or growing businesses. Consider also that a portion of Amazon’s revenue is generated by third-party sellers on the platform (other brands and retailers selling on Amazon). Whether you’re selling on Amazon, on your own eCommerce website – or both, you may find yourself in need of strategy, marketing, operational support or more. These are all areas where eCommerce consultants should come in.
Many businesses fail to get the right platform started or haven’t kept up with customers’ changing needs. For such businesses, eCommerce Consultants can bridge the gap between institutional business expertise in products and a consumer niche, and the specialized methods needed for eCommerce. eCommerce consultants often specialize in one task or stage of developing a company’s eCommerce platform.
eCommerce consultants help businesses capture the estimated $4.5 trillion in potential eCommerce sales by designing, testing, and refining campaigns.
How do they do this?
There are ten main ways that eCommerce consultants can assist in launching or growing your eCommere business:
Launching a digital marketing initiative
In today’s digital landscape, new channels, tactics and platforms emerge and evolve constantly. An effective eCommerce consultant can help you define goals, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs, measures of success) and tactics for entry in a particular channel, such as SEO, pay-per-click, paid social media advertising, eCommerce marketplaces and more. If you struggle with aspects of technical SEO or email segmentation, for example, hire a consultant to save time, improve results – and to free up your time to run your business from a strategic perspective.
Optimizing results in a particular digital channel or across multiple channels
You may find yourself frustrated with results in a particular digital marketing channel or in a given campaign. When this happens, turn to professional assistance in order to improve results along eCommerce best practices. An eCommerce consultant can help to improve audience selection, optimize ad imagery and/or content and ensure landing pages are set up to maximize conversion.
Analyzing results in eCommerce marketing efforts
Analysis and attention to detail are extremely important in eCommerce. An eCommerce consultant can help answer questions such as: which of my campaigns, ads, etc. are producing and which aren’t? How do we improve results and/or efficiency within a particular channel? Which attribution model (last-click, first-click, etc.) should we be using? Which marketing channel or campaign is responsible for converting the newest customers? – and many more.
Testing a website or marketing campaign
Testing is imperative to maximize ROI on your investments in traffic and web properties, particularly with paid media and with website properties. Effective A/B testing can improve results for a particular initiative – or with traffic at large. Testing can be done at the ad, audience, campaign, channel or website level and can affect traffic from a particular source or to a website at large. Imagine how your ROI could change if you had a 1% improvement in your eCommerce conversion rate! This is the kind of goal that would apply to an eCommerce campaign or website testing initiative.
Setting up or improving landing pages or sales funnels
Sales funnels are all the rage now in eCommerce. Funnels provide easy, results-driven and iteratively optimizable platforms to increase conversion rates, average order value (AOV) and other KPIs. Sales funnels can be set up within an existing Shopify, Magento or WooCommerce site – or can be used in place of them. Many eCommerce professionals turn to providers such as ClickFunnels or LeadPages in order to make use of pre-built funnels or to easily build custom funnels.
Advising on product/niche selection
You may find yourself wanting to enter into an eCommerce venture but unsure of how to select a product – or potentially how to source or white label products in a particular niche. A knowledgeable eCommerce consultant can help select products that are characterized by factors that are likely to lead to success. In today’s hyper-competitive eCommerce sphere, product or niche selection can be vitally important to ensure that you’re setting yourself up for long-term success.
Guiding on larger strategic issues
While it is sometimes a difficult concept to understand, eCommerce strategy is an area where a high-level consultant can be particularly valuable. They can help answer questions such as:
- How much are my customers worth long-term?
- How can I retain more customers?
- What are the best ways to acquire customers in my niche?
- What is the right marketing mix?
- Which KPIs should I use to measure success?
- What should my exit strategy be?
If you find yourself going through eConmmerce consultants to optimize a Google Ads account, for example, with little success time after time, it would be appropriate to engage with a strategic eCommerce consultant in order to look at things like differentiation, value proposition definition, brand positioning and competition in order to determine if your larger approach is appropriate.
Testing and improving eCommerce user experience
An eCommerce consultant with expertise in the area of user experience can be valuable to your eCommerce business. Making improvements in this area can improve conversion rates and help businesses better monetize traffic. If you’re struggling with a lagging conversion rate, high cart abandonment or a poorly crafted sales funnel, it’s time to engage with a consultant who understands user experience best practices – and how to improve your website to improve these KPIs.
How Much Does an eCommerce Consultant Cost?
Once you have an idea of what you need from an eCommerce consultant, you can have a better idea of how much their work for you will cost. A few factors will determine the level of investment you should be prepared to make in professional eCommerce guidance:
Should the eCommerce consultant be US-based?
If you are looking for an eCommerce consultant who can analyze and test marketing campaigns (where specific words may be tweaked in a campaign) you will want to choose an English-speaking consultant. But, you may ask yourself whether that English-speaking skill needs to be perfect. For efforts involving niche product placement, or involving specifics on seasonality or logistics (when to ship, when to store, how to warehouse), you may want someone either located in the U.S. or with previous U.S.-based experience.
Note that impeccable English-speaking skills or residency in the U.S. will drive the cost of your consultant up. So, too, will consultants that have experience with specific platforms (like Shopify) or specific channels. Also, if you need a consultant to help with larger strategic issues, you should expect to pay for a consultant with a higher level of experience.
To be specific, if you are not concerned with many of the items in the list above, then you should expect to pay between $7 and $50 per hour for different levels of offshore eCommerce assistance. If you require a US-based eCommerce consultant with significant strategy (and potentially specific platform) experience, you’ll need to invest between $50 to $75 per hour or more.
eCommerce consultants become necessary for most eCommerce businesses at some point in – or even throughout – business life cycles. It is vitally important for you to align your specific needs with the skills and experience of the consultant.
For consultants in many areas (such as a graphic designer or tax advisor), results are not as closely tied to efforts of the advisors. For example, there are more factors than the imagery at play on a site that determine eCommerce success. For eCommerce consultants, however, businesses look for more of a results-orientation. To do your part in ensuring success with your consulting venture, make sure to tie hourly or project-based investment to clearly-defined progress milestones – and offer feedback along the way.
Before selecting an eCommerce consultant, you will need to know what your level of strategic needs is, your budget, and your future plans. To get started, first ask yourself what your goals, expectations, and measurement strategy is. You may want to:
- know your product – is it manufactured? seasonal? require service?
- think through your marketing strategy – brand loyalty? social media Influencer? product placement?
- think through your product change over patterns – if you need to add new products on a regular basis, overturning pages and categories, you’ll want an eCommerce consultant who can hit on multiple levels of those described above. If you have a breadth of items but a highly specialized market (like vaping, for example), you will need a consultant that is more of a programming ninja.
Taking these steps will help you set up the engagement for success and make sure that you don’t pay more than you need.
Jason Neufeld is an executive with more than 15 years of eCommerce Leadership, Analysis and Strategy Experience. He has successfully launched more than 200 digital campaigns, integrated dozens of platforms and helped companies transition seamlessly from an outdated eCommerce strategy. He has worked in fashion, luxury, technology, CPG, baby, leisure, household and a variety of other industries as well.