Business change, Commercial strategy, Digital and E-Commerce, Insights

What to look for when choosing an e-commerce consultant

While bricks-n-mortar stores are still the bedrock of UK retail sales, e-commerce sales are maintaining their upward trajectory even post-pandemic. While internet sales as a percentage of overall UK retail sales hit 25.3% in September 2022, up from 8.9% a decade ago, a retailer such as John Lewis saw two-thirds of sales come from online channels in 2021/22.

Developing an e-commerce strategy and implementing an e-commerce plan that plants your retail operations firmly in digital is a priority for many UK organisations. Whether it’s transforming entire operations online or optimising existing e-commerce processes and platforms, having a clear map of the e-commerce terrain is essential.

E-commerce consulting and bringing in the right e-commerce consultant can be a valuable route to plot your e-commerce path. This means finding someone with the appropriate level of experience, expertise and knowledge to drive results across the entire customer journey.

What is an e-commerce consultant?

An e-commerce consultant is a professional with expertise in e-commerce platforms, processes and operations. It’s a multi-disciplined role that reflects the various facets of e-commerce and the entire digital value chain.

In broad terms, consultants cover aspects of e-commerce, such as:

  • Customer and Market – research, identify, examine and determine demand for products, services and experiences.
  • Competitors – monitoring and assessing competitors and the position of e-commerce stores.
  • Marketing – creating and implementing a marketing strategy.
  • Data – such as identifying and implementing capture, processing and analytics systems.
  • Platforms – such as merchant systems and payment gateways.
  • Security – including financial and customer data protection.
  • Integration – connecting systems, including cloud-based services, payment systems, CRM and inventory control.

Organisations may also hire an e-commerce consultant to gain experienced advice and first-hand help in improving and growing their e-commerce practices and offerings. Consultants are typically hired when an organisation identifies a skills gap, especially if it pivots its operations online.

Recruiting a full-time staff member can be resource intensive – both in time and money – making appointing a consultant a convenient option.

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What do e-commerce consultants do?

E-commerce consultants do more than advise on creating and implementing an e-commerce strategy or advise on platforms and integrations.

Many tasks are focused on operational and marketing activities with the aim of cost-effective acquisition and conversion, along with improving metrics such as basket value, abandoned basket, and product margin.

Consulting tasks can include:

  • Identifying customer touchpoints and aligning them to marketing activity.
  • Developing strategies for new digital launches.
  • Creating and implementing multi-channel marketing campaigns such as email or social promotions.
  • Developing e-commerce marketing and sales KPIs and measurement systems.
  • Implementing marketing automation and retargeting communications.
  • Reviewing product offerings to determine profitability.
  • Identifying conversion funnel problems and optimisation.
  • Advising on user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) for online stores.

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What to consider when hiring an e-commerce consultant

1. Know your needs

Understanding the problem you want to address is the first step to developing a successful strategy.

Some challenges may be existential – from pivoting an organisation to an e-commerce-first model to re-platforming – while others are more specific, such as tackling abandoned sales.

Having a clear idea of the challenge that needs external support means you can clearly define the skills, experience and focus of an e-commerce consultant. While e-commerce is a specific discipline, some consultants will be better versed in digital marketing, payments, and platforms.

If you are clear on your needs, our project-building wizard can help define a statement of work and match it against our consultant marketplace.

2. Determine requirements

Once you’ve identified your organisation’s pain points, you can hunt for the right consultant. Because consulting is such a vast, diverse market, you’ll likely find hundreds of individuals and firms offering freelance and agency-based consulting.

However, it can be challenging to sift through potential consultants.

Check potential consultants against your needs, assessing aspects such as:

  • Experience
  • Sector knowledge
  • Platform knowledge
  • Technical expertise

Our extensive expert network of consultants helps bridge the gap between clients and consultants, giving you access to highly rated e-commerce consultants and teams.

3. Set a timeframe and budget

Be clear on what you want to achieve and by when, what resources you’ll need, and determine a budget for the project. E-commerce consultancy costs can vary depending on the level of consultant you hire. Large and mid-sized consultancy firms typically cost significantly more than individual consultants.

It can be sensible to draw up a clear statement of work, so the consultant understands and agrees to project deliverables within a budget and against a timeframe.

4. Client references

Before signing on with an e-commerce consultant, it’s worth reviewing their prior experience and clients whom they helped face similar problems. This is where researching past client testimonials can be a good idea, as it will give you a clearer picture of their processes and how the consultant works.

Ensure that you ask for testimonials, and check directly with previous clients to confirm the consultant has the skills and experience needed for your organisation.

A consultant marketplace such as Portevo ensures consultants are verified to ensure suitability for your project.

5. Ask the right questions

Whether hiring an individual consultant or choosing to work with a consulting firm, it’s vital to assess suitability for the project.

Examples of questions to ask include:

  • What examples do you have of successful e-commerce strategies and implementation?
  • What is your approach to working with internal teams across an organisation?
  • What are the big e-commerce challenges in my industry?
  • What similar projects have you worked on; what worked well and what was less successful?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What experience do you have with specific technologies, platforms, and payment systems?

Using a consulting marketplace

Finding an e-commerce consultant can involve time-consuming research.

Consultant marketplaces such as Portevo can help remove the guesswork, matching experienced, expert e-commerce consultants to projects. The result: the right consultant with the right level of experience and skills you need in a fraction of the time and who can bring valuable external insights into an organisation as it capitalises on e-commerce growth.