It happens to every ecommerce business eventually: growth plateaus. You try every idea you can think of, but nothing breaks the cycle.
The best solution: an outsider’s perspective. A talented ecommerce consultant has a vast range of experience and knowledge from working with stores big and small to overcome their ecommerce business and growth challenges.
Whether you’re selling through your Shopify store or via another platform, an ecommerce expert might be just the golden ticket you need to overcome your growth plateaus and take your store to the next level.
What is an ecommerce consultant?
An ecommerce consultant is a third-party expert companies can hire to help them improve their online stores and overall ecommerce performance. The definition is very broad—some ecommerce consultants have a wide range of expertise, while others niche down with a specific specialty.
Why hire an ecommerce consultant? There are many reasons you may need to.
Get an unbiased outside perspective
Many times, when you’re so involved in a business day in and day out, it can be hard to think outside the box. While that tunnel vision certainly helps you stay focused on your business, it can also cause you to miss opportunities because you’re not approaching the business from different angles. An ecommerce consultant can give you that informed but unbiased outsider’s opinion you need.
Free up your time for core business growth
Outsourcing anything in business is a great way to free up your time so you can focus on more important or impactful tasks. Hiring an ecommerce consultant will give you the ease of mind that your business is in good hands—and you won’t have to invest as much of your own time working on the consultant’s tasks.
Boost your sales (and save money)
Ecommerce consultants can help you realize ways to optimize your online business’s cash flow. This can encompass digital marketing solutions, social media strategies, ecommerce platform recommendations, and other important business needs that are critical for running an efficient business and boosting online sales.
4 ways an ecommerce consultant can help grow your business
Ecommerce consultants specialize in many areas. Here are some of the challenges you might hire an ecommerce consultant to help overcome in your online business.
Optimize your conversion rate
Optimizing your store’s conversion rate involves making user experience (UX) enhancements to make it easier and more pleasant for customers to shop with you. In short, the goal is to make it easy and seamless for your customer to make a purchase. Ecommerce UX refers to the overall experience of someone visiting your ecommerce store, from the first visit they make all the way through to once they make it to their shopping cart to check out. It indicates how easy and intuitive your site is.
A poor UX has friction, is difficult, and leaves customers feeling frustrated, while a great UX makes it easy for users to accomplish tasks, engage with your site, and eventually make a purchase. Your ecommerce consultant can audit your site’s UX and identify areas for conversion optimization, such as the checkout process. Perhaps they’ll recommend you add 1-click checkout, live chat, or another element to push users to convert.
Reach new customers
Customer acquisition is often a top goal for ecommerce businesses. But it can be difficult to constantly churn out ideas to tap into new markets and audiences. An ecommerce consultant can offer fresh ideas and strategies to put your business in front of new customers.
For example, an ecommerce consultant might audit your marketing channels and advise you on which ones to use to find new customers. Maybe they can recommend a channel you hadn’t thought of before, or marketing campaigns you could incorporate into your existing channels.
Choose which products to sell
Ecommerce consultants can also focus on helping you with your product, be it product development, identifying new product opportunities, or improving what you already have. You can get their expert opinion on your existing products as well as new product ideas you want to pursue.
Let’s say you want to extend your product line, for example. Maybe you launched your business selling a special shampoo. But now sales have plateaued and you’re thinking about adding a special conditioner to your lineup. An ecommerce consultant can come in and analyze your idea, helping you conduct market research to see if it’s worth pursuing. Or, they might find something you can improve about your current shampoo product before you think about investing in new product development.
An ecommerce consultant can also look at your pricing strategies. In some cases, you may be able to charge more, boosting your profit margins so you earn more for each sale. In other instances, your prices could be too high, dissuading shoppers from converting in the first place. A consultant can help you find that sweet spot between profitability and affordability when it comes to pricing your product.
Maximize your profitability
Beyond product pricing, ecommerce consultants also have the ability to help you maximize profitability across the board. They might negotiate your existing contracts with technology platforms, suppliers, and other business collaborators. This will allow you to keep doing business as you’ve always been doing it, except you’ll be more efficient with your expenses.
Ecommerce consultants can also audit business processes, apps, and workflows to identify areas of improvement. They may find tools you don’t even use, such as automation tools that help you delegate, or they may identify a subscription for which you can downgrade to a cheaper plan but still use the benefits of the ecommerce platform.
Estimated cost of an ecommerce consultant
The estimated cost of an ecommerce consultant is between $50 and $300 per hour. Some consultants charge flat monthly retainer fees in exchange for a set number of hours or deliverables.
Consultant costs vary depending on the size and scope of the project, location of the consultant, and your industry. Additionally, consultants with years of experience and proven results with recommending ecommerce solutions are going to cost more than consultants who are just starting out.
Top 7 ecommerce consultants
A Group Consulting
A Group Consulting has expertise across many facets of ecommerce consulting. You can hire it to help you with your operational efficiency, customer service processes, growth marketing, and even human resources (HR).
A Group Consulting is best for brands that want consulting across various areas of the business instead of just one specific thing. A Group Consulting can provide everything from complete digital adoption and transformation to straightforward SEO (search engine optimization) strategies or legal consulting for business registration.
Bain & Company
Bain & Company is a massive Boston-based consulting firm with offices all over the world. Like A Group Consulting, its specialties include a wide variety of ecommerce business functions. The consulting company has worked with businesses across all kinds of industries, including consumer products, fashion and luxury, and grocery stores. It’s an ideal firm to work with if you sell both online and in physical retail stores.
Bain & Company has specific ecommerce expertise for B2B companies, so if you sell to other businesses, this would be a great option to check out. Note Bain & Company is a large firm with many years of experience as business consultants, so it’s likely its costs are on the higher end of the spectrum.
BearingPoint is another global business consulting firm with expertise across almost every business function. As far as ecommerce strategy goes, BearingPoint has experts with specific experience working in consumer goods and retail. Specifically, BearingPoint can help you if you want to implement new digital strategy or omnichannel marketing initiatives, manage categorization to improve UX, or adopt new IT processes.
BearingPoint also has strong technical expertise, so it’s a great fit if you need an ecommerce consultant that can audit, set up, or optimize your existing tech stack. And like Bain & Company, BearingPoint is ideal for ecommerce businesses that also have a physical retail presence.
Exo Digital is an Australia-based consulting firm that specializes in “creating immersive digital transformation experiences.” As far as ecommerce goes, Exo Digital specifically focuses on UX and UI design, web and mobile app development, and customer experience design. It can also help you research and validate new product and business ideas, as well as facilitate fast-paced innovation sprints and creative brainstorms.
If you’re looking to move fast, Exo Digital is a great option. It’s a digitally savvy ecommerce consulting firm, so it’s ideal for brands that want to focus on optimizing their online presence. Exo Digital will help early adopters that aren’t afraid of new technologies.
McKinsey & Company
McKinsey & Company is another massive consulting firm with a wide array of specialities and capabilities. Its McKinsey Digital consulting services focus on everything online—from digital marketing to operations and even data and analytics. So if you’re looking for a comprehensive digital consult, this could be the best option for you.
If you want to reinvent your existing digital presence, McKinsey would be a great consultant to enlist. It has extensive experience, advanced capabilities, and powerful technology. Note you’ll likely need a decent budget due to McKinsey’s size and breadth of expertise.
Monumental is an ecommerce consulting firm that specializes in helping merchants that use Shopify. It does anything and everything to help you with your Shopify ecommerce website—from launch through optimization. Specifically, Monumental can help you build, customize, and add integrations to your site.
While UX and UI design are Monumental’s core specialties, the ecommerce consulting firm can also help you in conversion rate optimization (CRO) and operations guidance. If you want to add subscriptions to your business model, for example, Monumental can help you build a solution that’s both user friendly and seamless in your Shopify back end.
OC&C Strategy Consultants
OC&C Strategy Consultants is another firm that offers ecommerce consulting. OC&C has specific expertise in the consumer goods, retail, and digital industries. So if you’re running a multichannel business, this could be a great option for you.
As far as capabilities go, OC&C can advise regarding overall business growth, branding, and positioning, as well as more specific tasks like channel expansion, boosting private label products, and acquisitions and mergers. Its expertise is broad, so if your challenges are complex, this could be a great consultant to enlist.
How to choose the perfect ecommerce consultant for your online store
Choosing the right ecommerce consultant to work with comes down to knowing your goals and budget, and narrowing down your choices based on that.
Understand your goals
There are many different kinds of ecommerce consultants out there, so it’s important to start out with what you’re hoping to accomplish and then look for a consultant that specializes in exactly that. For example, if you want help across different areas of your business, you may go with one of the options above. But if you just need help with email marketing, for example, you might look for a firm or individual that focuses on email instead of ecommerce consulting in a broad sense.
You’ll also want to have a general idea for your budget. How much are you able to invest in this initiative? This will narrow down your list of potential consultants. Many large global consulting firms require minimum contract terms, and their minimum budgets may put you out of the running.
Find the perfect consultant
Now it’s time to find some contenders for your needs. A quick Google search for “Shopify ecommerce consultant” will yield you many results to filter through. You can also head over to the Shopify Experts directory to browse a vetted list of qualified ecommerce consultants with specific experience working with the Shopify platform and merchants who use it.
Experts are trusted, third-party agencies and freelancers who offer services for Shopify merchants, including digital marketing and sales, store setup, development and troubleshooting, content strategy and execution, and more.
There are literally thousands of candidates, so you’ll want to identify your top two to five picks. From there, you can vet further.
Vet your top candidates
Now that you have your list of two to five ecommerce consultants, you’ll want to dig deeper to compare each of them. The first step is to check their portfolio to see if they have experience working in your niche. If there are no examples, you can reach out directly to see if they have case studies related to your industry. It’s a major red flag if a consultant can’t point to specific examples of their work in your niche.
Exo Digital has an “Our work” page, for example, which showcases some of its client case studies.
If the portfolio checks out, do some third-party research to find unbiased opinions about the consultant. Check places like Clutch and G2 Crowd for user reviews. You can also do a Google search for “[consultant] customer reviews” to see what else you can find. Be wary of reviews from the consultant’s website, as these may be filtered. It’s best to check third-party review sites for honest, unbiased opinions.
And finally, you’ll need to run the numbers. Every ecommerce consultant has their own way of charging fees, so you’ll want to research things like minimum monthly fees and contract terms. Many consultants require you to reach out for pricing information.
Set up a discovery call
Once you’ve validated your top contenders and nixed the ones that don’t fit, you’re ready to schedule some discovery calls. A discovery call allows you to have a personal conversation with the ecommerce consultant where you can describe your business and challenges, as well as what you’re looking for. They’ll share how or why they’re a good fit.
Be prepared to ask questions during these discovery calls. You’ll want to get enough information so you can confidently compare and select the right consultant. Ask about their processes and how they work with clients, what types of budgets they work with, and how they communicate with you. It’s also important to ask how they track and gauge success.
From there, ask two to five hypothetical questions. Pull from your own business experiences and challenges. This will tell you if they really know what they’re talking about or are just reciting from a sales script.
Make the hire
You’ve vetted your options and chosen your top ecommerce consultant—now it’s time to seal the deal. Review the proposal from the consultant and all your notes from research and discovery calls, and then cross-check that information with the contract. Note any discrepancies before you sign. It’s also important to note how long the engagement is for and if you have any fees or penalties for early termination.
Learn more: Hiring help on Experts Marketplace
Don’t get left in the dust
The ecommerce world is becoming increasingly competitive, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to stand out from the crowd. An ecommerce consultant can help you overcome pesky growth challenges that are preventing you from owning your niche.
Don’t rush into hiring—but don’t delay either. Follow the guide above and you can confidently start working with a consultant who will help you achieve your next business goals.
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Ecommerce consultant FAQ
What does an ecommerce consultant do?
An ecommerce consultant advises companies that sell online in various areas of their business, including, but not limited to, web design, product development, marketing strategy, branding and positioning, logistics and operations, multichannel selling, physical retail, new technologies, legal, and compliance.
How do I become an ecommerce consultant?
You can become an ecommerce consultant by packaging your expertise into a service offering ecommerce brands need. You can be specific with a niche or offer broad ecommerce consulting services.
How much does it cost to hire an ecommerce consultant?
It can cost between $50 and $300 per hour to hire an ecommerce consultant. You can find consultants for less, but they may not provide quality services. You will also find consultants that cost far more if they’re global firms with extensive experience.
How do you hire an ecommerce consultant?
You hire an ecommerce consultant by following these steps:
- Understand your goals.
- Find the perfect consultant.
- Vet your top candidates.
- Set up a discovery call.
- Make the hire.