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If you are like most of our customers, then you are looking at your eCommerce business and wondering what the right way forward is for your and your business. eCommerce has become full of mumbo jumbo (technical jargon), it's insanely difficult to keep up with all of the changes in technology and it seems to be controlled by a few “Goliaths” with little left over for the little guys. And that’s before you talk about eCommerce marketing, abandoned carts, Social Media and how to ship the product.

So you look for help. You turn to the experts for their advice. The trouble is, the experts might be great at building a website, or they might know about marketing but they have never put all of the elements of eCommerce together because they have never run their own online business. They don’t know what it’s like to be in the trenches and build your business from the ground up. They don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes.

But we do. We run our own eCommerce business. And all the help we give has been tried, tested and proven on ourselves first. And that’s great news for you. It means that you can cut through all the confusion and find the answers you need.
On this page you should find the answers to some of the questions that you have. Feel free to have have a look and then get in touch with us and start a conversation. We’d love to help you.

Contents
1: How much does an eCommerce Consultant cost?

How much does an eCommerce Consultant cost?

Let's be real, this is one of the key questions people have about eCommerce consulting. So let's face the elephant in the room and deal with it head on!

This, of course, is one of the key questions eCommerce managers and leaders have when looking at the possibility of working with an eCommerce consultant. I’ve been asked that question many times by customers. And I get it. When I’ve looked to hire specialists in my own business, price matters. 

And instinctively, you know the answer will be: it depends. There are so many options to consider in answering that question. Still, not one to shy away from a challenge, I will endeavour to give you some guidance to prices by showing what you can get with different budget levels. Remember - these are average starting prices, so they could vary drastically. 

I’ve also shown prices in US dollars as this seems to be the global currency these days (and we work internationally).

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So what can you do if you have little or no money to hire a consultant? The good news is that we have developed some services that can help you because I’ve been there - especially in the early days of my eCommerce business. The best bet is to get involved in our Facebook Live. Here you can ask your questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Also check out our blog and the free mini-courses we have on the site.

Online Courses: $100 - $2,500

Here you can get access to some of our online training resources that we have developed. These are a great resource for you and your team to learn about the tips and tricks we use to grow online businesses.

eCommerce Reviews: $7,500 - $15,000

This is where we start to get personally involved in your eCommerce business. We have a service called Assess, which is where we do an in-depth review of your eCommerce website telling you what is working well and what can be improved. We also have a service dedicated to helping you find the right marketing strategy for your eCommerce business.

eCommerce Strategy Development: $15,000 - $50,000

Need help understanding your website, research on your customer and development of an eCommerce strategy that will drive your website forward? This is the most common form of consulting we do because we look at your business as a whole and put together a comprehensive strategy that will really drive your online sales. 

eCommerce Website development: $30,000+

We mix the consulting services and website build services together, not only creating a strategy for you but also build an eCommerce website using the same custom framework that we use on our own eCommerce websites.

eCommerce Website and fulfilment development: $45,000+

This is a great option for those who also need a fulfilment system added to their website. It’s the same fulfilment system that we have developed over the years, and have used it to ship millions of products around the world.

Growth Driven eCommerce: $5,000+ per month

Do you want to quickly build an expert eCommerce team? Why not use ours? We work on retainer for a select number of clients around the world, our team working with theirs to build their eCommerce business. It’s a great way to get access to expert help to work directly with you on your online business.

2: 20 Questions to ask before hiring an eCommerce consultant.

20 Questions to ask before hiring an eCommerce consultant.

If you are looking to hire an eCommerce consultant, then this is a list of 20 must-ask questions you can use to find the best consultant for you and your business.

  1. How do you work with our team?
    You want to understand their process because an eCommerce Consultant is going to have to win your team over to get the best possible outcome for you.
  2. What kind of documentation do we get and how often do you report on you work?
    How will the eCommerce Consultant report findings to you?
  3. Do you have a knowledge of our industry?
    An eCommerce consultant should have a knowledge about eCommerce but how will they translate to your industry and business?
  4. Tell me about your process for doing your work.
    What is their strategy and process for completing the project. You want to spend some time understanding this, as you will be working through it.
  5. Can you guarantee success?
    This is a trick question. If anyone answers yes, run. Another question here - how do you measure success? That’s much much more interesting!
  6. What is the payment structure?
    Be clear at the start of the process.
  7. What happens if we terminate the contract?
    Are there hidden fees that you need to know about? It’s good to understand what will happen if it doesn’t work out or you need to end the contract early.
  8. Why you v’s another consultant?
    Why them? What makes them unique over anyone else? 
  9. What access do you need to our website, our data and our infrastructure?
    You want to iron this out as you need to be comfortable giving them access to all of this. If they don’t want access to these things, then you probably don’t want to hire them!
  10. Will you sign a letter of confidentiality?
    Will they refrain from working with your competitors? As a consultant, we rarely get asked this question, which is a surprise. We don’t work with direct competitors of clients as a matter of principle, but you can bet we’ve been asked, so cover yourself.
  11. What’s been your biggest success as an eCommerce consultant?
    Most will have a standard answer to this, so a really interesting follow up question is: What’s the second? It should be different from the first one!
  12. What the biggest failure?
    Admitting failure is a strength, so you want to work with people brave enough and self-aware enough to answer this question.
  13. What do you need from us to make this a success?
    Understand what you need to do. This is a big one, because you will have to work with the consultant to make this work well. Can you do what they want in the time frame that they want?
  14. Are you a specialist in this area?
    This might seem like an odd question - but we are always surprised by how many consultants are self-proclaimed experts, but when you start to dig - they really aren’t. You are looking for someone that can help you across all areas of your business, not just one or two. A web site developer is great at websites but that doesn’t make them a consultant. An SEO specialist is the same. If you want an eCommerce Consultant, get on that can help you across all aspects of eCommerce: technology, team, customer service, operations, marketing, fulfilment, finance and engagement. 
  15. How do you think you can help me?
    You don’t need a sales pitch. You just want one or two key things that they have spotted in their brief time with you.
  16. Who are some of your clients and can we get in touch with them?
    This is where the rubber hits the road, because you want to contact clients and find out what it is really like to work with that consultant. If they don’t have any clients willing to talk to you, then you should really want to know why.
  17. How many clients do you work with at any one point in time?
    If they are in-demand, you don’t want to just be a number in their workday. 
  18. How do you help position a business to capitalise on the future trends of eCommerce?
    Here you are looking for where the consultant thinks that eCommerce is evolving to (as it is always changing) and what the impacts of that are for your company.
  19. What’s your initial thought - where do you see instant improvements?
    A good consultant will have some instant impressions for you, so hear what they have to say. How does that resonate with you?
  20. Have you run your own eCommerce business?
    I’ve saved this for last, but in some respects - it is the most important question to ask. You want someone that has been in the trenches themselves, who know what it’s like to sit in your shoes and has the experience to help you grow.
3: Why an eCommerce Consultant might not work for your business

Why an eCommerce Consultant might not work for your business

Things need to change in your eCommerce business, and so one of the ideas that you think about is hiring an eCommerce consultant - usually, because someone you know in eCommerce recommends it. But before you rush in and sign the contracts, here are some reasons why hiring an eCommerce consultant might not work for your online business.

  • You might not have the capacity to institute the changes

    Your consultant will give you a report of changes that you should implement in your business. You don’t want these ideas just to remain in the report; otherwise, it’s just an expensive report! The project will be the beginning for you, and you should make sure that you can make the changes to your business over the next 6 to 12 months. This could be an investment in technology, team hires or changes to your fulfilment system.

  • You are the only one in your team bought into the idea

    A good eCommerce consultant will work across your business and will need the support of your whole team if you want to get the best out of them. This is especially true as their work-load could well increase during (and after) the project, so the buy-in of the team is critical to making the project work, especially the senior leaders in the team.

  • It might be beyond your budget

    Cutting to the chase, hiring a consultant can be an expensive affair for your company. It’s not just the cost of hiring the consultant. It is also the costs of implementing the change that you should consider. Of course, if the consultant is doing their job right you should see a return on your investment, but you have to be able to carry the costs, at least initially.

  • A digital course may be a better option

    Have you thought about doing a digital course first? You might find that is a quicker and better way for you and your business to learn the fundamental strategies that you need to drive your business forward. It will be a lot cheaper. A consultant will help you understand how the principles should be applied to your business if you need help after the course.

  • The consultant might not be the right fit for you

    It may be that a consultant is the best way for you to go, but that the consultant you are thinking about is not a great fit for your business and you should keep looking.

4: How does eCommerce consulting work?

How does eCommerce consulting work?

We know how frustrating it can be running an eCommerce business, especially when it comes to finding the right help you need for your business. The consultancy you use should offer a solution that is right for your online business, rather than just a standard template. You are unique. Your business is unique so the consulting should also be unique.

There is a simple matrix when it comes to eCommerce consulting that you should help you understand specifically what will work for you.

A project is something that is usually a singular piece of work for a set time. Partner is more retainer based, where the work is continuous and you are partnering with your consulting company in bringing change.

Website only is where the consultant will look just at your website and help you with that. The “whole business” is where the consultant looks at all aspects of your eCommerce business (we count 11: including technology, customer service, fulfilment and marketing).

Area 1: Website Project

1: Assess your website

Your eCommerce consultant will spend a lot of time on your current website, going through it page by page. They will look at your analytics, sales as well as do an in-depth review of your competitors websites too. They will then give you a report outlining what you are doing well, what you should change on your site and what you should stop doing too. This is a great option if you are looking at your website and stuck with how to drive it forward, or need help to understand if your website is working or not and what you can do to improve it.

  1. What you will need to give: access to analytics, a list of your competitors and their sites (and any additional information that you may know), your experience and time to answer the consultant’s questions.
  2. On site? There is some debate as to whether you would need to meet your consultant face-to-face to do this service. Having done this a lot, you can do it via Skype (or other such systems) quite well as long as the technology works and your team can give the time needed. This is a benefit in the sense that it saves money on travel expenses. Face-to-face is probably better, but it is definitely not required.
  3. Cost: $7,500 - $15,000
  4. Outcome: You should have a clear plan on where take your eCommerce website. It should outline a number of key issues that you can fix, the time involved in fixing them and an estimate of costs. You are after a website strategy that you can use for the next 12 months of development.


2: Build

You may be starting your eCommerce business, or re-designing your eCommerce website. In either case, an eCommerce consultant should be able to help you get it right. They will do a review of your current site (if you have one) as above, and your competitors and give you a report on the key features your new website has to include to thrive online. This takes a lot of the guess work out of the operation and will really help you nail it online.

  1. What you will need to give: same information as in the review. You should also compile a list of websites that you really like (they could be sites that you use or just like the way that they do things) as this will help the developers understand what you want from your website.
  2. On site? I would say that if there is any element of bespoke design work, then yes. If the consultant is helping you with an established eCommerce system that uses a template (so not much design required) then possibly not.
  3. Cost: startup - from $3k, established eCommerce business: $30,000+
  4. Outcome: You should get an eCommerce website that is right for your and your business, and that attracts and engages your customers. The site should be easy to use and maintain for your and your team as well as comply with all current legislation requirements. In essence you should get a beautiful site that is a dream to use.
Area 2: Website Partner

This builds on the project. You typically might take the following journey: you want some help looking at your website, perhaps because you have a new market opportunity and you want to exploit it. So the eCommerce consultant Assesses your website and sends you a report. You look at the report and release that there are a lot of things that you need to do to upgrade your site. So you decide it’s easier to build a new site rather than try and change your current website.

You have an option here to choose a company that will deliver this as a one-off project. Or you can partner with a company that can not only deliver the website that you need but also work with you on a regular basis to review the site, analyse how visitors use it and continually make changes to it. 

I personally think that this is the best way to do an eCommerce website because even with all the best will in the world, you will not nail everything in the project. A website should be thought of as something living and breathing, it and organic life-form that needs to be shaped and evolve continually. It’s how you get solid performance and a website that is consistently relevant for your customers.

Your partner company will work with you each month, to review your analytics, your competitors and your website’s performance. You will agree with them the changes that are to be done and they will rapidly and regularly deploy updates to your website.

  1. What you will need to give: All the same information as the project to get going, but ongoing time and communication with your Partner consulting company, feedback to them all information that is pertinent to the work (such as marketing campaigns coming up, customer feedback, any issues etc).
  2. On site? The majority of the communication can be done via services such as Skype but I would budget for at least 2 on site meetings per year for this type of service. The onsites should all be about strategy review for the next 6 months.
  3. Cost: set-up from $12,000, monthly retainer from $5,000.
  4. Outcome: You should have a experienced team working on your website each month to make it better and better. You website should constantly evolve, maximise customer engagement and bring in many more website sales.
Area 3: Whole Business Project

If you have been around the world of eCommerce for a little while, you will know that how you do online is not just about your website. Sure, the website is a big part of it but it is only one part. There are many other parts of your business that contribute to how well your online business actually does.

We count 11 in total.

And the outcome of your eCommerce business depends on how well these 11 areas work together. It’s a synergistic output.

This the option to choose if you are an established eCommerce business. It’s pretty safe to assume that a fresh look at all aspects of your business will help you. Your eCommerce consultant will want to spend time with you, going around your business, working in each of the 11 areas and try to put together a more holistic strategy for your online business.

  1. What areas will they look at? The should look at the following areas: vision, values, technology (including your website, but also how all of your technology is being used), customer service, team, operations, marketing, fulfillment, finance, engagement and finally fatal flaws (things that we derail what you are trying to do). These are the 11 keys areas of eCommerce that you need to look at deeply.
  2. What you will need to give: Access to all aspects of your company that are relevant to these 11 areas. I appreciate that it can be hard to give access to a lot of data to a consultant (hence the reason you should choose wisely), but having done a number of these types of projects, I can tell you that the more information I have, the better the outcome for you. The other thing is going to be time, not just yours but also key personnel in each of the 11 areas. Don’t underestimate how much time you will need to give here in order to get the best outcome for you.
  3. On site? Absolutely. The consultant(s) will regularly be on site, meeting with you and key personnel. They will want to shadow staff and even work in each of the key areas to really understand what is happening.
  4. Cost: $15-50,000 + travel.
  5. Outcome: You will get a one-page strategy as well as an accompanying detailed report that explains the strategy and outlines the key areas of improvement and how you should resolve each key issue.
Area 4: Whole Business Partner

As with the website, we find that there is a big difference between getting a strategy and then actually executing the strategy. If you need help to ensure that the strategy for your company is adapted and executed as your business expands, then this is right option for you. 

You will get access to the consultants experienced team, their help and assistance at each stage and reassurance that you are on the right path and that there is accountability to it. In my experience, this is the most successful form of eCommerce consulting out there at the moment, and if you have the resource (and I am not just talking about money) then this should be high up on your wish list!

  1. What you will need to give: All the same information as the project to get going, but ongoing time and communication with your Partner consulting company, feedback to them all information that is pertinent to the work (such as marketing campaigns coming up, customer feedback, any issues etc).
  2. On site? The majority of the communication can be done via services such as Skype but I would budget for at least 2 on site meetings per year for this type of service. The onsites should all be about strategy review for the next 6 months.
  3. Cost:  set-up from $15,000 - $50,000, monthly retainer from $5,000.
  4. Outcome: You should have a experienced team working on your website and your business as a whole each month to make it better and better. You business should constantly evolve, achieve the aims of the strategy and really thrive online.
5: eCommerce consulting v’s website agency v’s DIY.

eCommerce consulting v’s website agency v’s DIY.

Here’s an obvious question that is worth asking and understanding before you talk to an eCommerce consultant, a web design agency, hire new staff or even have a go at it yourself: what's the difference between them all? How are they different and how does that impact you?

You can track cost: DIY is cheaper, then the website agency and finally, consultancy which is usually the most expensive.

Of course, you should also track knowledge (that can translate into impact for your business), with the consultant having the most knowledge and experience too. So while they are more expensive, in theory, they should have the most significant impact on your business.

DIY

I am a big fan of owners and managers getting involved in their website, increasing their knowledge and driving the project forward. It's so much easier to work with motivated owners. The bottom line, no one will care as much as you about the website. So it's crucial you are involved.

My experience here tells me two things:

  1. Even the most experienced eCommerce entrepreneur will miss things about their website. We do this because we are too close, too involved and a consultant should be able to help with the bigger picture and see the things that you have perhaps missed.
  2. Most of the people I have worked with would say that their knowledge about eCommerce is average to low. It is the main reason they want some outside help. They can quickly feel out of their depth. If that's you, getting a consultant will help, but I would still advise that you spend some quality time learning about eCommerce, both from your consultant but also through things like online learning (specifically to do with eCommerce).

Website Agency

This is the default route to go down when you are looking for some help to grow your eCommerce business: turn to the website agency that you have been working with or recommended to. Any agency that has worked in eCommerce should be able to help you from a technical side and provide great guidance with your website. However, there is one glaring problem with doing this.

It is really unlikely that your website design agency has ever run their own eCommerce business, so their advice will be very limited.

I often say to clients it is a bit like going to a midwife and asking them for parenting advice. A midwife is really good at one aspect of helping you on the parenting journey: delivering a baby. But that doesn't mean that they are experts at parenting. It's a completely different area of expertise and knowledge.

And this is what I have found working with companies around the world - website agencies are great, but their help and expertise is limited to some very specific areas.

A consultant, especially one that runs their own eCommerce business, should be able to help you with all aspects of eCommerce - especially those areas that the agency would miss.

Consultant

Ok, cards on the table. I am an eCommerce consultant. So I am going to favour that option. I also own a web development agency so I could also favour that route. But, and I say this will all reverence and respect, eCommerce Consultants can be a peculiar breed of people.

I think a consultant should be able to help in most situations, but there are a few times when it doesn't make sense to head down this route. Here's a some of them.

  • Budget

    Consultancy is a service that involves people, and people cost money. So if you don't have the budget for a consultant, I would look to invest your budget elsewhere and get more 'bang-for-your-buck'. Startups often fall into this category, and that's OK. It's much better for the entrepreneur to learn their craft in the early days.

  • You are the best person to bring change

    It may be that you are the best person to bring change to your eCommerce business. In which case, get to work and don't look to outsource what you should be doing.

  • A course would be better

    You can often learn a lot on the web these days, especially with the trend towards online learning in recent years. Do you need a consultant, or is there a specific area that you are struggling with and spending a few hours in an online course on that topic would be a better way for you to start?

  • It's only technical stuff you need help with

    There is a high chance that if all you need help with is some of the technical aspects of your website, then your website agency is the best route for you to go down.

  • You can't find a consultant you can work with

    If you don't like any of them, or can't connect with any of the consultants you have talked to, then run a mile. Don't force the issue.

  • You can't bring about the post-consultant change

    This is one of those things that has always baffled me about this industry - online businesses go to the expense of finding and hiring a consultant, they work through the project together and agree on the strategy. Everyone is on board, but once the consultant has left the energy and motivation for that strategy also goes. Doing this wastes your time and money and it can also lead to significant disappointments in the team. So make sure you can bring about (at least some) of the changes outlined in the strategy. Otherwise, save your money.

In Summary

So, which route is the best route for you? That greatly depends on you, your budget and what it is you want to achieve. Consultants, website agencies and DIY are all viable options under the right circumstances, so use this information, surf the web and ask questions to make the right choice for you and your business.

6: I’m based in a different country, can you help?

I’m based in a different country, can you help?

In short: Yes!

OK, I appreciate you want more information than that. We’ve worked with companies all over the world. Sometimes that means I get on a plane and spend a week or so with their business and other times it involves working out time zones and having Skype calls.

We do work with companies all over the world. So perhaps a better question would be, "does your thinking about eCommerce apply to my country?"

And again, the short answer here would be, "yes".

Most of the principles of eCommerce are without borders (that is the beauty of eCommerce, you can deal with the world). And when we work with companies in other nations, we spend time looking at the principles and making sure they are right: does your website work, does it make sense for your customer, how are you doing your marketing, what is your customer service like and how do you ship the products out?

There are, of course, some nuances that every country has. The UK is small, so next day delivery is pretty straightforward. That idea doesn't apply in Australia or New Zealand yet (it's coming though). And we spend time with you and your customers trying to understand these nuances to bring the best eCommerce Strategy for your company.

But to emphasise the point - eCommerce is predominantly about a set of principles that apply the world over. Understanding those and implementing them in any company, regardless of its geography, has an impact.