B2B e-commerce is growing rapidly as more B2B customers are looking for supplies online. E-commerce platforms like Shopify and Magento make it easy to start your online business, but they come with their own set of challenges.
If you’ve been running an online B2B e-commerce store, you may be confused about how to provide a good customer experience or how to navigate out of a growth plateau.
In either case, intelligent business owners consult e-commerce consultants to get an outside perspective of their B2B business. These consultants specialize in e-commerce and offer expert advice on crafting the perfect digital strategy to drive business growth.
In this article, we’ll understand what B2B e-commerce consultants do, how they help grow your online store, and tips on hiring the right one for your business.
What is a B2B E-commerce Consultant?
B2B e-commerce consultants are professionals that offer advice for e-commerce growth specifically catered to B2B business needs. These external third parties offer a range of e-commerce consulting services to streamline a business's online efforts. Companies hire consultants to get unbiased feedback, improve profitability, and increase conversion rates.
They have a broad skill set and experience in many different fields related to their work which helps them provide companies with an outside perspective and effectively pinpoint problems to meet customer needs.
What Do E-commerce Consultants Do?
Market trends and digital platforms keep on evolving, and as an e-commerce consultant, it’s their job to stay on top of these changes. An effective consultant will help you run digital marketing campaigns to increase engagement and customer retention. They set and achieve KPIs through search engine optimization, PPC campaigns, social media advertising, and more.
Many e-commerce businesses find themselves pouring money into their ad campaigns with little to no success. E-commerce consultants create a detailed outline of who the target audience is and serve highly-targeted ads. With A/B testing, attractive imagery, and click-worthy landing pages, an e-commerce consultant manages to increase conversions and drive more B2B customers.
A strong brand image directly relates to your business’s online presence. By clearly defining your customers and aligning stakeholders with your goals, e-commerce consultants can improve brand image. Through extensive testing, they can figure out who your audience is, their interests, and what they want from your brand. Consultants then monitor and use that information to create a strong online presence that resonates with your customers.
A poorly designed e-commerce website can negatively affect the customer experience. E-commerce consultants identify issues with the site design and make improvements as needed. This can include making your e-commerce website mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and fully functional. They may also help you move to an entirely different e-commerce platform to provide a better user experience.
Given the hyper-competitive landscape of today, picking the right niche for a product is crucial. An e-commerce consultant has the knowledge to steer the production process in the right direction by choosing products that are most likely to succeed. This can lessen the risk of failure when launching a new product and ensure long-term success.
How Much Do E-commerce Consultants Charge?
Hiring an e-commerce consultant for your B2B business depends on several factors. Firstly, you have the option to hire a consulting firm or an individual. Since they’re an external inclusion to your business you’d have to decide whether you want to work with them on a contract basis or arrange payment on the completion of set milestones.
Secondly, it depends on other factors, such as:
- Size of the business
- Business goals
- The expertise of the consultant
- Geological factors such as location
The average rate a professional e-commerce consultant charges is around $7-50 per hour. This price goes up the more specific your requirements. For example, if you want e-commerce solutions for a specific platform, such as Shopify, you can expect to pay around $50-75 per hour.
Benefits of Hiring an E-commerce Consultant
Save Time and Money
An e-commerce consultant is cheaper to hire as compared to having a full-time employee. They can handle multiple tasks like digital marketing and content strategy, and you won’t have to train or supervise them which reduces overhead costs. You also save more money in the long run due to the cost-effective improvements in the current digital strategy.
Along with reduced costs, an e-commerce consultant manages tasks that you would otherwise delegate to current employees. By having an experienced consultant with you, you can focus on your core business while they handle the planning/testing of ads and products.
Offer Unbiased Feedback
An e-commerce consultant analyzes the business’s strengths and weaknesses as an outsider. If you’re deeply invested in your core business you may not have the time to carry out an audit and see whether the business is heading in the right direction.
Sometimes getting a second opinion from someone other than your internal staff can open up a lot of opportunities. Hiring an e-commerce consultant will give you a well-informed judgment and lay out your opportunities for improvement.
Pinpoint Problem Areas
Experienced e-commerce consultants will look for issues that may be slowing down your business. These can be troubleshooting inefficiencies, replacing outdated business systems, and addressing technical issues with your e-commerce website.
They help you find the right e-commerce solutions that will save you time and money in the long run and maintain a positive experience throughout the customer journey.
Apart from effectively pricing your products, an e-commerce consultant can help you reduce costs and increase sales for your e-commerce business. They can negotiate with suppliers to get you a better deal or help you source different cost-effective suppliers. They could also analyze the e-commerce platform hosting your business online and find cheaper subscriptions with the same features to further reduce costs.
They also find ways to improve productivity to drive business growth. They may provide you with suitable automation tools to automate tasks or find areas for business development to help create profitable products.
Increase Conversion Rates
E-commerce consultants work on enhancing your social media strategies and website user experience to increase conversions. They make it easier for customers to find your product through SEO services, intuitive web design, and targeted ads.
Poorly optimized ads and websites can hurt your customers and in turn your e-commerce business. By hiring an e-commerce consultant you can ensure your digital marketing campaigns will be optimized to drive higher conversions.
Do I Need an E-commerce Consultant?
An e-commerce consultant can help identify problems, provide opportunities, and streamline operations for your B2B business. That said, hiring an e-commerce consultant costs money, and it’s important to assess if hiring a consultant will give you a positive ROI.
Many e-commerce businesses face problems that may require an outside e-commerce expert to help fix them. Keep in mind that as businesses are first starting they can’t expect to perfectly execute everything.
That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing something wrong, it just takes time for customers to recognize newer options in the market and businesses to take off. This means startups may not require e-commerce consulting while they themselves are working through starting a new business.
So, how do you figure out if you should hire an e-commerce consultant? It may be beneficial, or even necessary, to hire an e-commerce consultant if:
- You’re unclear on who your target audience is
- You struggle to increase customer retention and engagement rates
- You don’t have a clear idea of which products will sell
- You’re falling short of keeping your expenses in check
- You don’t know how to find your customers and identify what they want want
Once you’ve figured out why you should hire a consultant we can move on to exploring how to find the right e-commerce consultant for your B2B business.
How to Choose the Right E-commerce Consultant for your B2B Business
Hiring an e-commerce consultant with the right skills and expertise can improve your e-commerce business substantially. However, being a B2B e-commerce consultant is a complex job as you deal with every business aspect and combine them to maximize efficiency.
So, finding an e-commerce expert knowledgeable in multiple fields such as web development, social media marketing, product management, and digital marketing is key to getting the maximum benefit from your new hire.
Before searching through the top e-commerce consultants, you should consider the below key factors to guide your hiring decision:
Identify Your Goals
You hire an e-commerce consultant to identify problem areas in your business and solutions to those problems. However, you are likely aware of some specific improvements that you already want to make.
For example, you may know that your e-commerce website has poor design and navigation. One of your goals can be to improve your website to provide a better online shopping experience for B2B customers. By identifying your goals and what you wish to achieve with an e-commerce consultant you can make sure you hire the right candidate for the job.
It’s also important to keep your goals flexible. Since consultants are experienced professionals, they may understand the market better than you. Be prepared for any changes they suggest. After all, you hired them for their expertise.
Your e-commerce business model will largely influence your decision on choosing the right e-commerce consultant. If you sell B2B rather than B2C then an e-commerce consultant with experience in the B2B industry is important as they understand the customer base better.
The consultant you hire should share your brand vision and have good knowledge of the industry you operate in. When looking for a B2B consultant, make sure they have relevant experience in inventory management, enhancing the customer portal, upsells, and more.
Level of Experience
If you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, hiring a specialized e-commerce consultant will help you effectively achieve your goals. Hiring consultants that offer many consulting services is usually more beneficial as they can identify problems and opportunities for business development that you may have missed.
You should also consider the e-commerce platform that your e-commerce business is operating on. If you've created a store with Shopify, hiring a consultant who specializes in Shopify stores may be more beneficial than a general one. There are also premium platforms such as Shopify Plus which are a bit more complex to handle than beginner-friendly ones like BigCommerce, so finding a consulting firm that works with Shopify Plus will be better.
Finally, remember that the more experience the consultant has the more they’ll charge. You don’t always need a highly experienced consultant for basic issues like site navigation or customer portal management - as they may end up increasing costs whilst providing the same benefits.
Before hiring an e-commerce consultant, you need to set aside a minimum and maximum budget you’re willing to spend on consultancy services. E-commerce consultants charge you a fee for their consulting services, but you’d also have to pay for the changes they implement.
It’s crucial to keep your budget flexible as consultants might identify underlying issues with the e-commerce business during tests and audits which can considerably increase the original estimated cost.
You should also look for a consultant that is within your price range while meeting your needs. If you’re facing some basic issues you may hire a freelance consultant on a contract basis as you can find a lot of cheap options. For larger enterprises with a more complex e-commerce structure, hiring a consultancy firm specializing in different areas may give you more value for money.
How to Find E-commerce Consultants for Your B2B Business
Once you’re sure you want to hire an e-commerce consultant, the next step is finding the right one for your business. We’ve already discussed the criteria above, so choosing one should be easy if you follow the process below.
Search for E-commerce Consultants Online
The first place to start looking is by performing a quick Google search. Just type in “E-commerce consultancy services” to get a general list of consultants in your local area. If you’re looking for someone with a more specific skill set try adding keywords in your phrase to filter your results.
For example, if you’ve created your store on Shopify, searching for “Shopify e-commerce consultant” will show you people with experience managing online stores created with Shopify.
Filtering your results like this will make sure you find the right candidates that will be a good fit for your business.
You’ll see a lot of potential consultants, so visit their websites and check out their services. Make a list of the ones you think may be a good fit for your B2B e-commerce business. Don’t dig too deep into the results, this is going to be a rough list with multiple people which we’ll shortlist afterward.
Shortlist the Best Candidates
Once you have a list of 3-5 e-commerce consultants, it’s time to do a bit more research. Check out their website, about page, services they offer, and portfolio. When looking around keep a sharp eye for the following things:
- The process they follow and how they communicate with clients
- Client testimonials, social proof, and proof of work
- Unrealistic promises such as claiming to rank your website #1 in a short period
- Types of clients they work with; verify if they’ve worked with B2B businesses
- Client case studies including how they discovered and solved a client’s problems
- Their portfolio and see if it’s up to your standard or suitable for your business
Apart from the consultant’s websites, you can check out user reviews. It’s no secret that every consultancy firm will only post positive reviews from customers, so viewing sites like G2 can give you some honest insight into the company.
Book a Call
Finally, once you’ve shortlisted your candidates and have settled on some good options, it’s time to schedule a call with them. By scheduling a call you can have a personal conversation with the e-commerce consultant to confirm if they understand your brand, company, and customer vision.
You should have a list of questions ready during this call as you would want to see how they compare with others and whether they’re the right fit for your company.
Also, since many consultants don’t explicitly mention their pricing plans on the website, you would need to ask them how much they charge to see if they’re within your budget.
We provide some open-ended questions later in this article to help you make the hiring process go smoothly.
Hire the Top Candidate
After getting off a call from all the people you shortlisted you should have a list of answers to your questions. Cross-check the competitors together to see which one seems like the best fit for your business.
Thoroughly assess their processes, strategies, services, and pricing plans and make note of the pros and cons of each. Once done, finalize the hire by signing the proposal and making sure it includes all the services mentioned and doesn’t include any fees you may be unaware of.
7 Interview Questions to Ask an E-commerce Consultant
It can be confusing to know which questions to ask to get the information you need. It’s best to make a list of questions before you hop on a call with a potential consultant so you can be well-prepared to ask them for relevant information and see if they’re a good fit for your company.
Below we discuss some common interview questions you can ask during the discovery call. These will help you get a good idea of how they can help you and why you should choose them for your e-commerce business.
What Does Your Process Look Like?
You must understand their process so you know exactly what to expect. Ask them to demonstrate their strategies and processes to know how they can help you achieve your business goals.
How Well Do You Know the Industry?
The e-commerce consultant you plan on hiring should have relevant experience in your industry. You should ask them if they’ve worked with B2B businesses in your niche before. This will help you get a good sense of the knowledge and level of expertise they can offer before working for your company.
Have You Had Any Previous Work Experiences Within this Field of Work?
Along with having good knowledge in the field, having the work to back it up can add credibility to the consultant. Ask them for any examples of how they managed to solve a client’s problem within your niche and check their general understanding of the niche you operate in.
What Key Measures Do You Use to Track E-commerce Success?
Everyone measures success differently, so knowing how the consultant keeps track of progress will allow you to understand reporting metrics and see whether you’re being steered in the right direction. Do they aim to increase digital sales, traffic to the website, or conversions? Ask them which metrics they use and how they will report to you.
What are the Main Differences Between B2B and B2C E-commerce?
B2B and B2C e-commerce are different business models and not knowing the difference between them can cause inefficiencies. See if they have adequate knowledge of B2B terms like customer vendor portals and EDI Inventory sharing and how they differentiate from B2C.
How Do You Plan on Maintaining a Positive Customer Experience Through E-commerce?
Ask them to explain what a positive customer experience looks like to them and how they plan on achieving that. Do they plan on providing incentives for online shoppers? Or create a sense of community by engaging social media groups?
How Do You Help Clients Make Better Choices About Their B2B E-commerce Business?
You need guidance to improve your e-commerce business, but it helps to know beforehand what changes you can expect to make in your current strategy. If you’re hiring an e-commerce consultant that offers a wide range of services, they’ll let you know how they manage each aspect of the business from digital marketing to mobile app development to social media strategies.
The B2B e-commerce landscape is getting extremely competitive, which makes it difficult to stand out from your competitors. An e-commerce consultant can help you identify opportunities to gain a competitive edge and get rid of challenges that are holding you back.
They have a broad range of skills that can help you increase revenue, offer unbiased feedback, maximize profits, and optimize conversions. They also help improve operational efficiency, clear up obstacles, and skyrocket growth.
Don’t delay hiring a consultant for your B2B e-commerce business. This guide discussed what an e-commerce consultant is, what they do, and how to hire one for your own e-commerce business.