The Perfect Time for an eCommerce Consultant

There are two situations when it’s ideal to hire an eCommerce consultant: (1) when you have a big online project, and (2) when you need a plan to accelerate.

Now before we dive in, I need to say this: a consultant is not a substitute for having a general manager on your staff. Whether that general manager is a “director” or a “VP,” you need an executive to drive the online business. Executives cast vision, manage people and oversee operations. 

Unfortunately, well-intentioned executives sometimes get lured into the weeds of managing big projects. And this is where things can get messy. 

Some examples?

  • An eCommerce site redesign
  • A new line of business
  • Digital transformation work
  • An eCommerce platform change; or other major integration effort

These complex projects involve lots of teams, each with contributors and often times stakeholders. Each group’s work has details to manage, and communication in all directions. Any complex project demands constant attention, which can divert an executive’s focus from the business.

1. When an eCommerce Project is a Big Corporate Initiative, Hire a Consultant

Corporate initiatives have complex requirements; complex governance; and activities to coordinate from one team to the next. These are all details to manage from start to finish. 

Projects like this involve many different groups; each doing work that your goals will depend on. Some groups are inside the company; and some groups outside. There are lots of tasks. Lots of dates. And lots of room for communication to break down.

For any executive, this level of complexity is almost impossible to manage with an already full calendar. Work like this is best suited for a consultant, because the success criteria is spelled out in the consultant’s work order. Scope. Dates. Cost. Approvals.

Good Consultants Keep Project Goals in Focus

Building consensus on clear goals up front can determine a project’s success. Building consensus with stakeholders takes candid questions, proper analysis and good communication. In short, it takes good consulting. 

Can your general manager serve the role of an eCommerce consultant? Well sure. But remember, executives make far better leaders than consultants. The range of responsibilities for an executive is much broader. They rarely have the time to manage a big project, or to cultivate consensus. How can they?

Once a project is in motion and momentum starts to build, you know that urgent needs will pop up. They always do. We’ve all seen when today’s urgent needs compete with project goals. And when project goals fall below the radar, the project is at risk. For this reason, a good eCommerce consultant can better keep all teams aligned, on time and on budget.

Good Consultants Keep Vendors on Their Toes

Beyond keeping everyone focused on project success; good consultants also help everyone produce their best work. From one project to the next, a good consultant is working with many different clients. And in working with those clients, they work with agencies, service providers, and software vendors — even referring the better ones from time to time. The consultant coordinates all teams on a big project: internal and external. This level of influence and coordination ensures better teamwork and the likelihood of success. And success for a client with a consultant can lead to more work for the vendors involved. 

Trust me, you want your vendors bringing their “A game” — and not their “B Team.” Simply put, success is more likely with a consultant, because it can lead to more introductions (and more opportunities) for the vendors who perform well. For this reason, vendors and contractors are less likely to “drop the ball” — and more likely to “give it their all” — when working with a consultant.

So if you’ve got a big online project, ask around for a good eCommerce consultant. It’ll keep the project goals in focus; and the vendors on their toes. Rest assured, your digital executive is still the ultimate stakeholder. But a good eCommerce consultant helps the executive focus on where they excel — driving revenue, casting vision, and developing their team.

2. When Potential Exists (But a Plan Doesn’t), Hire a Consultant

In 2020, the covid pandemic introduced a new term, “social distancing.” And with it came a rapid increase in online shopping. There is now unprecedented opportunity for eCommerce growth.

Yet many companies still feel their digital channels underperform — and are stuck in first gear. Companies know the opportunity for acceleration is there. But if the plan to deliver more online traffic and transactions isn’t clear, then it isn’t actionable. If growth potential is there, but a plan isn’t — it’s time to look for an eCommerce consultant.

Good Consultants Will Validate the Potential to Accelerate

Modeling growth all comes down to simple math and good assumptions. it takes traffic; conversion rate; and average order value. You need online visits from many channels: direct, referral, email, organic, paid, social and more. You need higher lifetime value by bringing customers back for another purchase. And to sustain the business, you need gross margin and net profit.

All this data should be analyzed in the forecast. With the right set of activities and solid assumptions, models like this can produce a clear and honest picture of what’s ahead on the P&L.

So what would then need to be true to deliver “flywheel growth?” This is where a number of improvements compound each other, and produce exponential results. This is also sometimes referred to as “hockey stick” growth.

A good consultant will analyze the current actual performance; to identify performance gaps with the greatest leverage. Can you improve traffic some? That will produce some growth. Can you raise conversion rates with improved traffic? Well those two results compound each other. 

If you improve on any single dimension, you produce linear growth. But if you improve along several key measures — you create “flywheel growth.” 

Okay, so you model out the numbers with new assumptions. But a model isn’t a plan. It’s just the potential.

Good Consultants Help Establish the Roadmap for Growth

A roadmap for growth identifies features and team activities that will improve each step of the customer journey. The roadmap is like a blueprint on what can be done to attract new customers, gain their permission to engage, lead them onto conversion, and retain them as a customer from one transaction to the next.

Attract, engage, convert, retain.

A good roadmap will also identify the resources needed (in the tools and on the team) to implement the plan. And finally, a roadmap includes an ROI (or return on investment model) that the CFO can scrutinize and get behind.  A roadmap like this can be built by a good eCommerce consultant.

Can this plan be developed at the annual budget cycle? Well sure. But why wait? And with an experienced consultant validating the assumptions and growth potential, that plan is much stronger. A complete package of roadmap, resource plan and ROI model are incredibly effective at getting the proper resources and leadership approvals sooner. 

So when you know potential to accelerate exists; but a plan doesn’t — hire a good eCommerce consultant. You’ll be glad you did. 

Be sure to leave a comment below. And if you come across an online business that needs a good eCommerce consultant, tell ‘em about us. 

Bill Mirabito is an eCommerce consultant for B2C Partners.
https://b2cpartners.com
+1 (781) 585-0750

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