The global eCommerce growth rate for 2023 is forecast at 10.4%, driving worldwide eCommerce sales to US$6.3 trillion. This is a 0.7 percentage point increase from 2022’s growth rate. While there was a small dip in 2021 eCommerce volumes, it is again rising.
Many eCommerce merchants understand that the sheer complexity of the online market requires expertise in the industry to secure tangible growth. An industry expert can help businesses realize double-digit gains year over year. While ads, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing (SMM) drive brand awareness, an eCommerce consultant can assess deeper aspects of your business operations, from marketing to back-end development. They integrate a holistic digital strategy with optimizing eCommerce purchases all the way through fulfillment.
However, finding the right expert can be challenging. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of questions to help you find an eCommerce consultant who can transform your business.
Asking the Right Questions
Growing your business takes considerable investment. Spending time and money on services to bolster your business is an important investment; however, it should be carefully considered.
We’ve compiled a list of 12 questions to ask when interviewing for an eCommerce consultant that will ensure you select the right person is selected to drive your business and work with your team. The consultant needs to be able to understand your values, your goals, and how your team works together.
Asking the right questions will benefit your business in the following ways:
- Get better results by identifying the best fit for your company
- Save money by selecting the right consultant the first time
- Improve growth planning and cost allocation with more accurate forecasting
Finding the right expert takes time. Asking questions, taking time to interview potential consultants, and weighing your options is the best way to make an investment that will grow your business. The right consultant is about more than costs and growth, they need to really understand your business, from values to growth.
Question: Who in your agency will work with our team, and what are their roles?
When you select a consulting service provider, they will introduce you to their most personable consultant. Most agencies actually have a team of people who work on your account, with a lead expert who oversees results. This might not be the same person who works with your team and communicates with them on a daily basis.
For this reason, it is important to ask about the people who will be assigned to your account.
- What is the strategic experience of your primary consultant?
- How many years of experience do those on the team have in DTC eCommerce?
- Can you give examples of work proving revenue driving using this team?
These basics should give you an understanding of the competency of the team and those managing your account. You should also request a point of a contact person who will be available to answer any project questions as they arise.
Question: Why do you think your agency is the right fit for our business?
Asking for qualifications and experience is important, which is covered in this question. But values matter too, and this is an opportunity for the agency to tell you about its goals and values.
It is also the agency’s opportunity to show you how invested they are in its clients. Most agencies will research your business and understand your values prior to a meeting. This is an important quality when screening for any employee – and it also applies to contractors. They should know your business mission, your growth achievements, your brand voice, and details about your company structure.
Question: Which partner service providers do you admire?
This question essentially poses several different questions beyond the eCommerce consulting services offered by the company directly. The agency might have expertise in all areas of eCommerce, including marketing, site development, and networking, or they might work with other service providers. When you are who they admire, you are asking who they work with, who their partners are, and in what areas of expertise they work with others.
The network of partners the agency uses should be an impressive ecosystem of partners that will benefit your company. The value of these partnerships is valuable to your organization.
Question: Of the partners you use, when would you invite them to collaborate on a project?
You have specific business goals and want a strategy that is tailored to achieving those goals. Working with an agency with a ready-made plan for each scenario is not the custom solution you need to grow. Businesses need to work with flexible agents who put together a plan that fits the solutions required.
Question: Can you provide case studies that prove your eCommerce consulting experience?
Asking to see a consultant’s portfolio or an agency’s credentials is expected. You should expect to see at least one example of the type of work you want. The case study should be confidential and avoid giving company secrets. This is also important because the same agents might show the work they do for your brand, and you wouldn’t want your competition to have access to that information.
The case study should include real data reflecting the growth the consultant contributed to the brand, but it should never mention the brand or industry specifics that could identify the company.
More than data, what you need to hear is the approach of the agency.
- What concerns did they hear the client raise?
- How did they analyze the problem?
- What strategy or plan was applied to address and solve the problem?
- Was the approach successful, or did it take many cycles to complete the goal?
The important answers are those that resonate with your company’s goals and values. If the solution and approach fit with your business values, these questions will help you decide if the agency is right for your brand.
Question: How does your team use data to help clients grow?
Big data analysis is essential to the success of your business. Your data reveals so much information about your customers, processes, and brand that were, once, difficult to discover. The agency you choose should be extracting relevant data and sharing it with you regularly, giving you clear comparisons and providing quantifiable growth metrics.
Before selecting a consultant, find out how the agency uses and communicate data with clients. Ask them about their data strategy and the plan they follow to share data points at different times in the project, and how they share feedback with clients when a strategy is stalling or failing to meet expectations.
Question: What can your agency achieve with our budget?
Define your budget before meeting with a consultant. This is important because if you don’t have a clear budget and expectations, it is difficult to discuss what is possible. This does not weaken your negotiating position, it can even be to your benefit. The agency can then be transparent about what is achievable in your budget, give clear parameters for the contract, and you can make an informed decision.
Providing a number also helps the expert to understand your expectations and answer how they can meet those expectations. A smaller budget does not always mean smaller growth, it can simply mean a more refined project that can elevate your business on the trajectory and timeframe you want.
Question: What services don’t you offer and why?
Asking the agency this confronting question can tell you more than just the surface facts. If an agency stays, they don’t offer marketing services because this is an area of expertise they believe requires very specific skills, the agency is telling you how they honestly feel about other experts – and this would suggest they have respect for their peers.
If an agent tells you they do not specialize in a number of areas, and they are areas you need to be addressed, this again is an honest point that informs you this is not the right agent.
The red flag is an agency that claims it can specialize in everything. Unless they are a mammoth agency, this is unlikely to be true, and they may not include all the services you require to elevate your business.
Question: How can clients maximize their investment working with your agency?
The answer to this question will give you insight into what actions you can take to ensure success working with a chosen consultant.
How the consultant or team approaches your level of involvement will also be important to your business. Some leaders are micromanagers who want a close relationship with consultants, while others are happy to let an expert take control of the project. As a business, you need to know this about your team it will make it easier to select the right consultant.
Question: What do you consider are some of the most common eCommerce mistakes made by merchants?
The answers to these questions will give you valuable insight into the mistakes of your competitors. They could also illuminate mistakes you’re making too. The person you are interviewing is an expert, and this feedback should provide you with answers you haven’t heard before. If answers are vague or not backed with evidence, it might be clear that this expert is not the person who can drive your business forward.
Question: What size and type of DTC companies would recommend you?
Word-of-mouth marketing is valuable, especially for people who are selling themselves as the product. Testimonials tell you about the consultant’s experience working with companies similar to yours.
If the expert has years of experience working with B2B companies, and yours is a P2P platform, this might not be the right consultant to advance your business. A smaller agency can sometimes have more specialized consultants who can work with the details of your business.
Question: Why do you think our brand can succeed against competitors?
This question will give you another indication of the level of research the agency has invested in before your meeting. It should reveal how well they know your brand, USP, competitors, and the market overall. While the question has no specific answer that might be right or wrong, the answer does indicate the level of commitment and involvement the agency is willing to invest before securing a contract. It will answer the question – will they go the extra mile?
Know Your Market
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