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WTFs from the life of an e-commerce consultant

Every domain has its twisted side, and e-commerce makes no exception. Throughout our career we’ve encountered many oddities and errors in people’s reactions, thinking or actions.

In today’s article we’re talking about some of the most common misconceptions and unrealistic expectations that people from the e-commerce industry seem to embrace with an unjustified stubbornness.

Foreword: Please be aware that you are about to read some edgy statements which may cause you to feel a certain degree of discomfort. If that happens, we will know that we’ve managed to move something within you and that, my friend, is an excellent beginning for change. Change for the better, of course. ????

Ready? Here we go!

“E-commerce = marketing”

Wrong.

In the past 12 years we’ve met dozens of people from the e-commerce area and we noticed that the number of individuals who believe in this affirmation is overwhelming. When engaging in a conversation about e-commerce, we practically hear this statement 8 times out of 10. This statistic is saddening and risky.

Buying. Content. Technical development & Business Intelligence. Customer service. e-Fulfilment (Warehousing & Logistics). Legal advising & Finance. And yes, Marketing. These are the divisions that build an e-commerce business and they are all equally important. You invest in all of these departments, they all need your close attention and each one of them has a major contribution in the good functioning of your company.

If you run an e-commerce business and still believe this to be true, it’s very likely that, as we speak, some of your other departments are facing collapse.

So the next time you hear someone saying they can teach you all about the online industry because they’re marketing experts, gently tap them on the shoulder and let them know you need to talk.

“E-commerce = website”

Wrong.

We’re not even gonna’ go into too much detail on this one, but instead here’s an image from one of our previous posts.

This is what a standard e-commerce business looks like:

See that red tiny circle on the 4th column? That is where the website belongs in the big picture. End of story.

“A successful business = tons of employees”

Wrong.

Now, we’re not saying a company should lack the key positions such as executive roles, middle managers or sales representatives. But piling up a huge in-house team is costly and useless.

One smart move a business owner can make is to outsource as many services as he can. From our experience, the only departments that should be developed inside a company are Buying and Customer service.

Everything else, such as content production, technical support, logistics, financial & legal duties, branding, marketing, and advertising services are best to be handled by third parties, who will deliver better, faster results at lower costs.

“Of course you can build a professional web shop in no time, for almost free!”

So, so wrong.

This belief is the sad consequence of some of the fake advertising that the “all-in-one” web platform builders began promoting a while ago. We’re no adepts of public shaming so we won’t be pointing any fingers, but there’s one thing we can tell you: no platform whose tagline says:

“Build your web store today, for only $29.99/ month!”

is ever going to include “performant” in their title.

Yes, cost diminishing requires smart decisions, but cutting short on the quality of your website is not one of them.

A high-performing webshop will absorb a big chunk of your budget and will take months to develop, and you need to prepare for that before signing up for this journey.

Otherwise, you’ll end up spending way more money on building essential features and trying to repair everything your “bargain” couldn’t handle.

“Let’s start the development, we’ll skip the planning part”

Oh, no, we won’t.

We’re specialized in business growth, so we can tell you for sure that there’s no way in the world you can ever build something without having planned for it first.

Every business has its particularities, so there’s no magical template we can apply and expect it to work wonders on your business.

We sit down, we analyze, we dissect, we learn everything about your business needs and requirements and then we start working on the development plan. That’s phase one for every project. Not negotiable.

“I will only pay for tangible results, not for consulting services.”

Wrong.

Consulting services are like an examination from your physician: you get a full “body” scan, you are submitted to detailed analysis, your entire background is being checked and when the examination is over you get a diagnosis, a large set of recommendations and a prescript that’s meant to set you back on your feet.

E-commerce consulting goes exactly like this, only we examine and cure businesses instead of humans. The result of business consulting — at least the kind of consultancy that we provide— is that, based on the professional analysis, diagnosis and improvement recommendations you receive from an expert, you manage to “heal” your processes, boost your profit and your whole company starts thriving.

Now, the doctor himself doesn’t heal you, but his treatment plan and professional advice do.

And yet you do pay the doctor, don’t you?

“But if I turn to your services, you’ll come work for me”

No, no.

No.

Imagine this dialogue:

— “Hi, I’m a senior e-commerce consultant, I heard you needed my help on y…”

— “Oh, good! You’re here. I’ve arranged a small desk for you in the back of the office. We work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, we expect you to be here every morning at 9 AM sharp. We have a 1-hour lunch break and really good coffee! Now grab a pen and a piece of paper, we have a lot of work to do.”

Wait. What?

Dear all, we’re gonna’ write this down in bold: a consultant is not someone who acts like, performs like, can or should be mistaken for an employee. 

What a consultant should be taken for, however, is a reliable expert with years of experience in his domain, who is there to analyze, restructure, reinvent and grow your business.

He’s there by his own choice, because he believes in the potential of your brand and because he has all the required skills to take your business to a whole new level. He will only recommend what’s best for your company and he will always go the extra mile not because you expect him to, but because this is what a good consultant is about.

He‘s your partner, not your subordinate. He is someone you invest in, not pay for. Know the difference.

While we’re at it, you should know that e-commerce consultant ≠ online manager either.

If your collaborator was around long enough to walk you through your execution plan it’s because he offered to help, not because he presumably accepted the online manager position you never gave him. At best, a consultant will ensure the transition until you can find yourself a qualified online manager, but this doesn’t mean you can skip this role from your payroll.

So there. These are some of the most frequent inconveniences we struggle with in our activity. What are the WTFs from your industry and how do you deal with them?

Authors: Vlad Diaconu, Andreea Mares

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