How to become an Ecommerce Consultant?

5 minutes

On Thursday, 9th November 2023, Adrian Ramani held an event with Ecommerce Leaders disc...

On Thursday, 9th November 2023, Adrian Ramani held an event with Ecommerce Leaders discussing how they can transition into a consulting role. 

In recent years, we've seen an unprecedented growth in Ecom Consultants. With many brands lacking expertise in-house, there is a greater demand for consultant services. To support more Ecommerce Directors in taking the same route, attendees heard from established consultants:

  • Elizabeth Bell has 17 years of experience as an Ecommerce Consultant and Fractional Ecommerce Director. She works closely with CEOs, Founders and boards to define strategy and an implementation roadmap.
  • Chris Nawrocki, was a Head of Ecommerce for many businesses, including Vivobarefoot and Drake’s. Chris then set up his own award-winning ecommerce and digital marketing agency, Heur.
  • Zoe Rowswell has four years of consulting experience, before which she was Director of Ecommerce for fashion brands, such as Urban Outfitters and Jimmy Choo. She is also the Co-founder of Tern Eco, supporting businesses grow in profitably and sustainably.

Each of our speakers have taken different career paths to reach this level, providing unique perspectives on each topic. Together, they discussed:

  • What is an Ecommerce Consultant?
  • Why become a consultant?
  • How to define your offering?
  • How to find clients?

Read on for the key takeaways from their conversation.

What is an Ecommerce Consultant?

Adrian kicked the conversation off with asking for our panellists’ definition of an Ecommerce Consultant. 

Consultants are often brought into businesses with smaller teams to support on a range of activities. These could range from delivering ecommerce strategies to executing marketing activities.

“The best transformational projects are the ones you’re the most uncomfortable in."

Your main responsibility, however, is to be the transformational expert. It's important to understand that Ecommerce Consultants are engaged to bring about change, not to continue executing the previous strategy. As a result, Chris shared the importance of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What skills are needed to become an Ecommerce Consultant?

Adrian also asked our speakers to share the top qualities and skills they believe Ecommerce Consultants should bring. These included:

  • Empathy
  • Active listening 
  • Problem-solving
  • A background in digital

Our speakers shared that 90% of the time, what you’re asked to do initially isn’t what the company actually needs. As a result, the discovery period is crucial to uncovering the problem they face and its source. Each of the above skills are crucial to that discovery stage.

A digital background is invaluable."

A strong background in digital is arguably the most important. Often, the problem ecommerce businesses face, doesn’t lie within ecommerce. Issues can also be rooted back to marketing, product, operations, brand, so it’s key to have a strong knowledge of the entire ecosystem. 

This experience gives an understanding of the common challenges faced by companies and allows you to ask the right questions to best support business growth.

What attracted you to becoming a consultant?

Adrian asked our panellists why they chose to become an Ecommerce Consultant and what attracted them to the role. As each have different career paths, they had a unique perspective to share.

Natural progression

Chris shared how he found that he had hit a ceiling as a Head of Ecommerce. His responsibilities were sometimes crossing over into CMO, CTO and COO territories without having the job titles. As a result, he felt that he could have a bigger impact on organisations as a consultant in the long-term.

Right opportunity

On the other hand, Zoe hadn’t planned to make the move. At an uncertain moment in her career, the opportunity to consult for a circularity start-up. This was an area that Zoe and her business partner were extremely interested in, so felt like the right move at the right time.

Graduate role

Meanwhile, Elizabeth had a very different start in consulting, becoming a Senior Consultant as a young graduate. It was the consulting role that first attracted Elizabeth, and she found herself joining a retail consulting firm. She was then able to leverage these agency skills to become a solo consultant.

Defining your offering

To sell your Ecommerce Consultant services, it can be useful to define your offering early on. For our panellists, this largely came from their career backgrounds, specialising in the industries that they knew best.

For example, Elizabeth had focussed on luxury fashion consulting from early on in her career. As a result, this has continued to be her niche moving forwards. 

She has also found the same trend in terms of business size, working with smaller organisations throughout her career. While this has been quite organic and natural due to her experience, it is also her preference. 

Solo versus agency

Your offering and sell may differ depending on whether you’re a solo consultant or joining/starting an agency. 

For instance, Chris has worked as a solo consultant as well as grown his agency. As the former, Chris would often perform the role of an Interim Chief Marketing Officer or a Non-Executive Director. In these roles, he focused on solution-based delivery. 

Now, having started his agency, they mainly work as an ecommerce function for a business where they fully integrate, run and grow ecommerce. They work as a growth function, working holistically across every channel.

Finding your niche

Zoe’s focus as a consultant is on supporting businesses with their ESG efforts – a subject that she is deeply passionate about. As this is a growing area of focus for many retail businesses, Zoe has found herself in high demand, working mostly from referrals. 

While not part of a wider agency, Zoe does have a partner in her consulting. This works well as they each specialise in different areas and can deliver a breadth of support for their clients.

Finding work as an Ecommerce Consultant

The majority of work for each of our speakers seems to derive from referrals, having built up a strong reputation in their full-time leadership and/or consulting roles. However, there are other ways to engage clients, too. 

Chris has taken the following steps to continue growing his agency and win work:

  • Have a presence on LinkedIn and grown his personal brand
  • Built partnerships with trusted organisations who can support on client needs
  • Being present in offices to build trust with clients

Each step has contributed to growing his award-winning agency.

A big thank you to our speakers

A big thank you to Zoe, Chris and Elizabeth for sharing your time and knowledge with us. It was a really useful and productive session for those Ecommerce Leaders interested in becoming a consultant.

If you missed out, but would like to join us next time, be sure to register your interest in future events below.

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