Third-party services and consultants can give your ecommerce business a helping hand, from outsourcing simple tasks to expert advice
When online sellers start out, their business usually consists of just one or two people who are responsible for doing everything. Over time, they start to hire people to handle some of the tasks that come with an ecommerce business. But, after a while, they find themselves working longer hours than they ever envisaged without getting time to focus on the areas where they add the most value.
This prevents their business from growing, as instead of sourcing or developing products they are dealing with customer queries, putting products in boxes and editing product images.
At this point, you have to consider what your time is worth and either hire more staff or look to outsource some tasks. It may cost $10 an hour to outsource customer support, but if you can spend that time developing new products, the positive impact on your business is going to be worth more.
In this post I’ll walk you through the Outsourcing & Consultants section of the Web Retailer directory. Here, you’ll find outsourcing services specifically for marketplace sellers, and seasoned ecommerce experts who can look at your business with fresh eyes and help you improve.
What’s included in the Outsourcing & Consultants category?
In the Web Retailer directory, we cover the following categories:
- Ecommerce Outsourcing & VAs
- Fulfillment Outsourcing
- Photo Editing Services
- Ecommerce Consultants
- Business Brokers
Ecommerce Outsourcing & VAs
The services in this section of the directory can help you outsource different aspects of selling on marketplaces. Some services here will manage your marketplace accounts, while others will provide you with a dedicated staff member (virtual assistant or VA) that you can assign individual tasks to.
All of the services listed in this section of the directory are marketplace specialists, which should mean that they are working with similar businesses and have some level of familiarity with the tasks you are looking to outsource. This will give you a better starting point than if you use a general outsourcing company or online freelancer site.
The main factor when choosing an ecommerce outsourcing service or virtual assistant (VA) is whether you want an offshore or onshore provider, as while they can both help you outsource tasks, they tend to operate very differently.
Offshore providers typically provide you with a dedicated staff member to assist either with limited projects, like uploading your product catalog to marketplaces, or ongoing tasks, where they become a member of your team and provide day-to-day support. This could be in the form of product research, compiling product information, researching competitors, updating inventory management systems, creating listings, processing dropshipping orders or providing customer support.
No matter how you decide to utilize offshore staff it’s important to remember that you’re the one that has to train them on your business. This includes what you want them to do, and how they carry out these tasks. You aren’t dealing with consultancies here, so you aren’t hiring experts. This means that while they might know about selling on marketplaces in general, they aren’t going to know anything about your unique business.
This process is going to be quicker if your offshore staff are smart and receive training and support from within their own company. In fact, it can work out better to disregard cheaper services and pay a little extra for a supported service that will help you outsource tasks quicker and more efficiently.
Offshore services are a good fit for independent marketplace sellers who need extra hands on deck to get day-to-day tasks completed.
In contrast, domestic outsourcing services are more likely to be experts in marketplace selling and provide a fully managed service. Businesses that can see the benefit of selling on marketplaces, but don’t have the time or inclination to learn, can go to these services and they’ll set up and run their marketplace accounts for them.
These domestic services are not generally a good fit for independent marketplace sellers. They are more tailored to manufacturers, brands, and retailers who want to sell on marketplaces without having to hire a whole team of people. They offer a broad range of services and often can even handle your order fulfillment.
Browse the directory for Ecommerce Outsourcing & VAs, including reviews, news, related discussions, compatibility information and pricing.
When you first start selling online, fulfilling orders yourself isn’t a big hassle. You probably don’t have a huge volume of orders coming in, and you don’t stock that many product lines. But as you start to grow, you’ll quickly realize that your fulfillment is becoming a pain point – there are too many orders for your team and warehouse to cope with and ultimately, the cost is increasing.
At this point, sellers may decide to outsource their fulfillment and that’s where the services in this category come in. Sellers can use them for a variety of tasks, for instance, they might just use one of these services to receive and process inbound shipments of stock.
Alternatively, they might store their products in their fulfillment outsourcing service’s warehouse, and have them receive orders automatically from their sales channels or multi-channel management systems. The fulfillment outsourcing service would then pick, pack and ship the orders.
Outsourcing fulfillment can have big advantages for sellers. Firstly you’re offloading the logistical demands of running your own fulfillment operation, and secondly, a good fulfillment company (or 3PL) should be able to process orders more quickly and accurately than you could in-house.
These services will have their own overheads, so the per-order cost will usually be higher than processing orders yourself. But, the price of using a 3PL can compare favorably when all your indirect costs, such as staffing, rent and management overheads, are taken into account.
Browse the directory for Fulfillment Outsourcing services, including reviews, news, related discussions, compatibility information and pricing.
Photo Editing Services
When you’re selling online, the quality of your product photography has a big impact on your conversion rate. Buyers are far more likely to purchase items that have a number of high quality images than products with low quality grainy ones.
But, not all sellers have the skills to edit high quality images, and others may simply not have the time. This is where photo editing services come in. After you’ve taken photos of your products, you upload them to the photo editing services’ website. They will then edit them for you and send them back when they’ve finished. The editing process may include retouching, removing the background or color-correcting to improve the shots.
These services will not take your product photos, but there are other companies out there that can do this for you (product photography services). It is also worth pointing out that this category contains photo editing services and not software. If you’d rather use software to edit photos yourself, there are professional tools like Photoshop and also specialist product photo editing tools for working with ecommerce product shots.
If you do decide to use a photo editing service, there a number of factors that you need to consider. Firstly, you want to find a service that specializes in product photography and, ideally, ecommerce product photography. You could get a general photo editing freelancer to clean your photos up, but you are likely to get a better service from specialists because they are familiar with the standards and specifications that photos need to meet. All the services listed in this section of the Web Retail directory are specialists in ecommerce product photography.
Other factors that you need to consider are the price and how quickly the service can edit your pictures. You should also take into account that some of these services are offshore, so if you need to explain what you want them to do, it’s best to choose a service with a small time difference and good English.
Before choosing a provider, it is a good idea to take advantage of any free trial they offer, this way you can test the quality of their service and compare it to others.
In fact, even after you’ve taken the trial, it can be a good idea to proceed with caution. Remember, you’re dealing with people and although standardized processes should be in place, it is only natural that some of their editors will be better than others. This may mean that you don’t get the same quality of photos every time. So, it is best to start with small quantities, for instance ten images, then batches of 100s instead of immediately sending in thousands of images.
Browse the directory for Photo Editing Services, including reviews, news, related discussions and pricing.
In this section of the directory, you’ll find ecommerce consultants who you can work with to improve different aspects of your business. The consultants in this category do have specialisms, like any expert does, but they’d should also be able to provide a range of ecommerce services alongside this. Some may specialize in Amazon, others eBay or they may focus on multi-channel selling.
Also see our Amazon Consultants category for experts who focus solely on Amazon.
Some sellers may have misconceptions about what working with an ecommerce consultant is like, and think that the consultant will be doing all of the work for them. This isn’t usually the case. With a consultant, it is usually down to you to take their advice on board and make the changes they suggest, with their guidance. If you want someone to take marketplace selling completely off your hands, look for a “managed service” instead.
If you’re further down the line and are weighing up the available options, finding someone that you like dealing with and that explains things in a way that you understand is crucial. You’ll be speaking to your consultant regularly over phone calls, video calls, meetings and maybe training sessions. So, if you have a poor relationship with your consultant, you aren’t going to be getting the best out of them.
Make sure you also check out their credentials. Have they worked with a business like yours before? Was it a success? Reach out to businesses they have worked with in the past, and get their feedback. You want to be aware of any potential issues before you hire them, not later on when your goals haven’t been met.
After this due diligence has been done and you’ve chosen a consultant, you need to approach them with a clear idea of what you want them to do. If you go to them and say you want help with everything, it’s unlikely to end well. It’s either going to cost you a fortune, or result in no real improvement, because you weren’t clear about what you wanted to achieve.
Similarly, you need to be ready to explain your business to them, rather than just telling them what you want. Using a consultant is going to be most effective if you can explain what you do, how you do it and why you want the consultant to help you. If you don’t do this, there is a danger that they could give you the wrong advice.
Finally, make sure that you are clear on the pricing and this doesn’t mean simply asking how much they charge. You’re paying for their time, so you need to be clear on what they will be doing at each point in time and how they will update you as the charges build up. You need to establish a rough estimate of how much time it will take to achieve your goal, how they will keep you updated, and what will happen when problems arise or if things are not going to plan.
Fixed pricing is often attractive, because you know exactly what the cost will be, but it does come with issues of its own. There is often some ambiguity about what is and isn’t included in the price, and relatively little flexibility to alter what you’ve asked them to do. It can be a recipe for resentment, and poor results, when unanticipated events occur. You can’t expect the consultant to do endless work on a fixed rate, so a plan needs to be carefully drawn up, and agreed, including what happens if you need to make changes.
Browse the directory for Ecommerce Consultants, including reviews, news, related discussions, and pricing.
In this section of the directory, you will find services that can help you sell your online business. There are plenty of business brokers out there, but the ones in this category specialize in ecommerce businesses and so have a better understanding of their value, and experience of selling them.
You might be wondering why someone would sell a profitable online business, but there are several good reasons. The primary reason people sell is in order to use the resulting capital elsewhere. However, they may also do it because they simply don’t want to work in the ecommerce business anymore, or because they are serial entrepreneurs who make money by flipping websites.
When you decide to sell your business you can either facilitate the sale yourself, or use a business broker. If you have experience in selling online businesses, are a good negotiator and already have a list of buyers in mind, then you may be able to sell the business by yourself. However, the majority of sellers opt to use a broker, because they have the expertise and an audience of potential buyers which makes the process easier.
When choosing a business broker, there are a few things to consider. First, have a look through the past listings on their website and see if they have ever sold a business like yours before. If they have, keep a note of how much they sold it for (remembering to subtract their commission from the sales price) and compare this with other brokers. This way you can make sure that the broker has a record of selling similar businesses at good prices.
You also need to find out what fees the broker charges. Some brokers will charge you a listing fee but many just take a percentage of the sale price, which can be up to 15%. Make sure you are aware of the fees upfront, as you don’t want any nasty surprises when you receive your sales proceeds.
Finally, as with many of the services in this category, you need to have a good relationship with your business broker. You’re going to have to open your business up to them and give them a detailed overview of it, so it’s important that you choose a broker you can communicate well with, and that you trust.
Browse the directory for Business Brokers, including reviews, news, related discussions and pricing.
It can be tempting to treat this category like a menu, picking one of everything and leaving yourself with very little to do. That is the wrong way to look at it – this isn’t about outsourcing your entire business. There’s no-one who can do that for you.
You need to pick the services you use shrewdly and have a clear plan for why you are using them. After all, we aren’t talking about software which costs $30 per month and doesn’t make-or-break your business. We are talking about services that cost a lot more, require on-going effort and can have extended timescales.
When used effectively, the services in this category can make a real difference to your business. Not only do they mean that you and your staff can focus on the tasks where you add the most value, you can also do a better job in crucial areas such as order fulfillment and product photography.