Thursday Mar 30, 2023
#31 Why do you need a consultant when you work with an eCommerce agency with Laura Kremer
Borys talks with Laura Kremer, an ecommerce consultant, about the interesting challenge why customers and agencies need support of 3rd party consultants. Listen to learn how to do it right and what are benefits for the customer and the agency.
Borys We we can start with the with the break hello everybody I usually say we have a special guest but today we have a special guest Lara Kramer it it. is a special hour because we not often have women on podcasts. Yeah.
Borys Everything about shopware usually is about guys men discussing about agencies implementations and so on and so on So I'm super happy that you are that you are here. You also work as a freelancer and a consultant. So I think we we might have an interesting topic for for everybody. But I think will be great if you could introduce yourself and say few words, What? exactly you do.
Laura Yeah, thank you Boris for inviting me and you're so right there are unfortunately and not so many women and ecommerce. Um, so I'm trying to represent today some woman in tech and Nice to meet you all? Um I'm the founder and Ceo of canlu gi biha based in Germany and um, while trying to explain what I'm doing on one hand I'm working as a consultant ecommerce
Laura I'm advising B Two C and B Two B companies within yeah questions like what kind of shop systems should they use what questions do they have for within ecommerce or within ecommerce landscapes. And on the other hand I'm working as kind of a matchmaker Um, between those companies or clients and suitable um solution for wires. This could be agencies freelances Tech solutions. Everything like that.
Borys - Okay, okay, so so ah, if we look at the typical market. There are agencies. Yeah, who are providing a different type of Services. So How do you see the role of an external consultant like you. You know what are the advantages I Assume for the customer to have an external consultant when someone decides to go with with the implementation shopware or if someone is looking for ah ah for the ecommerce platform. What's better in having consultant versus just going and asking you know 5 different agencies.
Laura Yeah that's a very good question I think it has benefits for both of them. Um, for me personally I work very independent means I'm using my knowledge or I gain knowledge within the agency side client side and also within. Shopper itself. So um, yeah I'm using all this knowledge from Eight plus years within ecommerce to advice clients. Um independently maybe choosing the right shop system like shopware or maybe a our solution. Whatever fits to their needs and um it could also be a great benefit for agencies because I see myself and um or I like working very close with agencies means I'm maybe a pre-part before their work begins I'm clarifying strategies.
Laura - I’m helping the client be or to have a more clear vision of what they are needing creating the briefing together and then I can yeah create a perfect match between those requirements and agency who fits very well.
Laura - The client and I think so it has benefits for both sides.
Borys - Yeah, and I see more in the more in general consultants on the market. Yeah why? Why do you think it happens why there is a demand on the market for those type of services or it's more. There is enough knowledge enough skilled people. So they decide to become ah become a consultant.
Laura - Yeah,, that's a good Question. We have a lot of consultants. That's true I Think on one hand we really have great people on the market so they gained experience maybe On. Merchant side or they decided to become self-employed after working for a tech solution Provider. Um, and normally I think there's enough space for all of us on the table and um I Also think could be.
Laura - It’s not possible to advise clients within all specific topics within ecommerce because if we are looking at ah ecommerce and total you could advise within strategy within maybe Marketplaces or afterwards performance Marketing. Whatever is. Is needed on client side and so yeah, we have a lot of and consultants. Um I forgot the question forgot what I asking.
Borys - Okay, we we can cut we can cut at the cut up to this point. Okay, 2 seconds break you set. Um you work also as a matchmaker. Yeah, ah between agencies and service providers. Um, and of course the customer. So how does it work this this matchmaker.
Laura - Yeah, so um, within my experience. So I said I started 2016 in ecommerce and I first started in a big agency and after that I worked on software manufacturer side and later on on merchant site. So what I recognize within this years that there's um, there has to be a great fit between all of those parties means um the the softwares of course has to ah fit for the customer requirements while the custom has served.
Laura - Should know what exactly he wants to implement and um, the perfect fit between the implementing service provider and the client is also crucial. So we have three parties. Um who and needs to work together and um, what I experienced within all those years were that.
Laura - A lot of projects failed because there was not fit between those three parties so in my new role I now try to help all of those three sides um means I sit down to the client I specify the requirements.
Laura - Um I have them find the right system and do this clear. Um, let me say this clear strategyy. Um I can then find a suitable system or take solution for their Needs. Um. And now the next factor will be who is able to implement this solution. So here I'm using my network of strategic partners and which can be agencies Freelancers Software solutions that I recommend those people I recommend to the clients. And had them find the right partner in cases on budget in cases of specific needs. Um, yeah, and that's that's what I'm doing.
Borys - Ah, so from so from that point a typical agency would focus on just selling. Yeah, whatever they want to sell um and if the customer has you as ah as a matchmaker.
Borys - It’s easier to find out. You know what are the real expectation and what is the best fit here because there's also a challenge of the agencies Sometimes when I talk to customers. They also get confused. Yeah, they have like I met so many agencies everyone is saying something different I cannot. I Don't know what to do? Yeah, it's ah I cannot make myself a good judgment and a good selection of the of the agency.
Laura - True and I think that's that's quite normal once a 1 hand our the whole topic. Our language everything we both are doing is so complicated I mean it's such a specific field of. Yeah, things we are doing and we are talking in our own language. So I think that's the first problem people just visiting websites of agencies asking them themselves like what what the hell they are doing. You don't get it and um, yeah.
Laura - I Um I had the chance to work with a lot of agencies to really visit them on site to see how they work to talk to their clients and that's exactly the way I'm choosing somehow my partners to see what can what are they able to offer because.
Laura - And know agencies. They are so good in um, in creating B Two B Ecommerce Landscapes or to to um to help clients with um I don't know hosting problems. Whatever. And I think it's it's crucial to really match those two sides.
Borys - And would you agree? Ah that in general e-commerce became way more complicated, especially if you look at the implementation. Ah that there are so many different expectations. So many different platforms. Ah. And new technologies and so on everything is changing also so fast then the need for a customer it would be or it is very hard to to really evaluate it. So then in this way, your service is ah is necessary or in general a service of consultant who is. More experience to it for many many years and as you mentioned have a great connection to really be able to evaluate the differences between agencies becomes like a necessity for for a lot of customers.
Laura - Exactly you know everything is changing so fast. Um, think it's um or let me say I see myself. Um or it's necessary that you say like this. It's necessary that i'm. Um, informed I'm I'm really reading all the time about everything in ecommerce. So um I think we cannot expect our clients or merchants to overlook all those specific topics within ecommerce There's so much as you said was. From strategy to social commerce performance marketing. Whatever is within the whole complex of building up a store and having ah clients recognizing the store and having all the third -party systems integrated. Um so I think it's. Helpful to ask consultants for help and also to find good implementation. Partners um, really fit with the yeah specific um requirements you have as a maybe b two b company.
Laura - As that startup as an Enterprise company. Whatever is um, your challenge.
Borys- Okay, so I have I have a tough question then because if you work with many different agencies then what makes a good e-commerce agency. Ah what are from your perspective those those factors.
Laura - Um, will.
Borys - Some agencies are good in doing something. Ah, and also if the client should should only rely on um on the on the on the agency or maybe there are There are also memory Experience. Um. Freelancers that could do the job and you don't really need to to hire a full like agency with all all this type of different people.
Laura - Yeah, have just smile right now because I I get asked this question so often of course and now. Yeah.
Borys - I will not ask for the names here. Yeah, which probably would be tempting. Um Ata let's not so let's not ask for a good a ecommerce says a name people can come to you and ask it. Ah ask it directly. But in general if you if you see how do you see those agencies here comparing them. What kind of factors or what kind of specific differentiators say make the agency as ah as a good agency commerce agency.
Laura - Yeah I think to answer the first question it always depends I know clients hate is answered and like you know, true. No, but.
Borys - Yes, you are consultants. Yes, yes you all you you have to answer this wait.
Laura - Um, what I wanted to say is that normally when starting to work with clients I Always get a lot of restrict answers on these questions I have clients who made maybe bad experiences with agencies and or an agency and then afterwards they are so.
Laura - Sorry to say they're so pissed they they they are coming to me telling me like I would never work with an agency again same with freeances. Um I think both of course has pro and cons if you have an agency or let me be very clear I think when it comes to complex.
Laura - Maybe complex b two b scenarios big big projects I think it would tend to recommend an agency with a project manager an agency who did that like 100 times while on the other hand freelancers are super flexible. They are not coming with this.
Laura - Project management overhead they they are in my experience they are. There are a lot of very good experts being very very good in their specific field. But.
Laura - Nevertheless and if you're choosing an agency or a freelancer I think it's very very important that um that they are very transparent about the processes Very honest and um, asking questions in advance I Think that's.
Laura - It’s still a people business you you are working with people and as I said our topic is so complicated if you're not able to um to explain to your customer. What are you doing and why is that so.
Laura - And most cases so expensive what you're doing there. Um that you get a real problem. We have customers who really want to be informed all the time they want to see and which stage is my project. What is going on or going on who is responsible for my project.
Laura - And you're also experienced customers saying I don't care but that's your topic Just do it I Want to be informed when it's ready and um, this is also a very good factor to match agencies and clients who's able to do it.
Borys - Yeah, yeah, true when you when you present it this way that it looks it looks like you know there is a big big space. Yeah in the future also for ah, for such a role as a consultant. Especially that the the systems and the implementations will not get easier in the future. Yeah, they will even become more complicated. We'll have like ah composable commerce. Ah some Mark Mach architectures and so on so it will be even way harder to. To choose the right agency and and find the right. You know the right right? right person for that. So when you when you also work with the agencies. Then? how do you try to identify an agency as you mentioned you visit them, you talk to them you have like ah ah your like. Preset of questions a list or how does this type of interview if we could call it interview looks like.
Laura - Exactly so the core of agencies of freeances and Rica um, um yeah I'm just giving a recommendation to my clients I really worked with them in the last eight years so I had project with them. That's.
Laura - Of course the best factor because then I was kind of their clients too. I can really tell something about their um, kind of work but of course on the other hand I could not work with like 10 plus agencies. What I do is I have a set of questions. So I'm really, it's it's like an interview I'm I'm having video calls then I'm visiting them on site. Really I'm I'm there for full day watching how they work what is this setup. How do they approach clients and then on the other side I'm really talking to the clients.
Laura - Um, asking them and in the best cases those agencies were also recommended to me by maybe also other agencies or freelances work there before um and if I get a good gut feeling I'm I'm totally honest with you. Um.
Laura - And I'm um, yeah, then I think then I can recommend them trying to have first projects to really work with them to see how they proceed. Um, but it's a crucial fact I think all consultants know that your your acting with with your name.
Laura - So I'm giving recommendations I'm really strict about my strategic partners I don't have to tell you how many people writing me with the like Violin that maybe telling me like maybe you can recommend us and yeah, yeah, we will pay you.
Borys - Yeah I can imagine that. Yeah.
Laura - X Eelon Thousand Euro And even if it sounds a bit romantic I will never do it because I really have the my goal is to really advise my clients I mean.
Borys - Of course, yeah, but this is also also your brand because yeah, if you if you work this way then it's a huge responsibility because if project doesn't go goods. Yeah, then. The customer is not coming to the agency as a first line but. We come to you and say lauraa you recommended those guys and they completely. Yeah they are and they are not a good fi yeah so it's it's a huge It's a huge responsibility on your side also doing a right type of choice. Yeah.
Laura - Yeah, right I think it's necessary that they that they trust you if um, if a client or someone's approaching me didn't get the feeling that I'm really looking for the best solution or really, um.
Laura - Can offer a wide range of experts. Then there is no no way to work together. Of course.
Borys - Yeah, and if you work with some projects as a consultant. Um, do you see like a typical scenarios for hiring a consultant are a certain project more I don't Know. Have more you know predisposition to get ah to to need to need a consultant or you see that there's completely while different ranges of ah of projects that you are working on and and it's more a matter of the of the customer. Yeah who is.
Borys - Ah, enough advanced to be able to say hey I need the help with this.
Laura - Yeah, very very good question I think of course of course it depends on how um, how much knowledge you have with an ecommerce. It's easier for people who are maybe have an enough experience with any ecommerce. But.
Laura - Um, no, there are typical scenarios. Um, mostly when they have the feeling that the whole ecommerce system or processes are kind of stuck they feel like maybe they and there would be um there there are some um possibilities to really.
Laura - I Have more conversion maybe within the store or um, yeah, they often ask for them for shop audits to really see what's the status quo. Um, what kind of systems we are using. Um, maybe we can refresh them and another example would be.
Laura - If they are using um, kind of a shop system and not quite sure if this is still the best solution for them. So when it comes to yeah migration projects. Um, they are often asking for. Um, yeah.
Laura - Experience with other customers. Um, or they have questions like how how much time will it need how about data data management or data migration within all those projects. Um, yeah I would say that those are.
Laura - To be go to be good questions.
Borys - Okay, yeah, but it also requires you know on the other hand if the customer knows or he's ready doesn't have a problem with asking for help then usually that's that's a very good.. That's a very good symptom. Yeah, um. Ah, for you but also for the agency and for the project Overrolia then it means that someone is really open would like to do it right? Yeah instead of being stubborn and like I know how to do the project and then there is a big big Thing. So is there anything in common with this customers. Do see some some some common think with the customers who are ready mature enough to ask for a consultant help.
Laura - Um, yeah I think that changed over the years Um, years ago they were um, it was a bit challenging to really advise them because I had a lot of.
Laura - Me personally I and a lot of customers were very strict and their opinions were not that open right now I have a lot of clients being very honest, very honest and with the situation opening up telling me like I have the feeling.
Laura I cannot overlook the whole ecommerce options we are having. So um I'm relying on you and your expertise your your market view. Um, Nevertheless if it's if it's woman man what kind of ages.
Laura - They are getting them more open nowadays.
Borys - Yeah, okay, and um, because yet for an agency this is or this could be a kind of you know competition or or kind of threat. Yeah. Have a consultant who sometimes not allow agency to do stupid stupid things. So how do you approach you know an agency in such case. Yeah, that to the agency see that there is ah some smart Third -party yeah within all the process who knows what's going on. Um, who can explain many things so how agencies react when they see that there is a customer with the with the consultants. Do they do they take it as a kind of competition threat ah or or they or they like appreciate this. Ah. Ah, the situation that there is someone someone who can also explain the customer you know some that some of the expectations are completely. Yeah useless or there are some other ways to to achieve it. What are your experiences with the agency approach to you with in the project.
Laura - I had agencies in the beginning who were very concerned about me being a third party as you said and because they thought I'm going to be in competition for them on while talking to them. We could experience that or clarify.
Laura - And I'm more like an I think additional puzzle piece' I'm I'm even helpful I will say because um I think um, it's easier also for the agency if um, they are talking to a to a customer a potential customer who's.
Laura - Pre-informed who already talk to someone could ask their questions so they are kind of more clear within their goals. They are bringing for the new system for the the solution they want to have and um yeah I'm kind of the lawyer. Maybe for the client because.
Laura - And normally really if I do this matchmaking thing I'm um, always within the first calls. So I'm bringing them together and sometimes and that's what agencies don't like I'm of course also advising them when it comes to the offer.
Borys p You know? so you you verify the cost and say oh no, no this is too much. Yeah, and then they then they don't like you they're like oh no.
Laura - From the ancient one and they are offering him. Um, yeah I would say sometimes then we have kind of discussions. Let me say like that. But no normally a.
Laura - As I said I know the agencies I know the price range they are operating in and I would never recommend them if I know that it's way over the budget of of my client. But yeah, um, right Now. Um I have very good connection to those agencies. Really appreciating it I think we could. We can be very clear.. There are not only agencies within 50 plus employees. So Some of them are built from people being super super intelligent being technical experts.
Laura - But maybe they're not so much into sales So that's I think that's a good add on to have a consultant who leads potential customers to your agency If that's a good fit.
Borys - So. Yeah, true I mean I agree with you looking from agency perspective to wars type of customer if I could say so yeah is the customer that doesn't have the knowledge and experience. Yeah, because then. You really have to on 1 side spend a lot of time explaining the basis. Yeah, or sometimes yeah it would be so nice to have someone within an experience on the customer side to explain him. Okay, this is how we do the integration. Yeah, it's not like our idea. But this is how in general it should be done that it's ah that it's working properly and if the customer has no experience. No clue then then let's call it like a third -party an independent third party. Ah, who could so. Ah, in some way focus on the the project goals and explain the customer hey it isn't a good idea and the agency is right? Yeah that's how it should be done in many cases I think would help agencies to.
Borys - Solve the problem with how to say a tough customers or or or a complex project for for the customer who doesn't have the the experience. So from my point I Absolutely agree with you. It's ah. For the agency. It's It's a very convenient situation yet that there is someone um, smart who can help customer understand the project who can explain something as being more more trusted. Yeah than an agency where there's always some kind of. Ah, low. Trust that Okay, the agency is trying to sell me more things. Yeah or they're trying to to to convince me to do something which um I might not necessarily need but it will be good for agency because they can charge more for some services.
Laura - Yes I think they get customers on the silver tray because um I'm not only bringing customers. Okay, bringing customer sounds like yam I'm just giving leads but I guide customers to those agencies with a finished briefing so they know.
Laura - We know how it is normally you're just really talking one on 2 times with the customer just to really clarify what they maybe want to have and know how it works I have customers approaching me and telling me like I have thirty k budget.
Laura - And my marketing agency said I will now need magenta 2 and then I'm like okay maybe we let's start. Let's start from the beginning so you know where it works and and if this work is done and you really um.
Laura - You can really give some insights to the to the customer and help them to to get a clearer view on the whole system I think then the agency can really concentrate to show their skills to show what they can offer to bring the solution to the customer.
Borys - Yeah, and do you see also looking at the market that there is more and more knowledgeable people on the customer side. Um, because at least what I see is like looking at at least few years back um, in many cases we as an agency start to see the difference. Yeah, that ah, there is more people with the experience on the market in the and in general um like more people understanding. For example. What it means that we are doing an agile project people with with some experience. So overall, the situation is ah is ah is better even though it's not easier. Yeah, because the the overall complexity of the systems is ah is higher. But do you see that the customers are havinging more and more. People with with some experiences and the whole discussions are becoming a little bit easier.
Laura - Yeah, totally agree. So I have customers who are calling me being very um, pre-informed so they know sometimes they are telling me like we Ah, we decided to go with this shop system and in.
Laura - Right now in a lot of cases I can really agree on their decisions and it's more like really going in detail just um, yeah, guiding them through maybe like third party or the whole the whole project. How can it look to really um, really create the whole project for them.
Laura - Um, but let me be honest I don't know why maybe it is because the shop there at the I'm also talking about this. Um, maybe it's it's because the the shop solution providers or the tech providers. Um, getting more information or they they are providing more information which is easy to consume. Um I think we have a lot of media. Um, also Linkedin is of course a big information platform for a lot of people.
Borys - Yeah, for sure. Yeah there's there's there's small knowledge of course on the other hand if we can imagine even today. Ah yeah, as we are ah probably there are hundreds if not thousands of projects just happening today. Yeah so. So every new project every new day during the implementation that's ah, that's the knowledge that some people are getting it from from what's going on on the progress and so on. So for sure. It's ah it's also it's also that the market is becoming more mature and have and have those experiences. Yeah. If you would look few years back. Not so many people had any experiences about ecommerce implementation now if there's so many shops online someone did this job and some some experiences has been has been achieved.
Borys And yeah, and looking also on the on this consultants. Let's say markets. Do you see like more and more consultants. Um, if you look at Linkedin or some some some other some other location by the way like how people find Julia how how does it work people like just going to Google and try to look like. Ah, good consultants to implement shopware um shop. How do they find you.
Laura - Yeah, more. Um I think I'm very thankful for a broad network I'm just I have a lot of people within an ecommerce. So this. A lot of them. There are a lot of clients coming through word of mouth and still but I'm also trying to put my face in every situation posting myself on Linkedin. So it's just so ah, an important challenge it a channel for me and um I don't like it.
Laura - I don't like saying that but still as you said in the beginning. It's kind of special that I'm a female consultant with an ecommerce especially in Germany. Um, right now I experience you know we both.
Laura - Work for shopping united I'm allowed to see or to visit a lot of european cities and meet people from the ecommerce field and especially when it comes to the Netherlands or Uk I meet a lot of amazing woman working Mecommerce and I feel.
Laura - It’s not I don't know why Germany is not that there are not so many women. So um, ah yeah I would never say I feel like how can I say it I feel like um. Mistreated or something I think it's exactly the other way around. It's it's ah if you are smart if you're really interested interested in your topic and you can help clients then it could be even an advantage to be a woman to be a bit more special maybe in the german market.
Laura That sounds a bit weird. But I think you know what I mean and.
Borys - Yeah I know I mean still if you look at so I believe there is a lot of like women in ecommerce but not necessarily in E-commerce technology. Ah so if you look at ah, most of the fashion shops a lot of of people working there as ah, product owners. Yeah, Or. Or or or working with performance with some campaigns that would be women but you're right if you look at purely technology if you look at the the systems implementations. Ah, that's yeah, That's ah more this I part there is there. There is less woman there. That's that's that's true. And it brings a lot of like you know diversity because I think yeah you you would have probably a little bit different opinion and it would be very valuable think that if there is ah a male team on the customer side and the mail team on the agency side and and. And a new in between that you can have a completely different view completely different. You know, um, experiences to share. So Overall the project value will be way way better.
Laura - Yeah I think to sum up my superpower and this is that I'm I think I didn't mention I'm I'm not a deaf I didn't delearn I'm I'm not from the technical side. So originally I did my master within marketing communications.
Borys - Okay, yeah.
Laura - And I'm very honest and transparent about this fact I got when I entered the Ecommerce market or the ecommerce topics I felt so lost in the beginning and I'm I'm always very honest about that because I think that brings me closer to my clients.
Borys - Okay, thank you.
Laura - I know how it feels to be within all those specific you know words and situations and every time back then in 2016 when I every time I saw it now I got it the whole system changed so it was like constantly learning.
Laura - And um, yeah to um I think the best factor is that I'm I'm able to talk within or the the tech language and I'm also able to talk to explain that to clients in a very non-technical way This um.
Borys - Yeah, that's that's that's also a great great experience. Yeah, but ah summarizing it as you mentioned I think as me being a kind of a third party in this case. Yeah I truly believe that having ah an external consultant. Ah.
Borys - Who can help customer make some decisions. Ah, who's also helping agency because it's ah it's explaining. Yeah, it's more trusted trusted site in the project explaining customer. Why for example, some test needs to be done and why they need to allocate some budget for. Some quality testing or some some some other type of Testium or most customers says like why would you do any tests So I truly believe in it that a role of role of consultant is is super important I Also truly believe that. It's also the it will grow a lot. Yeah because the the overall ecosystem will become more and the more more and more complex and people with experience who are ready to share who are ready and have this you know, ah, kind of skills to cooperate with. The customer with the agency and help help to make the project Successful. It's also it's also super super important Laurra So Great to have you here I think it's It's a very interesting perspective here for um, for shopper community Also to be aware that. Such a role as a consultant exists and ah it can help with the with the implementation and I think yeah I keep my finger crossed and wish you a good project at good Agencies. You know for the cooperation and and all the success.
Laura - Thank you Boris and thank you for inviting me to this podcast.
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