How Independent Contractors Have Made E-commerce Possible

As the e-commerce industry has grown exponentially, independent contractors have enabled these companies to keep up with the demand.

Published on August 28, 2019

It’s no secret that consumers are turning to online retailers to make their purchases. From groceries to toys to household products, consumers are able to browse and purchase whenever, wherever. According to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales grew to $146.2 billion at the beginning of 2019. Future sales are expected to continue growing quarter over quarter. While the growth is positive for online retailers, companies selling their products and services online must appropriately prepare to continue growing.


The rapid growth has made the human resource function of e-commerce of utmost importance. This area is also one where companies see the biggest challenges, especially with the seasonality of the industry. Online retailers must implement and evaluate a total talent management strategy for continued success. One way that company executives have ensured success with their total talent management strategies is to utilize independent contractors (ICs). Independent contractors allow e-commerce businesses to keep up with demand and properly budget resources.


Independent contractors can work in a variety of positions for e-commerce companies, often with a heavier focus on product logistics and customer service. In product logistics, ICs help get products from A to Z, whether that means shipping, receiving, picking, packing, or pulling. Independent contractors are often utilized as  Material Handlers, Warehouse Associates, Loaders, and Forklift Operators, among others. Independent contractors also help with customers’ experiences in positions with titles like Customer Care Representative, Phone Support Specialist, Help Desk Technician, and Call Center Representative.


Independent contractors have truly aided in making e-commerce thrive and grow. Making independent contractors a part of a talent management strategy for an e-commerce company has many benefits.


Just-in-time hiring
E-commerce companies experience high levels of variability in their activity. Due to the nature of independent contractors, e-commerce companies utilize these workers to staff up or down during their busiest times. Independent contractors are expecting work with a set start and end date for their work – e-commerce companies use them for day-long shifts to catch up on orders, or a month to take on seasonal demand during the holidays, or sometimes even longer. Companies save money by utilizing ICs during this time since they are only bringing on workers for the times they need them and when there is work to be done.


Expanded pool of workers
According to a Gallup study, one-third of US workers participate in the gig economy as independent contractors in some fashion. With so many workers looking or already in this work arrangement, companies willing to utilize these workers attract more workers to their positions. Positions can fit a variety of skills, backgrounds, and reasons for working like making extra money, gaining new skills, and filling time between long term positions.


Easier access to workers
It’s easier now than ever to look for and bring on independent contractors for hiring teams at e-commerce companies. Platforms like tilr allow these companies to post their positions and get the workers needed within a day instead of the average of 36 days it takes to fill a job traditionally. Workers flock to these platforms to search for work, meaning companies don’t need to host job fairs, review resumes, or conduct interviews. Qualified workers can now be found easily through mobile or web. 


Due to the industry’s growth, the number of e-commerce jobs is expected to grow to almost 450,000 jobs by 2026. These positions will continue to be effectively filled by independent contractors. ICs will provide companies the time and money savings needed to keep up with the enormous growth. At the same time, independent contractors get the flexibility they desire. The arrangement is a win-win, making it possible for e-commerce companies to keep up with our increased shopping online as consumers.