User experience and interface designer, author of "The Rails View", front-end Ruby on Rails development best practices, conference speaker, musician, and want-to-be Gentleman Farmer.
I ran a design & UX department at an e-commerce company for two years and have been doing various product and website UX since before those things we're codified as "UX".
So there's a few factors here:
* You have a new product that you've brought to market quickly
* You have users telling you they are confused.
Regardless of hiring a consultant or an employee, you likely need someone with UX experience to help improve your customer's experience. What you need to do first is look at your flow and funnel. Where are users abandoning your site? is it before they add to cart? at checkout? at some other point? You will have abandonment, but the goal is to maximize converting the number of people coming in the door through the entire flow.
Your flow may have multiple end points. One might be "sign up for daily/weekly emails", another might be to actually finish a transaction and buy something.
You can hire an expert, but a lot of the basics are covered in a series of reports and checklists from Baymard Institute (baymard.org). A UX expert could help you prioritize and break those into actionable tickets/issues/tasks for your engineering staff.
Another thing to think about is the overall customer journey map. How does your marketplace fit into their daily flow? What are they doing before and after engaging with your website or native app? This is called journey mapping and it can help make the site/app feel more natural.
Regardless of who you hire, you need to do more research with customers and watch them use the site in addition to them telling you where there are problems. Often, they'll gloss over things that are the actual issue.
The goal is to identify the problems, find the ones that will give the biggest ROI on engineering time, and get those fixed asap. That should increase your profit and allow you to fix more issues with that new budget.
Happy to chat further with any questions you may have.
I find that for effort in vs output, it's better to spend time on cultivating referrals and if that's not an option, doing seminars or webinars on a topic. Contacting someone to say "I'm going to give you some information for free" and then following up with them is a softer pitch, but often gets past the voicemail loop.You can also look to offer these through local business organizations. Regardless of the offering, don't make it an infomercial. You're providing value for their time to see you as a subject matter expert. At the end, feel free to provide them with contact info and reach out to the attendees.
I don't know your industry, but I can speak for mine (web user experience). There's lots of things I can teach someone that they can take home and implement on their own. But as they get further in, there comes a point where they'd need expert knowledge. I want to be the first person they think of when they say "we need help."
Somewhat of a twist on the traditional sales cycle, but you're still establishing and identifying a problem that they have, and providing them with a solution that is part what you give away and part your services/product.