Must-Have Skills For An E commerce Leader
E commerce has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time. What began as a pioneering role in the nascent world of online commerce is now a position that sits at the table with the senior most strategic decision makers of an organization, and in many businesses, represents most of the revenue.
The e commerce leader is the chief steward of the organization’s electronic storefront. Their goal is to drive new traffic, create and deliver an online experience that will endear users to the brand, and turn visitors into customers while maximizing overall profitability of the online business. The responsibilities of the eCommerce “czar” are wide ranging, including strategy, website development, user experience, security, site maintenance, analytics, operations, technology, and oversight of third party service providers. They also act as a sort of internal “diplomat” to rally other operations of the company behind the e commerce side of the business. Ecommerce is big and getting bigger. Forrester Research predicts online sales will account for one of out every ten dollars of overall consumer spending this year.
The best ecommerce candidates I know couple marketing wisdom with technical know-how. E commerce managers work closely with website developers and oversee the selection of ecommerce platforms, online payment systems, authentication, security, and an array of other technologies required to operate a web-based business. But besides the technical skills, what else does it take to be an effective ecommerce chief?
Having a Strategic Mindset. The eCommerce leader holds the company’s ecommerce vision. He or she sees long-term market potential and business opportunities. They’re expert at employing research and customer data to drive the business. They think “beyond the margin, ” as I like to call it. Being strategically adept is one of those attributes that comes only with experience. It’s what truly separates the major leaguers from the under-studies. You want concrete examples from your candidates that demonstrate these competencies.
Strong Aptitude for Data and Analytics. I talk a lot about this in my writings, so I won’t dwell on it much further here. Suffice it to say that online marketing is more about analyzing test results and less about gut instinct. In ecommerce, you can measure what works and what doesnt, sometimes almost instantaneously. Your ecommerce candidate must be highly adept at crunching and interpreting data.
Collaboration/Relationship Making/Influence Maker. Like practically every other job in the realm of digital marketing, ecommerce is ostensibly a team sport. E commerce leaders interact with practically all major departments within the business. They also work with many different outside vendors. Cross-collaboration and interpersonal skills are a key part of the job. It’s essential to understand the candidate’s ability to work effectively with teams ranging from product marketing to sales, and from finance to customer service, plus external partners. In many instances, the ecommerce chief also plays the role of “change agent”, leading the company through a transformational shift from legacy marketing into online commerce. In those environments, forging cross-functional relationships is mission critical.
Operational and Project Management Expertise. What we’re NOT describing here are the pure technologists. Leave that to the coders and hackers. I believe that the best ecommerce managers are a blend of marketing and technology, or “marketing techologists” as they’re often called. To them, technology is a means to an end- converting visitors into paying customers. Choosing the right technologies and projecting the vision and mission of an online business is important, but at the end of the day you want an ecommerce leader who brings a proven track record of driving results. That’s how business leaders will measure the eCommerce leader’s success. At the root, ecommerce leaders need a deep understanding of eCommerce metrics including conversion, AOV (average order value), traffic, shipping and so on. And of course, this includes their ability to attract, hire and retain strong talent, and show demonstrative management and leadership skills (assuming it’s a department of more than one).
Ask about their experience juggling multiple and concurrent projects including the following:
Desktop and mobile website development
Online merchandising and launching new products
Budgeting and P and L for positions responsible for revenue versus only operations
The ecommerce manager needs to be able to describe the consumer’s purchase path on the website, and how to optimize that navigation. Also, make sure they’re well-schooled in cross-selling and upselling. Ask how they have tracked the performance of campaigns on various platforms and acted on those results to optimize consumer engagement and create differential brand experiences.
As for technical skills, this is not an all-inclusive list, but I look for candidates who have familiarity with the following:
Web Analytics tools Strong knowledge of search engine marketing, and all of its variations Social media analytics tools Ecommerce platforms like Amazon,Alibaba,Magento, Shopify or Demandware Online advertising tools such as Google Adwords, Google Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) and display ads Experience working with the major social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google
Remember: At the end of the day, the ROI you receive from your investment in digital marketing and ecommerce will depend on the caliber of the people you hire.
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