This week’s interview is Head of Client Services at Astound Commerce, Ben Rainbow.
Let’s find out what his days look like…
(Before we get down to it, remember if you’re looking for a new role yourself to check out the Econsultancy jobs board.)
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Ben Rainbow: Astound Commerce is a digital commerce agency which provides strategy, technology, creative and interactive marketing services for many of the world’s leading brands and retailers. As Head of Client Services, I’m responsible for making sure all of our customers are receiving the best possible service. I ensure our customers have ongoing support, that their websites are performing well and, with larger projects, manage new integrations. I do get involved with pitches but my role is mostly geared towards post-launch.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
BR: I report directly into Terry Hunter, our MD. My team is one of five main streams within Astound: marketing, technical delivery, commercial and existing customers; new business; and creative. All of the department heads report into Terry.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
BR: An ability to juggle multiple balls at the same time! One minute I might be managing new projects, and the next I’ll be communicating with prospects and existing customers or answering queries from the team. It’s a very varied role so skills like agility, being well organised, and keeping on top of everything are essential!
People skills are also a must. My role involves making sure customers are happy, whilst also working behind the scenes with our technical teams, banging the drum and making sure everyone in the team knows what they are doing.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
BR: I could probably provide seven or eight versions of a ‘typical’ day. Yesterday, for example, I was with a customer doing three different workshops. We were discussing a B2B platform for the UK, another for the US, as well as a separate ongoing project.
My day is pretty consultative, so could involve business reviews, identifying new projects and opportunities, roadmap planning sessions, technical reviews and recommending new approaches which would benefit customers – like integrating a new loyalty programme. I’ll also have several informal catch-up meetings with different customers over the course of a week.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
BR: I love the variety as every day is different and no two days are the same. There’s always something going on and always new things to learn about. I also enjoy the analytical side of my role and getting deep into the detail; looking at website conversions and sales figures, checking how sites are performing and the tiny nuances that affect things.
I wish I had more time to spend with customers, as getting to know them on a personal and professional level is great. Working together to launch or enhance a website has a really rewarding side to it, as we get to see our customers doing well, they appreciate the work and are delighted by the results!
The worst side of my job? Dealing with the challenges which, working in tech, is very much the nature of the industry. Saying that, this is also where the enjoyment originates – I love finding creative ways to manage challenges, and doing so as quickly as possible.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
BR: When we put a platform live, the goals are clearly defined: it’s the conversions, average basket spend and revenue. Those metrics are the things our customers measure us on and they all have positive stories to tell.
To see those metrics increase on day one of a launch is amazing, and something not many companies can compete with. Our last client launch in November, saw a significant increase in sales on day one, something we see time and time again.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
BR: We have a team in Kiev, in Colombia and in the US, so reliable, real-time communication is essential. I’m available 24/7 via email, Slack and Skype. I maintain a really strong relationship with all of our global workforce, including going over to Kiev five or six times a year, as well as taking customers out to meet the team so they can see who they’re working with.
E: How did you get into ecommerce, and where might you go from here?
BR: I’ve been involved in the ecommerce industry in some way for for almost ten years. I’ve been with Astound for nearly two years and before this I was working with another digital commerce agency.
I got into the ecommerce sector when I was approached by a recruiter, who set up a meeting to introduce me to Terry, the now MD of Astound. Instantly, I knew I was going be working for the right person. Terry sold ecommerce, he sold the dream. There are a lot of bosses out there who sell these things and then don’t deliver, but Terry is the reason I’m in digital commerce. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t have moved into the industry.
And now? I love working for a digital commerce agency and I love the ecommerce industry. Astound is a great fast paced company to work for, Terry really looks after his staff, and you get a great buzz from working in a thriving office.
E: Which ecommerce websites do you admire?
BR: The Boux Avenue site is second to none. I’m not a customer of the brand but this was one of Astound’s projects, so I can appreciate what a great site it is. The customer journey is impeccable and everything a shopper would want; the brand hooks you in, gets you browsing, helps you quickly find what you want, you add it to the basket, and you’re done – in two or three minutes. It makes the journey so easy.
Other great sites and successful projects have included FatFace, which is really beautifully designed. It’s creative and very strong from a UX perspective.
I also think the Musto website is great. It is very easy to navigate and has a clean aesthetic.
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to get into ecommerce?
BR: First and foremost, ecommerce isn’t as complicated as people make out. A lot of people think ecommerce is a complex beast, with so many streams to it and so much complexity around the sites. The key thing is doing the basics right – once the fundamentals are handled, you can enhance and improve them. The people who are doing it well, are doing the basics really well.
There are probably two easy routes into ecommerce: project management and business analytics. Once in ecommerce, people tend to stay for a long time. With some of the roles at Astound, we offer professional development through a buddy scheme, and similarly, lots of companies will take people on at a trainee level.
For my role, it’s experience that counts. I am where I am today because of five years of experience, looking after teams of account managers, transferring skills, and picking up technologies as I go along.
Ecommerce isn’t all about high tech though. Whichever role or entry point you choose, you’ll be in a an interesting and fun industry, where there’s constant change and always a lot going on.