Today’s ‘Day in the Life’ features Vladi Shlesman, Managing Director EMEA at ChannelAdvisor. Vladi explains how the pandemic has changed his day-to-day working life, and how it has impacted wider trends within the ecommerce sector.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the Managing Director EMEA at ChannelAdvisor. We’re an ecommerce platform that provides global brands and retailers with everything they need to sell and market products more effectively across a range of digital channels. We help solve their marketplace, digital marketing, direct-to-consumer, first-party retail, drop ship and fulfilment needs all through a single, centralised platform. In my role, I’m responsible for ChannelAdvisor’s employees and customers across the entire region.
Primarily, I oversee the business strategy and execution of ChannelAdvisor’s EMEA operations, including customer acquisition, account management, managed services, customer onboarding, and presales. With my background as Head of Client Services, I am also still heavily involved in helping our existing customers identify and implement their ecommerce strategies.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
The greatest change has been the switch to permanently working from home. Part of my daily routine used to be cycling to the London office. I cherished these 45 minutes each way, where I could think over various projects and challenges away from a screen. I haven’t yet quite found an activity that has replaced this daily break from emails and calls. However, a huge benefit has been spending much more time with my children who are aged four and seven. It has been a learning curve for all of us. They have just about adapted to the routine of having me home all the time but not necessarily available to play when I’m on the phone.
Pre-pandemic, our EMEA team was very office-based, especially our London branch. The benefits of this were the option to quickly discuss an issue while grabbing a coffee, or to jump in and out of meeting rooms to listen in on project discussions or catch up with customers. It’s important to me that I still have these conversations and make sure I’m maintaining relationships with the teams and our customers, albeit through the use of new tools and different ways of carrying out meetings.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
In the last few weeks, we are continuing to see consumer behaviour evolve as brands and retailers adjust to these digital-first needs. By driving customers online, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for many brands to undergo what had previously been a five to ten year digital transformation strategy in a matter of months. Within this, many brands have recognised the importance of an effective and well developed channel strategy on Amazon and eBay as well as growing beyond these platforms to emerging and specialist marketplaces. Category and location specific marketplaces have been steadily growing, as well as the number of brands who have been successfully selling direct to consumer.
As ever, some sectors have shown that flexibility is the winning strategy during times of uncertainty. Fashion brands in particular, as we head into the Autumn season while lockdown measures gradually begin the lift, have been rapidly adapting their offerings to meet new customer needs, while innovating to solve their excess stock issue.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
My biggest piece of advice would be to proactively look for new marketing opportunities, rather than just adapting to keep up with change. The pandemic has resulted in consumers spending more time on social media channels than ever before. They are looking for inspiration and very quickly a casual browse and a click on an attractive collection ad can take them to a checkout, often resulting in a purchase.
For marketers, this means now more than ever, that a fluid unified experience needs to be curated across all channels. Each channel has their own restrictions and features, but by tailoring each one to have a branded and creative experience where possible, customers across demographics will become familiar with your brand and what you offer. Now is also a great time to experiment with ad formats alongside messaging, such as Instagram stories, which has 500 million accounts using the feature everyday. The key is to use your data collection and reporting to understand precisely how channel usage has changed in order to maximise your marketing impact.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Project management tools have been critical for us when our teams are working remotely. We use them for individuals and teams to keep track of their tasks. What’s been useful is that some customers have been using the same tools as us, which really helps everyone keep up to date on the progress of all aspects of our work with them. The success of these task management software programmes within the EMEA has been noticed by our other branches, and we have seen others follow suit.
Much of my career has been working with global teams, so I have been used to communicating remotely for quite some time. Now that the pandemic has done away with office visits for now, we have witnessed the rise of video conferencing. However, I have found an old fashioned phone call or text message is sometimes hard to beat, as it can resolve an issue quickly in an informal manner, without the scheduling and preparation needed to book a whole meeting.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
Some of the companies that have impressed me the most have been the long-standing brands who traditionally don’t have a reputation for being at the forefront of digital innovation. Many have recognised the imperative need to change, as currently getting left behind is a risky position to be in. This includes some leading fashion brands and staple names on the high street, who have dramatically re-shifted their focus to ecommerce to evolve with the customer’s changed behaviour.
Many have taken innovative steps with their physical locations, like adjusting their purpose to fulfil more of a logistical role, while others have opened their own digital storefronts to sell direct to the customer. It’s very impressive what some have achieved in such a short space of time and under so much pressure.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
Our priority when lockdown started was to adapt quickly to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees. Once our staff were looked after, we accelerated the change in our ways of working to ensure there was an uninterrupted service for our customers and that we were communicating in the best way possible.
To do so was difficult. Our teams overnight had their workloads increased from both short term client issues, such as running out of stock on marketplaces to larger, drastic changes, like needing to completely reorganise whole project plans. There was not only this firefighting to do, but many existing customers also wanted to accelerate and bring forward their long term plans. They depended on us to help them shape their channel strategy and prioritise growth, so we had to figure out how best to adapt to meet these new needs.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at ChannelAdvisor?
At ChannelAdvisor, we are always looking to expand our capabilities and assess the areas we service. For example, brands have been telling us that they are increasingly focused on their digital strategies and looking to navigate rapidly-evolving consumer behaviour. To do this effectively, they need best in class analytics to maximise visibility into their online channels so they can react quickly and appropriately to changing market dynamics. With this in mind, we recently acquired BlueBoard, a leading analytics platform that helps brands to measure and analyse the real-time performance of their products across a worldwide network of thousands of retailers.
The rate of digital transformation has been unprecedented in the last few months, so we’ll be working closely with customers to make sure their ecommerce goals are aligned with this rapidly changing environment.
Additionally, remote-working has opened our eyes to what we can accomplish outside of the office. We have realised that our hiring process can focus less on whether people are in the right location, and more on the people who fit with ChannelAdvisor’s ethos.