Launching an ecommerce channel is a no-brainer for many companies as it’s undoubtedly one of the most effective ways of building your business for the future.
But while the decision to launch an online store is a relatively easy one, knowing how and when to develop to ecommerce team is far more difficult.
To make the process easier we’ve just published our new report, Building an Ecommerce Team: A Best Practice Guide, which focuses on the challenges facing ecommerce managers as the digital channel grows and diversifies.
The guide is aimed at client-side ecommerce practitioners and includes recommendations from seasoned professionals on how to build and manage your team; how to create a framework for understanding the key challenges; and details on how changing market conditions are impacting the demands on ecommerce teams.
To find out a bit more about the guide, we spoke to author James Gurd about who it’s aimed at and his personal tips for those overseeing ecommerce …
What inspired you to write this guide?
A common theme I encounter with clients is the challenge to know how and when to develop the ecommerce team to support business growth. It’s about understanding the questions you need to ask before committing to investment in people, process and technology.
I personally feel that as an industry we don’t focus enough in this area. Managing for growth is critical to success yet the tendency is to assume ecommerce managers just know how to do it.
When I first managed a team, it was trial and error. Nobody coached me and I would have benefited from some guidelines to give me a framework to help structure my planning.
There is plenty of information out there about specific digital disciplines but less so on general team management. The guide is intended to give ecommerce managers objective advice from people who have been at the sharp end and have experience of managing transition and growth.
What kind of audience and job roles is the report relevant for?
It’s aimed at ecommerce managers of all shapes and sizes. It’s intended to help managers make better decisions about managing people and growing their team.
I’ve often found that people management skills get overlooked in the heat of battle but as a team grows, a manager’s soft skills becoming increasingly important. Of course you need to be commercial but results are usually the product of intelligent people management.
There is a section for people who are currently either flying solo in a small business or have a small team that needs to grow. It’s a challenge knowing where to focus investment and what job roles are essential to deliver growth.
Hopefully this guide gives some useful pointers from people who have gone through this experience, some of them in an international context.
What are some of the key things you have learned over the years?
You should value process and structure. Without these two vital things, it’s very hard to keep control and give your team the guidance and support that they need to excel.
Also, put your team first. That doesn’t mean let them get away with poor performance; it means think about the environment your team needs to thrive and then make sure you monitor this over time and evolve to suit the changing needs and demands of your team.
When picking where to work, be wary of companies that say digital is important but don’t have board level representation. You will struggle to get the buy-in of the management team if there isn’t a board level sponsor fighting your corner, which means you’ll find your budget becomes an after-thought. Knowing ecommerce isn’t taken seriously can be incredibly demotivating for your team.
And don’t get isolated. You need digital champions across the business to ensure your plans are supported. This requires strong communication and influencing skills and the balls to stand up for what you believe in when the wider business isn’t listening.
What advice would you give ecommerce managers when planning for growth?
Start by ensuring you understand the overall business goals and strategy and how ecommerce fits in the bigger picture. This is essential; you have to know what ecommerce is expected to deliver and why. Context is important.
Then get all your facts lined-up before making any decisions. Work out what you need to achieve, how you’re going to achieve it and what investment is required to get there. Look at the options – growing your team, investing in tech, bringing in consultants, etc. and create a pros/cons matrix.
And finally involve other people to complement your decision-making. You need to bring your team along with you and make them feel part of the process.