Our recently released Managing Digital Channels report has been very well received by the internet strategists who are responsible for figuring out how to best run their online operations.

Published two weeks ago, and compiled by Dr Dave Chaffey, it is an update to a report called ‘Managing an E-commerce Team’, a study we first conducted in 2005. Things have moved on since then, some for better, others for worse…

The new report is based on a survey of more than 100 senior e-commerce and digital marketing professionals. Companies involved in the research included Dell, Virgin Atlantic, Bupa, Mercedes-Benz, FT.com, Harper Collins, Otto Group, Tui, Oxfam and Ted Baker.

We further strengthened the findings by conducting in-depth interviews, to drill down into the detail and discuss some possible solutions.

Our aim was to provide readers with 50 best practice recommendations, while following up on our earlier research into team structure to identify developing trends.

If you head up an e-commerce or online marketing team then this report will help you benchmark your own progress, while providing insight into how to improve things.

Let’s look at some of the key findings.

Budget

Perhaps the key takeaway is that investment into the online channel has more than doubled in three years. In 2005 we found that, on average, 11% of marcomms budget was being diverted into the internet channel (most businesses spent less than 10%, and retailers spent about 5%, back in the day).

Nowadays, in 2008, the figure invested in online has risen to 23%, proving the maturity of the platform and reflecting the adoption of online marketing (specifically paid search, affiliate marketing and lead generation).

Team Size and Structure

We found that a typical digital marketing department consists of 10 employees, who focus on customer acquisition, conversion and retention. They also conduct analysis and benchmarking to monitor performance, and are supported by about 8 technical specialists (web developers, programmers, database wizards, etc). As such, the overall online team comprises 18 people.

By contrast, the ‘traditional’ marketing department boasts 34 employees. As such, an internet marketing team should be around a third to a half of the size of your marketing department.

Note that almost half of our respondents said that their digital marketing unit was part of the wider marketing team. Beats sitting next to the dudes in IT, as was the case for the unlucky ones a few years ago.

Challenges

It’s not all good news, but the trends are largely positive and there is clear room for improvement.

  • 22% of respondents said there was no specific plan for e-marketing within their organisation (down from 33% in 2005, but still shocking).
  • 75% of those polled said that finding the right calibre of staff is a serious challenge (this is 25% worse than it was in 2005, and clearly a real problem).
  • More than two thirds of respondents have problems in securing senior management buy-in (check out our business cases to help convince the boss).
  • 77% of internet marketing teams cannot quickly launch new functionality, tools, apps or widgets. This lack of an agile approach is something that needs to be addressed, if established brands are to compete with startups, which often release new functionality quickly (and often).
     

No doubt we’ll take another look at things in a couple of years.

The 180-page Managing Digital Channels report is available to Econsultancy subscribers or as a pay-per-view download, and will help you understand how to get the best out of your investment into the online channel.

Additionally we’re running two related events that may be of interest. There’s the Managing Digital Teams training course and a Multichannel Marketing Training event.