Is your goal to improve your e-commerce team? Are you considering adding additional resources to your dedicated team? If so, this blog post is for you.
We’ve found that for many companies, the e-commerce channel has too few resources and out sized expectations in terms of performance compared to other channels. In a typical scenario, a company will hire an e-commerce director who must also take on the role of marketer, merchandiser and brand manager, with the help of some outside consultants (perhaps). This isn’t a sustainable model, and is a key reason why sales and performance may stagnate.
As an e-commerce business matures, it needs to be staffed similarly to other channels, such as offline in-store retailing, meaning you need concrete roles defined. In the online world, a maturing company needs an e-commerce director, merchandising manager, brand manager and a data-driven marketer. Let’s look at the each plays in detail.
Director of E-commerce
The first person all e-commerce operations need is someone who understands how all the various pieces discussed below come together for the benefit of the customer. This person is the director of e-commerce (AKA retail management director).
The director of e-commerce is someone who understands that e-commerce is one channel among many opportunities for a customer to engage with the brand, and that it must fit work in concert with all of the brand’s touch points. In other words, the the e-commerce director can’t engage in tactics that siphon sales from other channels or interfere with their success.
That said, the director is responsible for the platform’s viability and profitability in the marketplace. To accomplish these goals, the director must have a clear understanding of who his or her online shoppers are. Customers who prefer to purchase via an online store have specific needs and wants, and they must have a clear idea of the value they get from buying from your direct-to-consumer store.
The next role to fill is that of a merchandising manager. This is someone who can populate your store products that are relevant to the consumer, organize your product categories in such a way that it’s easy to find, and priced so that customers opt to purchase them.
Let’s take fashion as an example. Customers who shop online may not know exactly what they’re looking for, and so go on a journey of discovery. The merchandising manager needs to understand how to select the right products to communicate your brand, and to evoke emotions, in the same manner as mannequins do in a physical store.
Although few people walk into a store and buy off the mannequin, mannequins are still critical in that it communicates lifestyle messages to the consumer — messages that draw people in. The online merchandising manager understands how to translate the mannequin to the e-commerce channel.
Because your site will sell to many types of people, product categorization is critical. Categories must be organized in such a way that there is both the element of discovery (enabling customers to find products they didn’t know they wanted), as well as the element of predictability (helping customers find exactly they’re looking for). This is no small task for a merchandising manager!
A brand manager isn’t always dedicated to the e-commerce channel, but every e-commerce channel needs a brand manager resource. This is someone who has expertise in the user experience or is a brand designer. Such people understand the value of the visuals in the e-commerce experience; specifically what those visuals communicate and the emotions they evoke.
Of course, the feelings and emotions felt by an online shopper don’t need to be identical to those evoked in brick-and-mortar customers (after all, they’re likely to be very different types of customers!). This means that your brand manager must go beyond enforcing colors and logos and think long and hard about how to best position your store so that it evokes the right emotions, regardless of the channel.
For instance, let’s say you’re a sneaker brand with a brick-and-mortar retail presence, factory outlets, an online store with high-end items and a deep product category, and network of wholesalers and marketplaces through which you sell a subset of products. A customer in your factory outlet is probably a bargain hunter, and is quite different from someone who purchases a higher price point product from your online store. Meanwhile, marketplace customers are often greater fans of the marketplace (and the conveniences of adding a wide array of products in a single shopping cart) than they are of your brand. Each customer has a set of motivations, and the brand manager must know how to meet their expectations.
The fourth key role is that of a marketer; someone who understands and is focused on the e-commerce funnel. The marketer’s overarching goal is to get traffic to your site, and once there, allow the efforts described (merchandising, branding, etc) to work their magic.
The marketer has many tools to build the funnel: paid search, organic search, social media, paid social and so on. Each tactic requires data and skill. For instance, if the goal to get traffic via organic search, the marketer must ensure that your website copy has SEO value.
Further down the funnel, the marketer must have the ability to price products that are both competitive and begins to build customer loyalty. Here’s why: each visitor to a site represents an investment, and it’s the marketer’s job to ensure that investment pays off.
Speaking of investments, marketers must strategically decide how best to spend to acquire new customers. For instance, they can offer a discount (give up margin), free shipping or purchase traffic via paid search or paid social. Each comes at a cost that must be weighed against the customer’s total lifetime value (LTV). For instance, paid search for high-end sneakers can top $50 per click; a high cost to be sure, but one that may be worth it for customers who have a LTV in excess of $1,500.
Your marketer must have a keen understanding of product margins and customer profitability so he or she can spend the budget wisely, focusing on customers who have the potential to be long lasting. Spending money to acquire bargain hunters can hurt profitability, unless the marketer has a sound plan to earn repeat business.
Data is important for all four roles described here, but it’s especially important for marketers.
The number of people on your e-commerce team will depend on your channel’s maturity. You might not need a brand manager dedicated to your e-commerce site if you’re small. Conversely, a mature site may have several marketing people, each dedicated to a specific function, such as managing paid search or social media campaigns. The number isn’t set in stone, but you need to ensure that all functions are covered.
Looking for help building your e-commerce team? Reach out to SD for strategic advice on how to grow your team and business.