By Jonathan Horden, Chief Executive, PrismaStar (www.prismastar.com)
The role of an eCommerce team is varied and anyone working within one can testify to the complexity of responsibilities, objectives and the importance of their contribution to a company’s financial success in today’s online world.
The primary objective for most eCommerce teams is to generate revenue – to be very efficient at selling through understanding complex consumer behaviour to maximise conversion rates; and up-sell and cross-sell products and services to maximise value over the lifetime of the customer.
eCommerce teams usually also have a role in reducing the overall costs of a company by decreasing the workload of the support and logistics teams by providing information online to customers.
And eCommerce teams have a huge marketing role, whether in attracting and informing customers about the company and its products and services through online marketing (including SEO, PPC and social media), or simply providing an inspirational virtual shop window for the company that educates and informs consumers as well as representing and promoting the company’s brand and values.
So an eCommerce team has a complex role to play and in order to do the above they face a number of challenges. I wanted to share what I think are the top three of those challenges and some simple solutions as to how they might overcome them:
- Organisational Challenges
- Many traditional “bricks and mortar” companies are still struggling with how to deal with the online world. Some organisations still treat online and offline as completely separate silos which are in effect in competition with each other and fight for recognition of revenue. In today’s converged omni-channel world consumers do not buy like this – they may start their buying journey online and finish in-store or vice-versa. This silo mentality either created overtly through the company’s organisation structure or tacitly through a pervasive “them and us” culture can be a real obstacle.
- Solution: Changing culture or organisation has to come from the top. Senior management teams have to embrace today’s omni-channel world and the seamless way consumers want to interact through both online and offline channels. Companies that don’t do this will soon fail.
- Too slow to implement
- Most eCommerce managers I’ve spoken to are continually frustrated by their inability to ‘get stuff done’. eCommerce and the internet are rapidly evolving technologies but often eCommerce managers cannot move as quickly as they want – frequently because of process and backlog with the IT teams, restrictions in the legacy IT infrastructure or overly complex decision-making process.
- Solution: eCommerce teams must invest in systems that are flexible and modular and encourage their IT support teams to utilise rapid prototyping and agile development methodologies (where the service’s risk profile allows). Working with partners can also be a key component of increasing execution speed, especially SAAS vendors whose code can be simply integrated into a site without the need for heavy involvement from the internal IT teams.
- Too risk averse
- In the rapidly evolving internet market, which techniques, user experiences and tools will work best with your target market is ever-changing, and frequently surprising. Too often companies are very risk adverse in trying new things, wanting to create cast iron business cases, and then going through long development and procurement cycles by which time the market may have changed and consumers have moved on to the next thing – or something that could have really worked is overlooked because there isn’t the internal bandwidth to try it out.
- The solution is to adopt a test, measure, improve mentality. Be radical in thinking and try out new things through AB or Multivariate Testing and let the results of these dictate which user experiences work best for the target market. In doing this it is important that the culture of the eCommerce team changes to accept that not all ideas may work, but if this is the case also to recognise this and quickly move on to the next project.
Working in the fast-paced eCommerce world can be one of the rewarding roles in retailing today – but for the eCommerce team to make the maximum impact on both the top and bottom line of the company, the issues above must be addressed.
Jon Horden has been involved in the Internet and eCommerce industry since its beginning. At PIPEX, Jon managed the consumer internet business first in the UK before managing this globally for UUNET/WorldCom. Jon is also the former Senior Vice President for Product Management and Marketing at Monster.com. Jon’s eCommerce products and services have won a number of awards including the Online Retailing Awards, the eCommerce Awards, and the eConsultancy Innovation Awards and Jon is now a judge for the 2014 Digital Experience Awards.
Jon holds a BEng, an MBA from Cranfield University.