Culture and org structure - 2 catalysts to eCommerce success. Ignore them at your peril.

Culture and org structure - 2 catalysts to eCommerce success. Ignore them at your peril.

I have had quite a few tags and mails on this thread from Jason Greenwood. I really like his opinions, thoughts and sensibilities around eCommerce. There is no middle ground for him but always strong on views. Well worth following - his original thread is here. 

To those on the thread who disagreed with Jason sit down and try and write a job spec for an e-commerce manager. It is unwieldy usually inaccurate and a combination of skills that goes across multiple disciplines. Just for the purposes of clarity, I will say that the definition of a marketer has been somewhat changed over the last 10 years remover and even more so when we add the word digital in front of it

Online advertising is largely classified under the marketing banner however it is so often the primary driver of revenue for e-commerce businesses. Online advertising is not marketing. Marketing is a much broader discipline than this and rather than say marketing is technical, we must acknowledge that it is more scientific than that or at least should be in the way that we studied it.

Point of clarity number 3. The tools of marketing have become technologies that are being sold in the SaaS market. The distinction here is that the tool is the vehicle for solving a problem that exists somewhere along the marketing spectrum: Personalisation, retention marketing, and the list goes on. We do not see many marketers go into technical roles or vice versa. What we do see more often that not now (in top-class SaaS products) is marketing execution. Knowing the problem they solve. Stripe is a great example by democratising payments. They didn't really, but it was the approach to software development and availability of the code that was the critical advantage. They sped up cumbersome development paths. Shopify are the current masters of this. Understanding the core problem and wrapping it up. I digress.

The balancing of marketing activity within the settings of e-commerce really means that there is close and considered work streams. But e-commerce as a revenue driver should be the primary P&L driver or have a standalone function.

Consider how that P&L will look, it will have cost of goods coming from operations, marketing, advertising not to mention headcount, platform commissions and more. Marketing only holds marketing costs really.

The role of an e-commerce manager in small organisations leads to this crossover and what I find is that the people in large organisations have become very successful e-commerce managers have a strong trading background. What I mean by that is there bound by the sales and revenue numbers every month and that’s how they successes judged. Fundamentally this is an inaccurate and blinkered view of the skills that and e-commerce manager requires.

I think Jason has just started this discussion but it’s very valuable in the context of how the world is changing right now. Having someone to sit over your e-commerce strategy will be a key part of your success in 18 months to 2 years time.

Consider the following scenario you have successfully created your website and there are trading. (maybe you are not even trading well). You have an ad words account that delivering revenue for you. You’ve also taken on email marketing, have dabbled in social and have The basis in place for a retention program but haven’t got there yet because you haven’t got people to set it up for you. You decide you want to list on Amazon who do you turn to? Listing on Amazon Without experience can be incredibly risk filled project. Amazon and market places in general require a full-time person with the requisite skills to build out that function. If you have never done it you will not fully consider the amount of nuanced detail that is required to successfully build and grow the marketplace channel. That person or team will require a different set of skills To grow this path of your business and won’t fully be able to put all of that onto paper because a lot of it is down to managing the platform itself.

What is all this got to do with the e-commerce manager?

Well actually I think this is a bit of a positive for people in business who have not taken on e-commerce before and they’re now embarking on it. They require someone to think about the business holistically. The required someone has an interest in technology and its impact on business. It requires someone who understands the value of marketing and are use that word value with great care as the benefits and marketing and outputs are sometimes intangible and unquantifiable but hugely necessary. They spend on marketing can make us feel squeamish and uncomfortable to the point that we decide not to do marketing in the way that it should be done . A good e-commerce manager will surround themselves with people that deliver that layer of the main expertise. Healthy debate, questions and analysis will help guide the ship. If businesses regardless of their vertical, experience in e-commerce or maturity on the journey start with the customer and work backward they will find themselves putting people in the right positions for the right reasons and everyone will be contributing to the Overall top line for a business.

In closing I think Jason is right and now is the time to start structurally selling companies up To be able to execute their strategies. The importance of marketing to e-commerce can never be understated and it should be the contrarian's view and the informed view at the same time and as such has to exist alongside the e-commerce manager.