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4 C-Level Tips to Identify the Digital/E-Commerce Roles your Business Truly Needs

    E-Commerce is no longer a monolithic function

We all know that the CEO’s primary responsibility is to drive profitable business growth sustainably. Although several interlinked functions are involved in achieving this goal, a key enabler is to ensure that your organization/team always has the best people in the right roles. Whether it is to innovate products and services, develop new sales channels, improve supply chains, enhance operational excellence or manage people, optimizing the person-role fit is vital. In addition to hiring the best talent, the CEO and other business leaders must also ensure that the organization design remains aligned to respond to market needs.

Consider E-Commerce, which emerged as a distinct function two decades ago. During this time, this field has made rapid strides thanks to new technologies as well as business models. Most consumer companies now sell their products not just through their own E-Commerce channels, but also through marketplaces like Amazon. Many are embracing D2C (“direct to consumer”) business models to cut costs, boost revenues and build brand loyalty through digital disintermediation. In an increasingly digital world, business paradigms are changing in fundamental ways; incremental tweaks will not suffice to deliver the expected outcomes.

For example, selling through marketplaces is no longer just about listing products on those platforms and hoping that customers find them. Companies are investing resources to proactively manage the “digital shelf”, thereby ensuring that their brands and offers are visible to potential customers at the right times. New payment options have accelerated the creation of “ecosystems” in which participating businesses collectively target customers. Embedded fintech is expected to further change the game for many industries, including consumer products. Bundling, pricing and promotion strategies and tactics too will need to be customized to marketplaces.

In such a dynamic environment, we can see that talent with the required skills will remain in short supply and may not be available from within the same industry or geography. It is thus even more critical for business leaders to consciously prioritize their talent needs and make the right hires. This needs new and customized approaches to talent acquisition- old approaches simply won’t cut it.

Businesses need new roles in the emerging digitalized environment

A key indicator of evolution in any industry is the pace at which new, specialized roles emerge. In the past 5+ years, many companies have hired executives with strong technology domain backgrounds as their Chief Digital Officers or Vice Presidents for Digital Transformation. But increasingly, companies in the consumer products industry are rethinking what “Digital” and “E-Commerce” mean to them. Recent hiring mandates given to LS International show that visionary leaders have begun to view E-Commerce as an aggregate of specialized roles.

Expertise in technology alone is no longer adequate; neither is experience in the same category/ market essential. Companies are hiring for roles such as Digital Shelf Director, Head of B2B/B2C E-Commerce, Marketplaces Director, D2C Director, E-Commerce Supply Chain Director etc. This is simply because each of these areas needs more attention to support faster innovation and building/nurturing of dynamic ecosystems. Consumer product companies that work with multiple marketplaces have begun to hire people to exclusively manage those marketplaces that contribute significant chunks of revenue/profits. Such actions allow them to build stronger relationships and continuously co-create and tweak strategies for mutual benefit.

In the face of such flux, business leaders must quickly identify what specialist roles their various lines of business need to successfully drive digital transformation. Having done so, they must act quickly to identify and bring on board the right talent for each of these roles to create and strengthen competitive advantage vis-à-vis competitors.

How to identify the “Digital/E-Commerce” roles that are important for your business and hire the best talent

Every consumer business has its own unique evolutionary path that depends on internal factors such as product portfolio, target markets, supply chain strategies, go-to-market approaches, brand proposition, sales channels etc. The current state, including the existing technology footprint is therefore the starting point of this journey. Attention must also be paid to external factors like competitor actions. As a result, not every consumer business will need the same roles/talent; nor will the hiring priority be the same for different companies. 

Drawing on our firm’s extensive experience in hiring talent for E-Commerce and Digital roles at top and mid-tier consumer companies, we list below five actions that will enable leaders like you to establish clear and actionable talent acquisition priorities that are linked to your business.

1. Analyze E-Commerce Maturity Level

Analyze the current maturity of “Digital/E-Commerce” in your enterprise and define where you need to be in the next 6, 12,18 and 24 months. This means honestly assessing how your business uses digital technologies to engage with prospects and customers, enable discovery in various channels, fulfil orders, provide customer service etc. Examine also how well your business uses analytics to track/predict customer behavior and use the insights thus gathered to tweak products, packaging, pricing, promotions etc. Factor in what outcomes you have achieved relative to what was targeted. Based on the current and expected drivers of E-Commerce growth in the relevant markets/segments and what competitors are doing, this analysis should help clearly establish your E-Commerce priorities.

2. Segment Digital Revenue Streams

Analyze revenue streams and margins from individual channels. For example, what proportion of revenue comes from your own E-Commerce site relative to external marketplaces such as Amazon. If you sell through country-specific marketplaces in certain markets, consider those as well- especially if that is an important geography for growth of your business. Your priority must be shaped by those channels that are generating the highest profitability and show the highest growth potential. If Amazon is currently the single largest contributor to sales, you probably need someone to manage that specific relationship. You can task someone to manage all the other marketplaces and set growth targets; once these are achieved, you can look at appointing dedicated individuals for each marketplace. 

D2C may evolve into a key sales channel for your business in the years ahead. You may need to hire someone to specifically grow this channel. Relying on organic growth may allow competitors to leap ahead, and playing catch-up is much harder than taking the lead and setting the rules.

3. Identify Future Revenue Streams and Prioritize

Given the pandemic and other geopolitical trends, your sourcing strategies may need to changed. Moving to new suppliers can impact cost structures and delivery schedules. You may need dedicated people to optimize your supply networks in the new context so that costs are managed and supplies are not disrupted even as your company lives up to its commitments around environmental protection, reducing carbon footprint, not using exploitative labor etc.

Develop a business case to assess the expected benefit of this hire (this also becomes the basis to set goals for the new hires) so that there is demonstrable value vis-à-vis the high salary and associated costs of hiring. For new roles you need individuals who have what it takes to build the capability from scratch. You may not always get people with the exact experience you are looking for, so look for the best synergy from prior jobs.

4. Create an Appealing Project for your Hiring Strategy

The insights from your analysis must find their way into the Job Description (JD) and briefs to your executive search partners so that they are better equipped to identify the best talent pool to choose from. 

Work with executive search partners who understand this space and possess the expertise. Use such partners to help you understand the dynamics of the market for “Digital Talent” and also gather intelligence on what other companies are doing. Work with them to help you prioritize your hiring needs based on what is happening in the market and create JDs and thereafter, help you identify suitable candidates and select those with the best fit. Here, we mean fit in the sense of highest probability of success in your organization, and not just their track record or experience. 

Conclusion

The “Digital/E-Commerce” function is getting more complex by the day. Efficiently harnessing the potential of digital channels requires specialists with expertise in different business-technology areas who can work collaboratively together to orchestrate the organization’s strategy/plans. Hiring must be driven by the organization’s assessment of current state, its priorities, and informed expectations around how markets will evolve in terms of customer needs, sales channels, technologies etc. It must not be based on copying what others (even competitors) are doing. Given the relative short supply of talent with specialist skills and experience, these individuals will be expensive to hire/replace, so leaders must ensure that they create and nurture the right workplace environment to attract the best talent and enable them to perform individually and in collaboration with others to do justice to the business case. 

To know more about the kinds of roles that are relevant for your business or about how our approach to hiring for Digital/E-Commerce roles can help you by not just finding the best talent but also significantly reducing the time to bring them on-board, write us an email (info@ls-international.com) or call Lauren Stiebing on +34 931 760 239.

By Lauren Stiebing, Founder of LS International

LS International LLC

+34 931 760 239 / +1 (504) 270 1191

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