Selling online is no longer a choice—it’s survival. In order to be successful, though, you need to have the expertise and resources necessary to assess the competitive landscape, build plans, and execute better than your competition. None of this happens without the right team.
As a starting point, it helps to understand what a winning eCommerce team looks like. Whether big or small, a strong team will combine these five fundamental capabilities:
Marketing and Creative
Getting your product online is easy—driving sales is much harder. On Amazon alone, there are about 6 million sellers, and only 0.5 percent sell more than $1 million per year. It’s your eCommerce marketing and creative team’s job to get people to your item pages, engage them, and to drive conversions.
Just as traditional shopper marketers know how to use endcaps, signs, or product demos to drive in-store sales, your eCommerce marketing team should understand what tools are available (on each retail platform that you use) and in which situations they will be most effective. In order to make these decisions, your team must use know how to use data to assess the competitive landscape and adapt your marketing strategy in real time. This is not just art - it's science!
Marketing and design have always gone hand in hand. Your design team should be able to produce compelling visuals that express your brand and explain your product benefits online. Every type of design project brings unique considerations and requires special expertise. To be effective, your eCommerce designers must understand the nuances, requirements, and constraints of each type of project and eCommerce “space.” For instance, they should know how to create a main product image (MPI) that gets you noticed, how to bring your brand to life on an Amazon A+ page, and how to design an experience to drive action.
Merchandising and Promotion
Should you be using coupons, discount codes, or both? Is that big Father’s Day promotion your retailer has been selling worth the money? What would it take to get Q1’s new product launch featured on a Walmart. com baby category page? How should you allocate promotional spend across this fiscal year?
When it comes to merchandising and promotion, there’s a never-ending list of complex questions to answer. You’ll need experts to help provide informed, data-driven answers and tailor solutions. Without this expertise, you’ll miss opportunities to drive visibility—or, worse, you’ll risk investing in opportunities that don’t move the needle for your brand.
In eCommerce, IT is the glue that makes everything work together. On a basic level, your IT team is responsible for making sure that the front end of your eCommerce store ties in to your back-end systems (and that connections between your retailers’ sites and your own systems are wired properly). It also helps ensure that everyone on your team has the visibility they need to make informed decisions by setting up reporting dashboards and other analytic tools. Finally, your IT team should help you select, implement, and maintain mission-critical capabilities, including payments, accounting, customer service management, and much, much more.
Every company’s IT starting point and goals are different. As you consider how to assemble these capabilities, you’ll want to assess the pros and cons of building in-house capability vs. hiring external help. If you don’t know where to start, an eCommerce strategy firm can help you build an actionable plan that aligns with your company’s objectives.
Depending on your approach, eCommerce fulfillment may require a whole new set of supply chain capabilities. If you’re only shipping in truckloads to distributors and retailers today, figuring out how to fulfill individual items to consumers will be quite a challenge. In addition to designing new processes, you may also need to make fundamental changes to your packaging (and then test said packaging). Forecasting demand for your eCommerce items will also present new challenges, especially if you decide to take on marketplace selling, where the rules are very different.
You’ll need to answer questions like ...
- What shipping and fulfillment partners can help you execute the product journey from your warehouse to the shopper?
- What systems will you use to plan and track your inventory?
- How will you manage returns and exchanges?
How you address the supply chain will change as your business scales. Early on, for example, it may make sense to focus exclusively on fulfilling with a 3PL partner. As you grow, however, you may decide that you can achieve more control and better costs with an in-house solution.
Getting External Help
Once you've assessed your internal capability and needs, you may be lucky enough to find that all of your existing in-house resources are up to task. If not, though, you may determine that you need external help to get the job done for some or all of these key capabilities. In addition to being the fastest route, this can also be the most cost efficient and effective - the right experts can save you from costly mistakes and uncover options that can propel you further than you ever expected.
Choosing the right partner is a big challenge but it can be a lot easier if you know the right questions to ask. Our leadership team has signed millions of dollars worth of eCommerce contracts on both the buy and the sell side of the equation. We've written our new checklist, 8 Tips For Selecting The Best eCommerce Partner, based on our experience . Please enjoy it and best of luck to you as you grow your eCommerce business!