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E-commerce Directors: 7 ways to avoid getting fired

In these troubled times, everyone in the organisation is under pressure to deliver. The online channel is often seen as the saviour of many multi-channel retail businesses, and the E-commerce Director is expected to deliver. Here’s our 7-point guide to avoiding the brown envelope. Point 1/7 : Select your suppliers carefully Most e-commerce operations require specialist help provided by outside agencies, such as PPC, SEO, affiliate, email, conversion, website development and designers. Whilst these agencies will be keen to win your business, their performance and results (or lack of it) will reflect on you. Choose a partner that can’t deliver on the promises they made at their winning pitch, and you can count your days until the fateful meeting with the CEO. Don’t forget to keep an eye on significant changes at your agencies – new boss, mass departures or big client wins could all spell trouble. We know at least one E-commerce Director whose departure coincided with the sacking of a key external supplier. Coincidence? I think not. Point 2/7: Challenge the numbers Your days are filled with tightly packed spreadsheets and three-letter acronyms – ROI, CTR, PPC, SEO, but remember within these numbers lies both success and possibly failure. If you’re new to the organisation, you need to unpick each of your reports to clearly understand what they are telling you and their underlying assumptions. Even if you’re the one that set up these elaborate reporting systems go back and check that they are still being produced in the way you originally set out. Unfortunately, we have heard stories in one nameless company of no-one knowing if a particular report included VAT or not. If you are sure the numbers are right, keep challenging the team to explain variances and odd spikes. Your job is to be the detective, not a reporter. Point 3/7: Don’t be inward focused With days spent looking at spreadsheets, meeting with suppliers and running the team, a form of myopia can quickly set in. Your job is to spot the changes in your competitive landscape as well the shifts within your customer base. Looking out from your organisation, rather than inward, is key to seeing the threats to your business – and to your job. Working out how well your competitors are doing, the pressures they are experiencing and how they are responding to the economic environment is vital. Knowing a lot about their business might be more important than you think, especially if the worst does happen. Point 4/7: Ask great questions There is so much to know about running a successful e-commerce operation – and you have already absorbed more than you think. But becoming an expert in social media, campaign attribution modelling, database design and email reputation management is not your job. As Henry Ford once said, “I have people who can answer that question”. Again, it’s about seeing the wood for the trees. Your employers didn’t hire you to be a jack-of-all trades, but instead to ask great questions of the technology, marketing and people around you. Practise asking great questions. Point 5/7: Don’t forget the last mile The ‘last mile’ is the point at which customer desire becomes an opened package within their home. Whilst it’s unlikely to be your responsibility to arrange warehousing, delivery and process returns quickly, understanding the importance of fulfillment and logistics is a good move. Customer satisfaction – or delight, even – is often won or lost at the point a customer’s order is delivered. Being clear about how you can anticipate some of these issues will win you friends throughout the organisation. And you never know when you may need these friends. Point 6/7: Failing to test Whilst only 40% of UK companies have attempted multi-variate testing (despite 94% finding it valuable / highly valuable) you’ll be on a hiding to nothing if you haven’t incorporated this into your plans, and budgets. Without testing, you’ll be a hostage to gut instinct, hunches and prejudice. Not the way to run a business which offers you the advantage of measurable, trackable marketing results. But remember, it’s not the tests you run, but how you educate the organisation to respond to the results. If you haven’t prepared the organisation for some tests going against you, or worse, proving very little, then you better start get out the packing boxes. Point 7/7: Stay calm, but don’t relax No-one likes working with someone who is always on the point of a nervous breakdown. Having the ability to ride the storms is what makes for a capable leader, and you will need to draw strength for the journey ahead. But don’t confuse complacency with calmness. If you have just had a great year, celebrate with your team (and outside agencies, of course) but prepare for the worst, draw up contigency plans, identify some fat in your budgets that you may need to use. Pride comes before a fall, and your bosses won’t be sentimental about last year’s great results if this year isn’t anything like as rosy. Make sure you schedule some great things to do in your time off and weekends, but you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball. If you are E-commerce Director or manage an online team, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below

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