I kind of fell into the e-commerce business, as did many of my peers. I didn't go to school for it, since degrees in e-commerce didn't exist back then. (Yep, I'm that old. One of my college papers was on "the information superhighway"!) I graduated with an American Culture degree from Vassar...I'm not sure what I thought I would do with that to make money, but I was smart, and good with technology and marketing, so e-commerce ended up being a really good fit. In any case, I started doing online marketing almost twenty years ago, and just never really stopped. Along the way, it turns out that e-commerce brings together things I'm passionate about—customer experience, technology, and building great products and businesses--so I was very lucky.
Over the years, I've held key e-commerce and marketing leadership positions in a variety of industries, at some of the world's leading consumer brands, including Guitar Center and Musician's Friend, A&E Television and The History Channel, and PennySaver. My job at all of those companies, at the end of the day, was to grow revenue. Now, I'm at Oracle, doing something a little different. My role is not to run a business, but to use my many years of client-side experience to help bring the customer point of view into the product strategy and development process for Oracle Commerce, Oracle's enterprise software offering, so that we can build better products. (For those of you in the biz, it's the integrated stack that now includes ATG and Endeca.)
The thought occurred to me that many people actually don't know what it's like to manage an e-commerce business, so I've created a short, 4-minute video called A Day in the Life of an E-Commerce Manager, to give the person watching a sense of what 's involved and to illustrate a few of the key challenges e-commerce managers face. To do this, I focused on a handful of common scenarios I've seen played out over and over in my career.
The video is meant to be entertaining, and not at all critical--heck, I think I've played all of the roles portrayed in the video, for better or worse. And for those of you who are e-commerce managers yourselves, I hope you'll find something to appreciate here. Lastly, because it was a video I was making from scratch, I gave myself license to use zombies. Yes, you heard that right. (At first, I planned to make a stop-motion animation film with music from the movie, Brazil, until I realized just how long that would take. Plus, I figured the legal rights just *might* be an issue. So, zombies were my creative compromise.) :)
- It's all about the numbers. There is a tremendous amount of pressure within organizations to hit numbers every day. Sales is the number one driver and typically trumps everything else—whatever was planned that day, any planning sessions for the future, and sometimes even common sense.
- It's not just about the website anymore. All marketing activities have to be synced with whatever on-site activities are occurring. The complexity grows as other channels are considered, but grows exponentially as you start to bring in concepts like personalization, real-time recommendations, multi-channel customer segmentation, and a/b testing. All this can become an internal pain point as different groups within an organization are unable to “see” what is happening on their own website and related planning efforts and production times increase substantially.
- Promotions aren't made in a day...or even in a week. Technology vendors tend to focus on the tool itself -- "It's easy to build this promo (or campaign or email or what have you) and it only takes 5 minutes!" While that may be true, the actual end-to-end process of creating and launching a promotion can take weeks. The promo checklist I came up with has 50+ steps or decision points that need to be figured out or produced to get a promo live (and many of those steps have sub-tasks). Promo planning in an organization is often long, frustrating, and involves many stakeholders. Launching an unplanned promotion is usually even more difficult and can show real gaps in internal processes.
There's a lot more to e-commerce than what's in the video, of course, but I hope it gives a little bit of insight into what can be a high-pressure, complicated job. If you've never been involved with the ins and outs of an e-commerce effort, you may not realize how challenging a job it is, or how stressful it can be. It's also a lot of fun, too, though. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have stuck with it all these years!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. I worked hard on it and think it is at least somewhat educational, which is the reason I'm sharing it in the first place. Even if you don't learn anything, my fingers are crossed that you'll have a good laugh. Enjoy the show!
N.B. My friend, e-commerce recruiter, Harry Joiner, recently used the video in one of his new job postings. Let him know if you or anyone you know wants to move to Greensboro, NC and fight the good fight!