Retailers are no longer able to solely rely on bricks and mortar stores as a single platform for customers to engage with their brand. Consumers are increasingly demanding online shopping to access a larger range of products, faster than ever before. The ability to shop anytime, in any place for convenience, is now more desirable for many people due to the hectic nature of everyday life.
Not only does e-commerce aid the shopper, but it also allows the retailer to sell to a wider market, on an international scale. This creates endless opportunities and dismisses the need to rely on the domestic market. Especially in economically uncertain times, it can make a retailer more stable as they diversify their revenue streams. So, it is no surprise that e-commerce has developed into a fundamental skill within the retail function.
The importance of an online presence
If retailers don’t adopt an online presence, then they will simply miss out on potential revenue from consumers who shop solely online, and who value the ability to transition between online and in-store retail. Although it is widely believed that bricks and mortar stores will remain a fundamental part of the customer experience, it is also believed that online shopping will continue to grow, and anyone that does not have an online presence will fall behind.
The skills shift in the retail sector
The ever-increasing demand for online shopping has caused a shift in the demand for skills within the retail sector. Experience in online retail used to be quite a niche skill and was only relevant for retailers whose business offering was solely built online. Today, this skill is highly sought after.
The reality is that online retail is very different from the traditional in-store model. There is unlimited space, stock moves at a faster rate, there is a wider range of customers, and consumers don’t have the opportunity to physically engage with the products. If retailers ignore these challenges or don’t have the capability to tackle them, it can be very costly. Businesses know that if they can harness the advantages of selling products online that they will reap the benefits. To facilitate this, they need employees with the right knowledge and experience.
The importance of e-commerce skills
Looking forward, when employers in the sector are hiring new talent, online retail skills will be seen as a standard requirement. On the other hand, we have noticed pushback from some of our clients who are becoming concerned that the focus on the need for e-commerce skills is resulting in candidates lacking in-store merchandising experience. The result of this is retailers looking for multi-channel merchandisers who are skilled in both areas.
Attracting e-commerce talent in today’s market
Great e-commerce skills are often found in candidates with experience in retailers whose primary outlet is online. These businesses tend to be relatively new, and often forward-thinking in their culture and ways of working.
If more traditional retailers are to attract talent from these businesses, then they need to get on board with what is important to these candidates and understand the type of work environments in which they can thrive and develop their skills. Unless established retailers can move towards emulating this culture, they will struggle to attract and retain talent in this area. We are frequently meeting with e-commerce specialists who are recruited into traditionally store-based retailers to introduce new ways of working, but they often struggle to implement change. The move to an e-commerce focused approach needs to be embraced by the senior management within a business if it is to really take root in the business as a whole.
Assessing an e-commerce professional in an interview
To identify whether a candidate possesses the key skills required for an e-commerce role, it is important to discover what they have achieved in previous roles. Consider these key areas when interviewing an e-commerce professional.
- What has the candidate achieved?
- Has the candidate managed to grow or introduce a new area to an online offering?
- What is their understanding of the online customer?
- What percentage of their revenue comes from online sales?
- How do they plan on growing this area of their business in the future?
Attracting and hiring the right people in the e-commerce sector is key to success. This is why it is so important to ensure that the professionals that you are interviewing possess the skills and experience to drive positive change in your business.
At Michael Page, our consultants we are experts in the industries that they recruit. We have an extensive network of consultants working with both employers and professionals right across the UK. This insight into key business areas means that we are well positioned to match the best talent in the market with the right roles. If you are looking to hire an e-commerce professional for your business, get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today.
Manager, Michael Page Buying & Merchandising
T: 0161 829 0443