Structuring Ecommerce Organizations for Growth

| By: Colette Menzel

Colette Menzel, PMP and Director of Corra PMO, Recommends Organizational Strategies for Ecommerce Growth

There’s no question about it—ecommerce has emerged as the new essential for success in retail. comScore reports that customers spent as much as $50.2B in Q1 2013 ecommerce sales, which is up 13% Y o Y (and that’s not even including mobile). As a result, merchants are constantly looking for new strategies to engage customers online, expand their online business models and, quite frankly, grow their companies. But how many are looking at their staff?

The health and prosperity of a rapidly growing ecommerce company is largely dependent upon the strength of its internal organization. While it is important to implement strategies that will engage customers, hiring, nurturing and retaining the best possible team is paramount to growth, competitive prowess and financial stability. Here’s how to do it:

1. EQ is more important than IQ.

Anyone who has had an ecommerce component to their business knows first-hand how difficult it is to find employees with substantial ecommerce knowledge. Ecommerce only emerged a few years ago, resulting in an incredibly small number of candidates that are especially knowledgeable in this field.  In spite of the limited selection, it’s problematic to hire for competency alone.

In addition to the other required qualifications, look for candidates who have a high emotional quotient (EQ) and are constantly seeking personal improvement. The focus of their internal improvement should be on intangible interpersonal qualities. This is especially true for those in leadership positions. Leaders and the project team members can’t be arrogant, entitled, rude, or insensitive. Their goal should be to be respected and trusted, above all.

A leader should also spend considerable time humbly pursuing personal growth and skill-building activities. Doing so shows a commitment to professionalism as well as a healthy stewardship of knowledge in a rapidly advancing industry.

2. Change and chaos are here to stay. Increase level-headedness and critical thinking among leaders.

Ten years ago, less than 5% of households connected to the Internet using anything other than a computer whereas now, the average American household has 5 internet-connected devices. Internet technology is advancing at an unquestionably fast rate with consumer knowledge and expectations charging right along side it.  Better said, chaos is here to stay. Organizations, especially in the ecommerce industry, will only survive if their leaders are flexible and level-headed when making decisions that involve tough choices between similar outcomes.

A paradigm shift is happening. Instead of avoiding uncertainty, people are embracing paradoxical decision-making and are leading effective change through extended periods of change management. The driving factor behind these changes is the demand for something new, something revolutionary to capture customers’ attention in the hypercompetitive online environment.

3. Create macro and micro lenses to help you evaluate the external and the internal environment to ensure a fit for your team’s structure.

Are your project teams small or large?  Do they report to a project manager, or to a department head?  Both?

Macro fit isimportant to consider when creating and implementing the structure and strategic initiatives that will help you grow your Ecommerce business.  If you are highly projectized, consider implementing a structure that gives maximum autonomy (and accountability) to the project team and the project manager.

Micro fit is helpful in creating and implementing structural relationships, such as the way your culture communicates and the technologies that support those channels. Have some long- term and short-term goals that every member of your organization understands and can contribute to on a weekly or monthly basis.

This balance between macro and micro fit is a bimodal approach that helps a fast-moving business keep measuring its success and prioritizing what’s important from what’s truly urgent.  .

4. Stick to methodologies and processes put in place. Look for buy-in and individual accountability.

With the amount of chaos that’s guaranteed in the competitive ecommerce climate, there’s great value in creating and adhering to organizational standard organizational methodology that works for your firm. The trick is to structure it with enough flexibility to handle the flux of every-day situations while providing the overall support to keep organizations and teams running smoothly.  The best methodology is one that can evolve on a day to day basis as necessary while keeping its structure intact for the long-term. For instance, if junior member of the company has a recommendation to improve a process or engage customers in a superior way, the methodological structure should be flexible enough for her/him to try that process change while being fully supported by the team and the project’s plan throughout the project.

Finding ways to do this are critical to maintaining the aforementioned level-headedness and the critical thinking skills. It’s also a way to show the outside world that your company can be trusted to be stable and able to actually deliver on its promises. Above all, maintain buy-in from all the members of your organization and project teams, because standardization of all your hard work will come only from them.  Be supportive during the process, willing to intentionally and directly enforce these values when necessary, and rewarding of every big and little success along the way.

Photo via Thomas Hawk

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