How To Drop The “E” From Ecommerce

Imagine that you are the vice president of ecommerce for national crosschannel retailer. If you are like most of your peers, you probably rose through the ranks of a retail IT organization, or perhaps an IT vendor. You likely report to a chief information officer, and your primary success criteria is the profitability of your ecommerce business.

Unfortunately, your role and your perceived success may be based on a false premise—that your job to is to sell merchandise on your website.

While online sales and profitability are certainly important, they may contribute far less to your organization’s overall success than digital marketing’s effect on brick-and-mortar.

For instance, your online sales last year totaled $250 million, but digital efforts influenced $2.5 billion in your retail stores. Saying that your primary success criteria is online sales is like saying that the primary success criteria for Victoria Secret’s catalogs is to increase mail order sales.

Crosschannel questions for your ecommerce website
So how much of your job responsibilities focus on shoppers who start their trip on your website? Consider these questions:

  • Do you have a feature-rich store locator that lets shoppers find stores based on criteria important to them, such as store hours, product categories and so on?
  • Can shoppers check if a product is in stock at a particular store and see the price she’ll be charged at the point of sale?
  • Can shoppers buy online and pick-up in store (as 40% of all shoppers do)? Can she buy online and have it shipped to a store?
  • Are your wayfinding nomenclatures, products names, and part numbers consistent from the website to the stores?

You should also examine whether your site features local store pages, with information about hours, special events, and departments in the store. Ask yourself if shoppers can schedule appointments with a sales associate or for other professional services offered in the store.

Do your local pages include store-specific best sellers, new products introductions, staff recommendations, and staff profiles? Do those pages promote location-based services like FourSquare, ShopKick, and Facebook Places? Can local store managers update the content on their store pages?

Also, have you verified your Google Places pages and linked them to the store pages on your site? Do you do local SEO and reputation management for each store location? Answering these questions will help you ensure crosschannel functionality on the web.

Your new role
Now is the time to redefine your job to reflect its true breadth. Goodbye vice president of ecommerce, hello vice president of digital marketing. Unfortunately, your professional background is probably not a perfect fit for your new role. Fortunately, there are things you can do to complement your background with the skills this new role will require.

  • Reach out and meet your colleagues in the marketing and merchandising departments.
  • Spend time in stores—your own and your competitors’.
  • Shadow a retail store manager for a day; ask to go through sales associates new hire training.
  • Talk to shoppers in the store.
  • When in a new city, always visit the local stores. Introduce yourself to the regional store managers and establish a feedback mechanism for the stores to tell you what they need in terms of digital marketing.

Remember, you’re no longer an IT professional; you are a merchant and a marketer. Congratulations!

Jason Goldberg is vice president of business strategy and customer experience for CrossView, a provider of crosschannel retail systems.