Generation 2.0? Ecommerce careers
As multimedia shopping giant N Brown prepares to lose both its chairman and chief executive in favour of a "new generation", we look at the way in which careers and recruitment in the ecommerce sector are changing with the times.
Announcing his intention to retire from N Brown Group, earlier this month, Lord Alliance of Manchester said that after over 40 years in the role, he "felt the time had come to pass on the role to a new generation which can continue to exploit the potential of multi-channel retailing". But what does this "new generation" of multi-channel retailers look like and where have they come from?
Denise Matthews, account director at Retail Human Resources (RHR), says that ecommerce recruitment is experiencing a relative boom in a market that has been turbulent in recent times to say the least. The reason for this boom is self-evident: the UK's online retail market is set to grow 13% in 2012, cashing in £77 billion according to IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group).
The market has exploded in recent years, with 30% of all cross-border trade in Europe going through UK retailers.
John Andrews, managing director of IMRG said: "This means that British retailers export more than the rest of Europe's etailers put together. It is a huge business - last year our research found that there were 228,000 UK online retail businesses, that's an estimated 30% more than the year before."
He added that this number was expected to double to 1.5 million by 2015, so it seems that in this sector at least we can expect to see growing recruitment for the time being.
Denise Matthews agrees. Speaking to The Appointment, she commented: "Ecommerce recruitment has become an increasingly high-priority recruitment requirement for all of our clients over the past two years and for many of them their online store is their highest performing store in the portfolio so is a critical requirement to manage it effectively."
She added that, although retailers are seeking new talent as they invest more in their online platforms, this doesn't mean they are necessarily looking for recent graduates or even that they are recruiting from within the ecommerce sector itself.
“Depending on the size and organisational design of the business the structure of the ecommerce team varies widely; it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Some businesses structure ecommerce with line management through their marketing function, some via operations whilst larger organisations have dedicated functions.
“When recruiting ecommerce for a smaller organisation the candidate needs to be multi-skilled, able to manage marketing communications, trade the site and manage relationships with the technical agencies who are supporting the site, as well as interface with logistics on the practical elements of delivering product effectively - oh and of course managing the customer journey to be outstanding!
“In larger organisations we are now recruiting candidates who have capability in both 'bricks and clicks'. This is the way forward; as a sector we need to make it possible for talented retailers to move across and become experienced in both areas as they are intrinsically linked."
Company focus: Dove Spa
Sue Shepherd - Managing director
While high street retail has been enduring some of the toughest times in living memory, the online community has been a consistent source of good news; could you describe the last year or so and your company from your perspective?
The growth of our online business has allowed us to connect with many more customers in a different way, opening up lots of opportunities to build better relationships with people who are interested in the brand. Our bricks-and-mortar business has been able to leverage this.
How would you characterise the working culture at your business?
Informal and fun but also structured and focused. There is a lot to do and everyone shares the vision about what is needed.
Describe the team structure of your business for those unfamiliar with web-based retail companies.
We have dedicated resources to support our digital activities. They deal with web development and maintenance, social media, digital marketing and optimisation of our online presence.
What would you say qualifies your business as an employer of choice?
Everyone knows everyone and shares the excitement of being part of a start-up.
What's the most exciting initiative currently taking place/set to be launched within your business?
We recently launched a beauty supplement called Strength Within, which is a truly innovative development in health and beauty. We have had to restructure our business to make sure we can optimise the commercial opportunity presented by the demand for the product. This has meant planning to upgrade our website to ensure it can meet the additional transactional demands and can represent the brand effectively.
To what extent do you recruit from the retail/hospitality industries (if at all)?
We routinely recruit from these sectors. Our experience has been that individuals from these sectors are used to hard work and can have great service and communication skills.
What roles do you most frequently recruit for?
Mostly beauty therapists to work in our spas but also managers with great selling and people skills.
What key skills, experience and qualities do you look for in your business?
Aside from the appropriate qualifications, we seek out people who have a passion for the brand, are real team players and who can get excited at the prospect of working hard to build something really great!
What advice would you give a candidate looking to make the move from bricks and mortar businesses to ecommerce?
Always think with the mind of the customer.
If you had to characterise your company's plans for 2012 in a single word, what would it be?