As we look to the future of eCommerce in 2021 and beyond, the basic building blocks will be the trifecta of content + commerce + community.
These three powerful components will fuel the future of eCommerce strategies across businesses of every kind.
Whether your business is digitally transformed and a leader in the space or just getting started, the basics still apply.
In this three-part series, we will break down the main internal areas of eCommerce strategy into these key components:
- People and Culture
- Process and Budgeting
- Platforms and Tracking
Today, we get started with a deep dive into people and culture and how this area will influence digital transformation in general and eCommerce strategy and execution specifically in the years ahead.
The end goal is for your PEOPLE to feel empowered to make the right choices and your CULTURE to support them in fueling your future success.
It’s not personal; it’s business. We’ve all heard this tired adage, but in today’s world, this attitude is quickly dying.
More and more companies are realizing that focusing on people leads to long-term success. After all, people make up a business, and without people, connections cannot happen. With 45% of Millennials expecting more engaging experiences with brands, businesses need to take a people-first approach to their eCommerce strategy.
A people-centric strategy is both internal and external, involving every employee, leader, and customer.
Characters of the Real World
Hire people with character and who are characters. This means recognizing and championing employees that have and want a rich life outside of work.
People have hobbies, interests, relationships, and personal goals. People show up to work amidst good times and bad times. Customers arrive at your eCommerce site or landing page while navigating the highs and lows of life.
Everything that takes place in an eCommerce world is simply a digital version of the offline world. Recognizing the needs for both employees and customers to have a rich life outside of work and outside of their digital interaction with your brand is an important part of being more people-centric.
The future of eCommerce and digital is inextricably tied to the human touch. We must build connections. We must recognize the humanity in our employees and in our customers to be successful. Many of the hot technologies like AI and Conversational Commerce attempt to use tech as a surrogate for humans.
If your strategy lacks this human focus, it is time to readjust.
Hire for Adaptability
Digital moves fast, and people who are not wired for change can struggle to keep up. Ecommerce is no exception.
The changes that have occurred in the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic have only accelerated the speed of change. Employees have been forced to work in entirely new settings. Customers have been asked to interact with brands on new platforms and in new ways. Expectations are shifting, and adaptability is key.
Ecommerce strategies must include a careful realization of the people-centric components to change.
The reality is that some people will struggle to adapt. Build a strategy around change management. Be mindful of where your employees and customers are in their change journey and plan accordingly.
The future of digital lies in quality content backed by meaningful storytelling. Everything in life is better with a good story.
Storytelling is not just about communication either. It is about setting the context for one's audience. A good storyteller can build a brand that people connect with, and having a brand people connect with is critical to successful eCommerce.
In his Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Simon Sinek says it well:
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause, or belief — WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”
If your company isn’t in the business of storytelling, it is time to change. Employees need a story they can get behind, and customers need a story they identify with. Hiring people that know their WHY will help you tell your story.
“T” Shaped Thinkers
A strong team requires broad, strategic thinkers, which translates to people that can see the big picture, but also offer particular expertise in a subject. T-shaped people have both breadth of thought and depth of skills.
To better define these characteristics, the vertical stroke of the “T” is a depth of skill that allows them to contribute to a technical or creative process. Fields here could be user experience design, SEO, or front-end development. The horizontal stroke is disposition across disciplines — primarily composed of 2 things:
- Empathy - which allows them to see the problem from someone else's perspective
- Enthusiasm - which generally refers to these sorts of people being so inquisitive and enthusiastic to learn and practice other disciplines.
Within digital and eCommerce, unlike a lot of other disciplines, there are two unique attributes to the playing field:
- There is almost always an analog version of what you are doing, and
- The specialty areas are all highly linked.
In short, you want people that enjoy continual, real-time learning, are willing to make bold moves, but do so in a strategic context. These are the future rock stars...
Customer First Orientation
Hire people that are empathetic enough to understand that while products and services must deliver value, without the validation of your customers agreeing, what do you really have?
Build a team that understands their customers’ needs, which in turn, will fuel product development through empathy. Customer obsession starts with your employees and translates to your customers.
Without a true customer obsession, eCommerce brands will quickly be left behind. In a world where consumers expect personalization, understanding your customer is more important than ever before.
In a BCG study of 40 digital transformations, companies that focused on culture were five times more likely to achieve breakthrough performance than companies that neglected it.
And, according to research by BuiltIn, 46% of job seekers cite company culture as very important when choosing whether or not to apply to a company, and employees who are unhappy with their employer’s culture are 24% more likely to quit.
Happy employees equal happy customers, making culture a central focus for any eCommerce strategy going forward.
Internal and External Focuses
Corporate cultures can be both employee-centric and customer-centric.
The former CEO of Hublot Watches, the person credited with turning around the company, often told the story of putting your people in the center of what you do. The idea was that, collectively, your people already had most of the business figured out, and all management was going to do was get in the way.
A quality culture that will drive success must create an internal and external culture of people-centric focus.
Quality employees want an open and honest work environment.
Openness might sound cliché, but it is the way of the future.
An open culture translates to less micromanagement and more room for innovation and new ideas.
Openness means a willingness to allow your employees and customers to show up to your space as their whole self. This helps foster quality relationships and contributes to more value than most think.
Decentralize the Decision-Making Process
Give your people room — room to breathe, room to be scrappy, and room to innovate.
If you have made good decisions in hiring, let your people make decisions. Decentralize your company’s decision-making process and let employees do what they do best.
Or, as the Seattle Seahawks fans like to say, “Let Russ cook!” In this case, let your employees cook.
Only decentralized, bottom-up teams can consistently generate new ideas.
Many people credit the initial success that Intel had with this cultural attribute. In meetings, Grove would ask, “How do you sum up the Intel approach?” An eager respondent would say, “At Intel, you don’t wait for someone else to do it. You take the ball yourself, and you run with it.”
Grove’s response was simple but meaningful and led to a culture in which people innovated and looked for more than just a daily responsibility:
“Wrong,” Grove would say. “At Intel, you take the ball yourself and you let the air out, and you fold the ball up and put it in your pocket. Then you take another ball and run with it, and when you’ve crossed the goal, you take the second ball out of your pocket and reinflate it and score twelve points instead of six.”
Virtue Over Value
In What You Do Is Who You Are, Ben Hortiz states: “Culturally, what you believe means nearly nothing. What you do is who you are."
Values are simply what you say your organization believes in, whereas virtues are what you do.
To both employees and customers, virtue carries far more weight than values. A company culture driven by virtue will inspire employees to take actions that lead to an improved relationship with your customers.
Hiring the right people is a critical component of any eCommerce strategy. Without a strategic, focused approach to hiring, you risk failing.
High-performance teams don’t happen on their own.
Take a meaningful approach to building your brand’s culture. Choose to hire people that will benefit both your other employees and your customers, and the profits will follow.
Build A Strategy Backed by a Strong Team
The first building block of your eCommerce strategy should focus on people and culture. Building a strong team translates to a brighter future for your business.
At Vaimo, we help brands make the right decisions to drive successful eCommerce strategies and implementations.
We believe that brands are far more than just the products and services they deliver, which is why we will always begin any digital strategy with a people-centric approach. If you are interested in learning more about creating an eCommerce strategy backed by people, talk to our team today.