Where do you find the best online chiefs?

wandaThe phenomenal growth in online business and ecommerce over the past decade has been well documented, as more and more trusted brands develop ecommerce sites consumers have become ever more confident in buying not just from John Lewis and Marks & Spencer but also from a wide range of smaller specialist retailers that only have an online presence.
But one thing remains an enigma – where do you find people who have genuine senior experience in the marketing, customer service and fulfilment activities of an online business? This remains a major challenge for brand owners and recruitment companies alike.
Skilled recruiters have had to expand the net to bring in people from complementary businesses and with relevant professional skills from elsewhere in industry.
The prime source of marketing people has proved to be the direct marketing industry, where there is a clear understanding of the methods needed to acquire, retain, segment and communicate to a dataset of customers. DM professionals also tend to have the analytical and statistical skills required to target communications, build sub-sites and to create the relevant customer journey.
In terms of customer service people, the challenge has been to retrain staff used to communicating face to face or over the telephone to primarily responding by email. While this may seem a straightforward task, what has been discovered is that the prioritisation, scripting, staff hiring and MI skills required are very different for managers than those required in your standard call centre. People with strong operational backgrounds in manufacturing have often been better hires than conventional call centre managers.
The people who have succeeded in fulfilment roles have tended to come from the catalogue industry with its emphasis on stock turnover, accurate measurement of returns and the requirements to process orders just in time, rather than people with a conventional retail and logistics background.
It just shows that while online may be booming; it is DM that is the driving force behind the most successful online brands.

Wanda Goldwag is non executive chair of True North Human Capital

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