17 years within eCommerce – what Richie’s learned
We’d like to give you some insights into what it’s really like to be a part of the eCommerce sector…
As part of our series of articles revolving around ‘wisdom’, we caught up with Richie Jones, Head of Digital/eCommerce at Saltrock. We asked him what ‘key things’ he’s learned and could pass on to those within the eCommerce sector, those working in the same profession as well as the next gen of talent – beyond the actual skills it takes to do what they do.
Richie has seen the eCommerce/ digital channel emerge from an initially ignored channel to one of the most important channels in the past 17 years.
He started out in the sector on agency side, having founded and then sold Digital agency Yucca to Mission Marketing Group 4 years ago (now known as Bray Leino Yucca) having pioneered agency eCommerce Performance Marketing approaches and design and build approaches with the senior team.
He then moved client side to be Marketing Director (CMO) at private equity funded Park Resorts (£230m turnover) where he undertook a digital transformation strategy and launched the brand on TV for the first time during its highly successful foray into ATL advertising.
Richie then moved to EWM Group as Group Head of eCommerce for the £600m turn over group heading up significant online growth strategies for brands such as Peacocks, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Jane Norman and Ponden Home.
Most recently he was headhunted into the role as Head of Digital & Marketing at the privately owned Lifestyle retailer Saltrock, where he has implemented an Omnichannel growth strategy that has taken the eCom business from below 8% of the business to 22% in two years and seen 300%+ revenue growth in that time. He also launched the brand on TV and bolstered its overall marketing approach with modern marketing approaches.
Now, Richie, in an attempt to capture some of the wisdom you’ve gained as a professional so far, what are “5 stand-out things” you’ve learned within the past 17 years, while working within eCommerce?
1. Be the energy and dynamism of the business.
eCom often is the fastest growing part of a business; the last 3 roles I’ve been in have seen 300% Year on Year (YoY) revenue growth in some years with teams tripling in months at the same time. eCom, online and digital has and will continue to see huge growth. It’s also where the consumer is starting to take preference. This represents a real opportunity for the eCom/digital/multichannel team to be the thought leaders and strategic drivers of a business.
This in turn means that huge business transformations are often needed as warehouse infrastructure changes or even the brand proposition itself evolves. Lots of brands have got it wrong and missed the transformation/disruption opportunity e.g. Blockbuster Video or Woolworths but, lots have changed their business model and gone where the consumer has, e.g. John Lewis and Argos’ digital team can and need to sit at the heart of this change in strategy. It’s why the emergence of the Digital Director role or why digitally literate Marketing Directors are so important.
2. Get the basics working correctly before adding the bells and whistles.
It seems obvious but, the temptation (especially when starting a role) is to throw every single eCom bell and whistle at an under optimised strategy. Don’t – of course there are quick wins like getting a simple Conversation Rate Optimisation (CRO) strategy in place, but unless you get the basics working correctly such as warehouse resource to ensure your pick times and time to dispatch are meeting customer expectations, product photography is on par with your competitors or site image load speeds are on or above industry benchmarks, no amount of bells and whistles will improve performance. It’s like putting expensive tyres on a car thinking it will go faster when in fact the car is the issue.
3. Choose emotional intelligence in your teams over anything else.
eCommerce/Digital does have a plethora of highly intelligent and at times gifted types that can do things with Excel or in a statistical modelling package some NASA scientists would be jealous of. Whilst these skills are wildly impressive, I would always gravitate to a potential candidate that has emotional intelligence and slightly less techie skills for the good of the team. There is nothing worse than a gifted employee intent on either proving existing work wrong or just not gelling with an existing team. This is where emotional intelligence wins over pure intellectual horsepower in my book.
4. Create dialogues with your fellow Directors, shareholders and Non Exec Directors outside of the board room, especially if eCommerce is a new concept for them.
I’ve been on some very traditional boards where the average age is well north of 55. Whilst most understand the mechanics of eCommerce, the last thing you need (take it from me) is to be debating Attribution Models and their various virtues in a board meeting itself. As with all things board, the best approach is to meet with any potential board members who would benefit from a more detailed run through of an approach to something as potentially complex as attribution in a series of one to one meetings. I’ve found this approach leads to board meetings becoming more of a formality.
5. Speak in generic business speak (Profit & Loss) and never in eCom acronyms where possible.
If you can present a case to up your PPC spend in simple Profit and Loss terminology without needing to resort to click through rates, conversion rates or Quality Score you will get incremental budgets signed off very quickly. Bamboozle non eCom literate types (especially traditional finance types) and the budget won’t move and the opportunity will be missed. I’ve had to explain to a room of 50+ sales people once what Impression Share (IS) is. That’s fine if you are agency side but not so good if it’s your own budget you are having to justify.
Thank you Richie for sharing!
In case you are considering a career within eCommerce, but are unsure about what this career path could entail, this should give you an idea…