What It Takes to Build an eCommerce Team From Scratch, And Key Roles You’ll Need To Fill

eCommerce is the fastest growing segment of the retail market and entrepreneurs from legacy brands to online startups are racing to capitalize on the digital gold rush.

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eCommerce is the fastest growing segment of the retail market and entrepreneurs from legacy brands to online startups are racing to capitalize on the digital gold rush.

While eCommerce presents expansive growth opportunities, it requires human resources and infrastructure that differ from traditional brick-and-mortar or wholesale businesses. Managing your company’s human resources effectively requires a lot of work that may differ from your brand’s core business.

What it takes to build an eCommerce team from scratch

1. Determine your staffing size

If you are a digital-first company looking to scale, it’s crucial to accurately determine your staffing needs. This means knowing which roles to hire for, when to do it in the life of the business, and where these employees should be located.

2. Identify Your HR investment

If you own or manage a growth company, the people you need to run your operation can multiply quickly. In midsize organizations without an HR department, company leadership will need to devote significant amounts of time finding the right hires and training them. The hiring needs of your organization will fluctuate with the scale of your business, the goods you sell, and where you operate.

3. Distinguish between in-house and contract talent needs

While you may be able to cut costs by hiring contractors to perform services that you only need on occasion, outside help isn’t always available when you need them most. It is essential to distinguish jobs that should be kept in-house from those that you can outsource to contractors. eCommerce marketing requires a significant human resource investment, so determining when to contract out marketing talent or expand your team will also be critical.

4. Consider what resources you’ll need for onboarding and training

When you make hires, it’s important to account for the time needed to train them. This can also take time away from senior members who could be focusing on strategy and growth.

5. Plan for ongoing HR management

Once you build a team, it’s equally important to manage tasks efficiently, ensure different departments aren’t isolated in silos and be ready for market fluctuations that influence consumer demand and your staffing requirements. As your team grows, managing people, cultivating corporate culture, and building relationships becomes increasingly complex.

Here are the key roles you must fill to build an effective eCommerce team:

1. Director of eCommerce

  • Responsible for overseeing the entire eCommerce operation and making sure that each team member or department is doing its job.
  • Tasks include: overseeing buying, web sales, contracts, managing partnerships, reporting, contributing to strategy decisions, budgeting, and generating P&L statements.
  • For smaller companies, the Director of eCommerce is responsible for carrying out additional core tasks rather than overseeing other employees.
  • Additional tasks can include aspects of digital marketing and site administration.

Before hiring a director of eCommerce, it’s crucial to know what tasks will be handled by other team members and which ones the director will be responsible.

2. Web Developer

  • Responsible for making both front-end and back-end alterations to create the customizations you are looking for.
  • Develops both the core functionality as well as the consumer-facing design.
  • Is expertly acquainted with eCommerce sites, plug-ins, integrations, emerging functionalities, and trends in both online eCommerce, platforms, and user experience.
  • Well-versed in mobile integration and responsive design.
  • Smaller companies may not need a web developer in-house, but all companies regardless of size require in-house talent capable of making occasional alterations and updates.

In eCommerce, your website is your storefront; therefore, it’s essential that your site is easy to use and efficient to manage.

On a foundational level, this means it should be aesthetically pleasing, process various payment types, and offer multiple search and filtering options. Additionally, your site should be able to support the complexity of your product or service catalog, connect with your inventory management system, and generate financial reports.

Experienced web developers can charge $100 to $150 per hour or more. Inexperienced hiring managers run the risk of unexpected dev times and costs. Be sure to accurately account for these variables.

3. Digital Operations Manager

  • Ensures that the website works seamlessly from the shopper’s perspective.
  • Responsibilities include inputting and monitoring SKUs, ensuring that all product listings are displayed properly, verifying discount code functionality, and assessing load speed.
  • Monitors the customer’s journey throughout the digital shopping experience, A/B tests layout options, and performs other duties related to user experience and customer experience.
  • Works closely with the inventory team to ensure that front-end sales numbers match inventory accounting.

Essentially, the operations lead oversees the business’ content management system (CMS) and makes sure that all user interface options operate seamlessly.

4. IT Technician

  • Helps your team members properly utilize the business’ digital infrastructure.
  • Links information online with inventory and logistics teams to efficiently move and monitor merchandise.
  • Responsible for data storage and security.

5. Logistics Manager

  • Ensures that bulk orders from your manufacturer are safely transported to your warehouses.
  • Manage customs clearance for international shipments, transport insurance, and quality control.
  • Operates last-mile fulfillment by monitoring business’ owned delivery fleet (requires a logistics team) or managing relationships with third-party delivery services.

While the eCommerce shopping experience takes place online, getting products to customers happens in the physical world. The core responsibility of the logistics manager is to assure that you get your goods from your manufacturers and your customers receive their shipments in a timely fashion.

6. Inventory Manager and Team of Inventory Associates

  • Directs the flow of merchandise.
  • Ensures that information from the digital operations manager matches the inventory of physical products in storage.
  • Inventory manager manages team of inventory associates.
  • Inventory associates are responsible for wrapping and packaging goods, organizing inventory, clerical duties, and moving products to the logistics team for fulfillment.

While smaller organizations may be able to get by with hiring a single person for each of the aforementioned roles, this department will most likely require multiple people.

7. Digital Marketing Manager

  • Responsible for bringing traffic to the site, meeting ROI goals and strategizing about campaigns.
  • Oversees key marketing functions such as content creation, SEO, SEM, copywriting, social media, digital ads, email. marketing, and other core tasks often performed by other members of the marketing department or third-party agency.
  • Coordinates with web developer and digital operations manager to ensure that marketing strategies such as loyalty programs, discounts, and rewards are seamlessly implemented into the site and user experience.

eCommerce companies typically utilize paid search campaigns, social media, email, affiliate programs, influencer marketing, and programmatic strategies to build online brand awareness and earn customers.

8. Customer Service Representatives

  • Responsible for processing returns and handling customer complaints via email and social media.

Customer service in eCommerce verticals varies from that of other industries as staff don’t typically encounter customers face-to-face. Instead, eCommerce brands hire staff to use live chat, answer phone calls, and deploy chatbots to correspond with customers. Therefore, it’s essential for eCommerce brands to build a streamlined digital process for customer service to coordinate with inventory, logistics, and returns.

9. Finance and Accounting

  • Oftentimes outsourced to a third party.
  • Depending on organization size, eCommerce brands may hire an individual or a small team to assist the Director of eCommerce with budgeting, market speculation, and P&L reporting.

Finance and accounting operations become easier when a business’ website is designed to keep a compiled and up-to-the-minute list of revenue and expenditures.

10. Business Analyst

  • Responsible for key strategic decisions such as how to enter new markets, the development of new products, and means of growing the business.
  • Typically filled by senior-level consultants or experienced industry veterans.

International expansion is changing eCommerce

The proliferation of both the internet and mobile data networks around the world are leading to an expansion of international eCommerce. To thrive within the changing global landscape businesses must have flexible infrastructure both online and offline.

Flexibility is crucial to building an eCommerce team. This includes the flexibility to increase inventory storage and process thousands of orders a minute in times of high demand. It also means having the option to increase inventory staff during peak demand. It also means having the option to increase inventory staff during peak demand and operating with a  lean team during low periods. Equally crucial is the ability to manage multiple currencies and payment preferences in addition to storefronts in different languages.

As you scale your business to sell in international markets, you need to scale the capabilities of your staff. This often means adding more people to manage the increasing complexity of your business. Ultimately, flexibility is crucial to building an eCommerce team.

Benefits of partnering with a full-service eCommerce provider

It can take a substantial amount of time and money to hire, let alone find and recruit, quality team members for an eCommerce company.

Reliability and trust are essential to building a top-performing team. There’s always a risk that a hire doesn’t have the skills needed to perform core tasks. Uncertainty in growth forecasts also pose an operational risk when you have a large staff, a transportation fleet, and a warehouse infrastructure.

Working with a full-service eCommerce provider like Scalefast takes the pressure off your business to find, recruit, and hire the talent needed to launch an online DTC channel. Instead, by partnering with us, brands can effectively “rent” our online eCommerce platform, with end-to-end support from customer service and fraud protection to fulfillment and logistics, to have both peace of mind and a competitive advantage. Our vast logistics network, global warehouse facilities, web development servicesAI-powered personalization and internalization expertise can significantly reduce the number of staff you need.

What’s more, our flexible partnership structure provides predictable pricing, reduces the risk of customer churn, unused warehouse space, and idle inventory staff.

Benefits of using an enterprise eCommerce solutions partner:

  • Reduces upfront capital expenditure
  • Minimizes the risks of expanding into new markets
  • Saves businesses time and money by helping them to run a lean team
  • Provides expert insights into industry trends
  • Affoords businesses the time to focus on their core business, not HR needs.

Learn how to compete for the future of eCommerce

Beyond human resources and internal talent, DTC brands need to make considerable investments across five main areas of their business infrastructure. From international taxation, payment processing, legal obligations, branding, and logistics, DTC brands have to win them all to compete in the arena of global eCommerce. 

To learn how to go global with your business infrastructure and meet these complex challenges, download our guide to international eCommerce below.

Discover the areas of international expertise to prepare for
ahead of expansion

Crossing Borders: A Guide to International eCommerce

Download the White Paper


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