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Ecommerce's most wanted

We may be used to hearing about the technical and production skills gap, but in the booming ecommerce sector is recruiters’ demand for talent far outstripping supply?

Drapers illustration

Of UK internet shoppers,70% have bought clothing and footwear online in the past year - a figure which is set to grow as overall online retail sales
are expected to double in Europe to £259bn by 2019, according to market research firm Mintel.

As consumer behaviour shifts, the skills needed by fashion retailers are changing at pace, with the demand for digital capability high on the agenda. So, is supply keeping up with demand?

“Filling ecommerce roles is challenging, because it’s a growth market and there are only a finite number of resources, so we are all competing for subject matter expertise,” says Jacqueline Smith-Dubendorfer, platform and consumer experience director for ecommerce at Adidas Group. “Then you start to layer on additional requirements, such as relevant background experience, and the pool gets smaller. It’s very competitive.”

Harveen Gill, founder of recruitment firm HGA Group, agrees that not only are digital resources in demand, “but that actually technology is moving at a pace where role descriptions and structures are not ‘best fit’ with the changing face of how the customer wants to shop.”

At the top, ecommerce directors are challenging to find within fashion retail, as the online space - and the roles - become more complex. Alex Pescott, chief executive of Fusion Associates, a global executive search provider, says the remit for ecommerce directors is growing. “We’ve noticed over the last few years that [retailers] now expect those people to have a greater breadth of knowledge - more in-depth technical knowledge than perhaps would have been expected in the past.”

He cites extensive experience with web analytics platforms such as Omniture and Coremetrics, as well as with search marketing optimisation (SMO) and user experience (UX). Pescott says the lure of contract working makes securing such talent even tougher. “Salaries range from £90,000 up to £180,000 for experienced ecommerce directors, and we’ve also noticed that some of these people are now choosing to go freelance and command £400 to £600 per day instead.”

Deepak Saluja, director of digital and marketing recruitment at Success Digital, part of retail recruitment consultancy Success Appointments, says a key trend over the last six months has been the demand for UX specialists, “in particular, UX developers, interface designers and people who can make sure that the user experience and customer journey across the website is flawless”.

While many brands have outsourced this to agencies in the past, this is changing as its importance grows. Smith-Dubendorfer says finding UX skills is tough. “It is a growth area that more brands are taking in-house, with less reliance on third-party providers. User experience specialists know they’re in high demand and in low supply, so they can command high salaries.”

In the same way that Pescott sees a growing number of ecommerce directors seduced by the benefits of contract working, UX specialists also find this attractive. “They love to be freelance because they know they are sought after and they like to have the flexibility to work with multiple brands on multiple projects,” she adds.

This is a trend that Saluja is also seeing - and one which is causing additional headaches for retailers. “A typical user experience designer on a permanent salary would command anything from £40,000 to £55,000, but on a contract basis that same person would command anything from £500 to £700 a day, so even at £500 a day you are looking at a salary of £130,000. There is no motivation for that person to go permanent.”

Analysts are in demand as data plays an increasingly important role in multichannel business. Saluja says Success Digital now looks outside the retail industry for talent, something that fashion brands are opening their minds to. “We are looking at sectors that are a little ahead of retail within the ecommerce field - for example, travel and gambling.”

Menswear specialist Moss Bros is searching outside the fashion industry for talent, most recently for analysts. Its ecommerce team has tripled from four to 12 people over the last couple of years, with plans to grow by another four people in the coming year, including mobile and UX roles.

Ecommerce director Neil Sansom says the retailer often trains and develops people in-house. “The ecommerce market as a whole carries a premium and there is a scarcity of good experienced resource, so we tend to look to universities. A couple of our analysts are bright graduates who have the right sort of brain and we have really embedded them into ecommerce where they haven’t had any previous experience.”

luxury heritage business Belstaff, owned by Jimmy Choo owner Labelux, is another brand that has seen its ecommerce team grow significantly in the last year or so. “When I joined 14 months ago, there was pretty much no one directly at Belstaff with responsibility and accountability for ecommerce,” says Alison Conway, global director for ecommerce and digital.

The company now has a team of seven “and growing”, with analytics one of the areas in which Conway anticipates roles being created next year. “I would certainly look outside the industry depending on what I need. Data analysis and analytical roles wouldn’t necessarily have to be [people from] a fashion background. To a certain degree, if you have analytical skills you can apply those to any industry.”

Conway says she has been able to fill ecommerce roles through her network of contacts to date, but she is looking to take on a customer relationship manager over the next year, something she doesn’t anticipate being easy. “I’ll be looking for someone who has experience both in store and online and is comfortable working with high-end fashion retail and store teams,” says Conway. “I will start looking in my network, but if I’m not seeing the quality of candidates, I will go to headhunters for that role.”

Smith-Dubendorfer anticipates an increasing reliance on customer relationship management (CRM) skills as well. “Obviously, companies want to shift from paying lots of money to acquire customers to make things more efficient, as well as driving retention, so the areas of SEO and CRM are big growth opportunities and will demand more people with those skills.”

It is a space that is only likely to get tougher as technology continues to rapidly evolve and channels proliferate. Generalist digital skills are no longer enough. As Sansom says, “I’m not sure I can see a horizon where there won’t be a scarcity of ecommerce resource.”

Ecommerce’s Most Wanted

User experience designer
£40k to £55k + up to 30% bonus

A user experience (UX) designer makes sure the navigation functionality for the website is right and ensures that the user ‘flow’ - or journey - is efficient. The role straddles information architecture and design, and requires skills in specific wireframe tools, such as Omnigraffle, Balsamiq and Axure.

(Source: Success Digital, part of retail recruitment consultancy Success Appointments)


Omnichannel director
£135k to £160k + up to 40% bonus

This person needs a true appreciation of what is needed to achieve a seamless strategy across all channels, taking in every touch point from high street stores to call centres and online, including mobile and social media. The omnichannel director is responsible for enabling the business to achieve a single customer view, ensuring customers have a consistent and complementary experience with the
brand across every channel.

(Source: executive search and selection firm Veredus)

E-fulfilment director
£115k to £140k + up to 40% bonus

With the growth of ecommerce and m-commerce, the role of the e-fulfilment director has changed, and this person must now oversee the supply, demand and delivery of stock across numerous channels, in an environment where click-and-collect and same-day delivery methods are impacting supply chains.

(Source: executive search and selection firm Veredus)

Optimisation and conversion manager
£55k to £65k + up to 20% bonus

Fashion brands want to identify which routes to the consumer are providing
the best returns on investment, particularly as more consumers go online. As a result, the position of the optimisation and conversion manager has been created. This role requires an individual with the ability to analyse key data, such as conversion rates, across all devices, channels, markets and segments.

(Source: executive search and selection firm Veredus)

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