Corona and e-commerce: what digital talent is needed here?

A conversation between Natasja Majoor (Managing Director at BrandPit; headhunter boutique within the digital landscape) and Paul de Vries (Member of the Advisory Board at Shopping Tomorrow) about E-commerce, corona crisis and the demand of digital talent.

The impact of Corona on e-commerce businesses

The economic disruptions caused by the virus are being reflected in so many ways. But in times where many areas of business are struggling, there are opportunities for others to flourish. One area of business that is helping economies stay afloat is e-commerce.

Let’s take the regular consumer nowadays as an example; there are going to be people who thought, ‘I would have never bought fruit without first checking it myself’ who now have been forced to use online groceries stores. These people have now said, ‘That’s a pretty convenient experience. I might do that more often.’

With these consumers moving online in reaction to the coronavirus restrictions, companies will need to learn how to launch or enhance their e-commerce businesses quickly. From what we see, this all starts with a strong e-commerce strategy, great digital talent and leadership within the digital landscape.

What do we see is happening now?

 “Companies with a strong e-commerce strategy in place are the current winners in this new reality” says Paul de Vries; member of the Advisory Board of Shopping Tomorrow. Shopping Tomorrow is the Digital commerce platform for all e-commerce professionals in the Netherlands which is set up by in 2013. “It is simply a matter of up-scaling to embrace their current higher demand”, confirms Paul.

At BrandPit, we hear many of our clients are looking to accelerate their online business strategy. The current climate is making many of them feel obliged to, as they either can’t keep up with the demand or they are losing e-commerce business to their competitors. Some feel it is the perfect time to strengthen their strategy to get ahead, whilst others feel its time to catch-up to their competitors with their e-commerce strategy.

“Doing nothing now will kill your business, you need to work harder and smarter then ever before”

“This the moment when the Dutch consumer experiences the online landscape of webshops” mentioned Paul. And let's be honest; they are having the worst experience ever. Consumers who try to shop online are confronted with grocery web shops that cannot handle the demand. This is both on product- and technical level. Let’s take for example the delivery times. These are outrageously long for most of them. Or let’s focus on the current infrastructures of the platforms. Most of them can’t process the number of purchases or sessions and are slowing down to a point that web shops are even temporarily down. Or how about the stock levels? Products or services are accessible but ran out of stock. And okay, some see an increase in sales but are still facing many basis issues. This is not only the case for the food sector; it’s the same for all other retailers. And my advice is: “doing nothing now will kill your business, you need to work harder and smarter then ever before” mentions Paul.

What do we see is needed now?

As we build digital teams for our clients we couldn’t agree more with this statement from Paul above. Organizations are aware that the right talent and expertise is needed in order to accelerate their e-commerce strategy. This all starts with the people in your company, they are your success.

Firstly, the people in your organization need to realize what the role of e-commerce within your company is and secondly, how they will be able to lead this change. This step to realization is the first step to take within this transformation.

“I am noticing more and more that e-commerce departments are at the forefront of how a company transforms. This really has to do with all the touchpoints and knowledge that such a department has within the company. From Technology (IT) to Finance, from Logistics to Merchandising and from (Online) Marketing to data analysis. In short, in order to be running a successful business you really need e-commerce Managers / Directors who understand what Retail 2.0 means” confirms Paul.

Many companies are behind on this topic as well; they call us at BrandPit to ask what the Digital Transformation officer / e-commerce Manager role will look like as they needed one yesterday instead of today. But the crux here is that you will need to look at the current state of your organization. Is it the correct first step to hire a digital professional externally?  You will face many challenges introducing a role as such. How will this person create leverage and is he or she able to create change? On what level is the hiring board open for change?

"Make sure you create a position that can operate independently within the organization”

“My advice is therefore as follows: make sure you create a position that can operate independently within the organization” adds Paul. A direct report to the CEO (or general manager). This should be a digital professional that is commercial yet technically minded, has managerial skills that understands how to positively stimulate people in the steps that need to be taken. And last but not least, someone who understands how data should be translated into actual measurable actions”; mentioned Paul.

See also our blog:

Within our headhunting business helping to build digital teams, we also often see that there is no budget or in depth understanding of what kind of talent is actually needed. There is no budget for larger consultancy firms to come in and advise on these topics such as digital transformation, talent development and workforce planning. Therefore a great solution could be to hire an external advisor / consultant to guide this digital transformation from the sideline.

"The demand for good digital talent is greater than the supply"

“Let me start by saying that the demand for good digital talent is greater than the supply. This immediately makes it difficult for some companies to put the right people in the right place” adds Paul. In addition, companies hinder themselves by sticking to the search for ‘ a person with many talents. These are difficult to find. It is recommended to hire external advice which I see is happening more often nowadays; continues Paul. In this way you motivate a new employee with the internal growth towards a senior digital professional and the company is assisted with all theoretical, practical and operational knowledge thanks to the support of such an “advisor”.

These professionals can strategically advise organizations on both digital and e-commerce level. Not only by advising them, but by working hands-on on making the strategy come to life. A lot of organizations I speak to are facing similar challenges, but the translation for each company is different. This is because, in the end, no companies are the same. Culture, processes, knowledge, systems and products do differ from each other. And different specialities requires different types of talent.  We must also remember that not every company has the same financial resources at its disposal. An external consultant also takes this into account. In short, if you are looking for the right interpretation with a pragmatic attitude, look for professionals who have proven themselves in day to day business.

A company like BrandPit can help you with screening your candidates and making sure you get what you need. We also work alongside our clients to make sure their talent keeps our knowledge up to speed. This is relevant for your digital strategy currently and also “post-corona”. Pay attention now to your talent strategies by hiring new talent or coach / guide your current talent through external resources. This process must be fast and needs to react to evolving circumstances. Ask yourself; does your current team have the capabilities to be part of your digital plan?

In summary, I would hope that we have helped you to think about the kind of talent that is needed for your digital transformation / acceleration during and post the corona crisis. I will leave you with some final pointers to begin that thought process:

  1. Be pragmatic with the current talent you have and ask for (external) advice
  2. Have one leader within the digital transformation / acceleration of your eCommerce strategy
  3. Look ahead and reframe your talent pipeline efforts and build your digital team ahead.

In times of crisis, there is certainly a chance to create new opportunities and get the best out of your current talent. Be pragmatic, be brave and create digital leadership.

Thank you for taking the time to read this piece & also huge thanks to Paul joining forces on this collaboration.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Paul or I.

Stay safe!

See more on this topic:

Wat is the impact of Covid 19 on Digital Professionals today?

See also a blog on what makes a good e-commerce manager anno 2020:

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