Why Hiring an Excellent Ecommerce Executive is So Hard

ecommerce marketing executive search expert

Worldwide e-retail sales are poised to increase 17% this year to a whopping $1.7 trillion. But many businesses eyeing a slice of the pie are encountering a common problem; they’re unable to find an expert with the technical and practical experience to lead their business to ecommerce success.

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Ecommerce is a very turbulent field right now; but it’s also a very lucrative one for those who can do it right. And as online buying grows to account for 40% of trade in developed countries over the next 10 years, having a well-developed ecommerce system is quickly turning from a luxury to a necessity for many businesses. But consumer expectations are also on the rise, and companies that can’t provide the online shopping experience their customers demand will be left with abandoned shopping carts, inactive digital stores and a weakened overall brand.

This is an incredibly complex discipline with  a huge variety of critical parts that are constantly changing, and it takes a special kind of marketing leader to manage everything and move it forward toward a cohesive vision. Those people are hard to find, and even harder to hire. Here’s why effective ecommerce recruitment is so difficult:

Economics 101

By far the biggest factor that makes locating a well-rounded ecommerce manager difficult is the fundamental principle of supply and demand: there simply aren’t that many of them, and everyone wants one right now.

Here’s the amount of online job listings requiring ecommerce skills, up through September of last year. It’s safe to say the trend has continued since then.

Image source: Wanted Analytics

Even moreso than most digital marketing roles, there remains a vast gap between the demand for excellent ecommerce experts and the availability of individuals qualified to fill those jobs.

“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, former Director Global eCommerce and current VP, Dot Com 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.”

With all the demand, experienced ecommerce managers have no trouble staying employed–you’ll rarely find one actively looking for work. That makes your ecommerce recruitment even more difficult, since it means you’ll probably have to find a way to get the attention of candidates who are already employed and convince them to work for you instead.

And as with every other service that’s in high demand and low supply, ecommerce expertise doesn’t come cheap.

Many organizations use outdated or otherwise unreliable salary guides when planning their ecommerce executive search, and then are surprised when they find the actual price tag. As ecommerce recruiters, we frequently encounter clients that have under-budgeted 15% or more for a new leader at the talent level they expect.

Proven Success is Rare

needle in haystack ecommerce executive search

Digital marketing is so interconnected with codependent parts, it’s impossible for anyone to effectively work siloed in a narrow field. But an ecommerce executive must show mastery over a staggering amount of moving parts, and very few people are able to keep up.

Beyond just standard retail principles, an ecommerce leader must understand SEO and SEM, media buying, user experience, sales, design, creative, omnichannel, social, customer loyalty and more.

In the existing pool of talent with ecommerce expertise, there is a limited amount of individuals that can actually prove their mastery and show evidence of success.

Many people with a background in ecommerce can’t necessarily tie their work into meaningful success and growth. They don’t have access to the right ROI-centric metrics—or worse; they don’t even know what they are. This makes it extremely difficult for hiring managers to determine how good an ecommerce expert actually is, and whether they’re worth the (usually substantial) investment.

Schools aren’t Teaching Ecommerce

Even colleges with renowned marketing departments are woefully behind on training their students in all aspects digital marketing, and up-do-date ecommerce education is especially rare.

Even basic online retail courses are uncommon, and related education beyond undergrad is even moreso. This means ecommerce expertise must come almost exclusively from within the industry itself, which severely limits the amount of new talent in the industry.

Furthermore, the lack of a standard degree or certification for this field means that it’s especially difficult to identify who is truly an expert. There’s no diploma an ecommerce candidate can point to as evidence of their capabilities: it all has to be earned through hands-on experience.

Geographically Concentrated Talent

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Do a little research on where the country’s largest and best-developed ecommerce companies are, and you’ll find that most of them are headquartered on the West Coast or the metropolises of New England.

There are some exceptions, but it it follows that the most talented and experienced ecommerce experts are heavily concentrated in those areas, as well. Since they’re not evenly distributed across the country’s population centers, you’ll likely have to find someone from a handful of cities in the far corners of the country—which can be especially challenging if the ecommerce executive search you’re trying to fill isn’t based nearby. The prospect of relocating talent adds an additional layer of challenges that need to be worked through.

The prospect of relocating talent adds an additional layer of challenges that need to be worked through.

Even for ambitious, career-oriented marketers, relocation can be a hard sell. There are a lot of complications and costs—both financial and personal—that need to be considered. A lot of extremely qualified talent will have second thoughts when they find out your opening is hundreds of miles away. Convincing them to uproot their lives and families poses a unique set of challenges that can’t always be overcome.

This talent concentration also has the secondary effect of inflating the costs of exceptional ecommerce talent. The locations where most of the best ecommerce experts in the country are based also have some of the highest costs of living and median salaries. Even if your job is based somewhere relatively affordable, you’ll be competing against salaries designed for expensive locations.

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