Building a Dynamic E-commerce Team

I’m thinking of building a monument to Simon Rodrigue, AVP e-commerce for Sears Canada. Why? Because of his chosen theme for the upcoming closing keynote at the eMetrics Summit Toronto. He’ll be talking about something regular readers know I’ve had a passion about for the last decade:

    Analytics in the Retail World: It is more than just numbers and reports

    OK so now you have a bunch of different data sources and a few people dedicated to be analysts but the business doesn’t seem to change, what’s wrong?

This week on his blog, Rodrigue wrote about “Building up the Team,” so I asked him about his approach to building a successful e-commerce team.

Bryan Eisenberg: Tell us a bit about your e-commerce background and some of your accomplishments.

Simon Rodrigue: I joined Sears Canada in July to assist in the continued growth and evolution of the top direct business in Canada. In this role I lead the online strategy, user experience, marketing, and online operations teams while developing a multichannel plan that will continue to position Sears Canada for the future. Before joining Sears Canada, I led the e-commerce and interactive marketing team at Home Depot Canada. [For] over four years, was one of the fastest growing online businesses in Canada and recognized as a leader in social commerce practices. In my spare time, which seems to be less and less every day, I also blog about innovative trends and events within the interactive marketing and e-commerce industry at

BE: What are the characteristics of a great e-commerce team?

SR: I think that a great e-commerce team is a combination of things. Firstly, a great e-commerce team never settles; the team needs to have a desire to drive to the next evolution, breaking through their goals and achieving more. Secondly, the team needs to mesh with the work environment, being one of collaboration; projects should be out in the open and cross-talk/unsolicited participation should be encouraged. The diversity of thought is very important.

BE: In order of importance, what are the roles/job functions you look to fill first?

SR: I would focus less on roles and more on people. Clearly it is important to define the key areas for growth/support for the business, but the hiring focus should be more on finding talent. You should always be on the lookout and if you find someone who can help your business out, then you should bring them into the organization. If you focus on a list of roles, then you sometimes miss the great people in the marketplace, those who can aid in taking your business to the next level.

BE: What if someone was starting off and needed to hire his first main player. What would you look for?

SR: This is a difficult question and one I needed to think about before I answered. What makes this challenging is that in today’s environment and industry structure, you can pretty much outsource or crowdsource all of the different components of the business at a low cost, getting a very high quality product. If you are a product company, then I would suggest that you first hire needs to be a solid merchandiser, one that understands the product category, how to build differentiation and relevance. If you have this nailed down or don’t need merchandising, then I would focus on a strong marketer. This may seem counterintuitive to the first remark on outsourcing, but I fundamentally believe that marketing should be done in-house and it pays to invest in this area. Agencies and partners can assist in the process, but your company should be in the best position to drive your business forward and should always be in control.

BE: What are the key attributes/attitudes you look for in members of your team?

SR: It depends on the role, but there are a couple of things that are key for everyone. I look for people who have a passion for the business and the industry, are strong communicators, have a desire to learn (and are always doing this), and are solid problem solvers. Although these may seem pretty basic, it takes time to find people who fit this profile. One piece of advice that I can give is to not settle when hiring, take the time to find the right people, and if you can’t find the right person, then keep looking.

BE: What are your pet peeves of today and what are your hopes for tomorrow for e-commerce?

SR: What really excites me about e-commerce is that I don’t think we, as an industry, have it fully figured out yet. Even though we have seen great growth and progress, we are still a young industry and many retailers are just starting to become aware of, let alone achieve, the potential. This just isn’t a sales or marketing channel, but a customer engagement channel, one where millions of consumers can define how they have a conversation with your brand/business. The winning players, those who will grow this channel the most, are those companies that work to further this consumer engagement and make it easier for consumers to choose to entrench themselves in these companies’ brands and/or products.

Thanks, Simon, and good luck. I know you work hard at building an optimization culture.

Join us for Post-Click Marketing: Maximizing Conversions Once Visitors Arrive, Wednesday, March 18, at 1 p.m. EDT. Presented by ClickZ Expert Bryan Eisenberg, cofound of FutureNow, this Webcast will explain how to transform your visitor’s journey from first click all the way to the completion of your Web site’s forms (both retail and lead gen) to maximize conversions.

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