The online shopping space is exciting and challenging at the same time, and those who want to follow a successful career in e-commerce, will need to keep up with the pace.
E-commerce, e-business, e-tailing, e-marketing, e-fashion, are just a few “e-buzzwords” that are making the rounds in the fast-paced sector that is online shopping.
Retail in South Africa is big business. In fact, to put things into perspective, the sector is so big that South Africa is said to have the 6th highest number of shopping centres in the world – that’s more than 2000 shopping centres!
Karen Dempers who works for one of South Africa’s leading e-commerce companies gave us tips on what it takes to make it into e-commerce. “It’s a highly competitive and tough business,” Karen says. You’re constantly challenged, and you need to be ready innovate and explore new opportunities all the time.
So what exactly is E-commerce?
Simply put, e-commerce is the buying and selling of products and services online using internet technologies. E-commerce specialists work with brands or companies to ensure that all internet endeavours of a business run smoothly. By measuring the traffic on a company’s website, e-commerce professionals are able to analyse sales data, and can conduct online marketing initiatives including paid ad placements, email promotions and affiliate programmes targeted at their key consumers.
What do you need to do to get into the field?
If you have experience in retail, you already have a head start
The good news is you don’t need a specialist degree in e-commerce. In fact, because e-commerce is still relatively new, not many universities offer it as a module, let alone as a main stream of study. “In terms of capabilities and credentials, how much of an e-commerce background you need, will depend a lot on which part of the business you work for. For instance, in one business you’ve got fashion experts, buyers, planners, business intelligence, finance people, tech people, product managers, marketers, call centre agents – it all depends on your job,” Karen suggests.
However, what will stand you in good stead is experience in retail. E-commerce employers are looking for candidates who can demonstrate an understanding of customer buying patterns, product demand and merchandising.
Do your research and find out where the demand for skills lie
With sales in publishing dwindling, there is an upsurge in the need for skilled online writers. Online shops need content producers and editors who can create content which can grab consumers’ attention and keep them wanting more.
Product descriptions need to be cleverly written to entice buying (because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about). In addition, communication channels, such as emails and blogs need to have excellent editorial features and multimedia content needs to deliver a message that speaks to the right audience.
Have a thorough understanding of all things Internet
In online retail three things are important: getting people to visit a brand’s website, getting them to buy something they’ve seen on the website and getting them to come back to buy something else again. “You should definitely have a passion for the internet, and you need to be someone who is very connected and very integrated with the internet because it’s very challenging to understand the world you operate in if you’re not passionate about it,” Karen says.
So should e-commerce people have their phones stuck to their faces all day? Yes, probably! Unfortunately, an obsession with the internet and technology is important, as well as a belief that online retail is the future,” she adds.
To be ahead of the curve, e-commerce companies also need people who can interpret stats. Companies need to know how users behave; how they find a website, how long they stay on the website for, what pages they look at, and ultimately, if anything is purchased. An analytics page usually keeps track of this information.
How much do you know about the industry?
Nothing impresses a potential employer more than demonstrating your knowledge for the company. If you’re really serious about getting a career in e-commerce, follow a company of choice and make an email application directly to their e-commerce head of department. Impress him or her with your knowledge of the content used on their website, their product range and recent marketing initiatives. It’s important that you follow the company religiously before making contact.
What you’ll get out of a career in e-commerce
“E-commerce is exciting and there are lots of opportunities to learn. You have the potential to develop skills that are globally relevant because if you can digitally run a Google account here, you could arguably run a Google account in Paris, London and almost anywhere else in the world,” Karen says.
Of course, fast-paced means long work hours. But if you’re passionate about the industry, Karen asserts that the experience will be incredibly rewarding. “You’ll very seldom have to do the same thing two days in a row, and you’ll never be short of an opportunity to think and innovate because half of what you’ll be doing will have never been done before, so you’ll constantly be trying out new things.”
There’s also an opportunity to work with very diverse people. In some businesses, you get stuck working with all the same types of people. But in e-commerce, to have a techie, product team, and fashion director all in the same space, makes for an interesting and fun place to work.”
Sound like your kind of scene? E-commerce companies such as Takealot and Amazon are always on the lookout for smart people who are passionate about the industry and dedicated to growing with the company. If you’d like to get an educational background first, Udemy has many online short courses to kickstart your career in e-commerce.