Snapshot : You succeed in e-Commerce by what you do and how you do it. In this article, we cover culture, which in a business defines how things get done. Get your e-Commerce culture right, and e-Commerce success follows. Culture helps you do the right things with people, your work environment and your systems and processes. Read this article to learn eight different ways to improve your e-Commerce culture.
If e-Commerce was easy, every online seller would be a millionaire. Clearly, that’s not the case though.
Understand your customers better. Create strong brand associations with them. Improve their online shopping experience. What you need to do is pretty clear in e-Commerce.
But if the what is relatively easy to work out, the how is often far harder to plan for.
How things get done is about the culture you have in your business. Culture’s how things get done. So, e-Commerce culture’s how things get done in e-Commerce.
Culture’s how things get done in business
How you do things has as much impact as what you do. How you do things includes business activities like who you hire and how you organise, reward and lead them. It includes the values and behaviours you encourage and the work environment, standards and systems that help your business function.
Get the e-Commerce culture right, and you make better decisions, have happier customers and employees, and drive more online sales.
Get your e-Commerce culture wrong though, and you get bad decisions, unhappy customers and employees and lose online sales. You create barriers to e-Commerce, rather than opportunities.
So what’s the difference between an e-Commerce culture that’s great, and an e-Commerce culture where everything just grates?
The 8 factors that make up your culture
There are eight factors that make up your culture.
It starts with the people in your team, and how you organise, motivate, reward and lead them.
From there, you then move on to set up and manage the work environment, your standards and policies, and your systems and resources.
These factors all connect to each other. Changes in one area often have a wider impact.
You need to work through them one by one, and fit them together to creative your overall culture.
Actions don’t happen on their own. Someone needs to do something. That someone might be you on your own, or a team of internal and agency people you’ve put together.
But nothing happens without people.
For e-Commerce, you need people with the right technical skills (like market research, brand development and customer experience as we already mentioned), but also other functional experts like operations, supply chain and finance.
You need to plan how those different functions will work together to deliver your e-Commerce goal. That plan’s a key part of your e-Commerce culture.
Your e-Commerce goal is usually about customers. Get more. Keep more. Get them to buy more. You need people who understand customers, and know how to build strong relationships with them.
When you recruit people, your e-Commerce culture helps define the type of person you need in your team. It’s not just their technical skills, but their ability to create solutions for customer needs. You culture should encourage creativity for everyone in your team.
When you train them, your e-Commerce culture helps motivate and inspire them to learn more about customer needs and create better solutions.
But once you have the people you need, you also need to work out how they’re going to work together.
There are many different ways to organise e-Commerce teams. It often depends on your online business model.
To organise your team, first map out all the stages of the customer’s e-Commerce journey. For each stage, work out people requirements. Work out what they need to do, and who’s accountable.
Clearly identify an overall e-Commerce leader (more on leadership shortly) who can set the direction, resolve issues and take a more holistic view.
In the team, you’ll have diverse personality styles. While this adds different thinking and energy, it also demands careful management from the e-Commerce leader.
E-Commerce personality styles
Each different e-Commerce personality style adds a different strength to your e-Commerce efforts.
Learn how to combine these strengths, and overall, you have a much stronger and better performing e-Commerce team.
You get the drive and focus on getting things done from Extrovert Thinker types for example.
You get the sociability and enthusiasm of Extrovert Feeler types.
Introvert Thinkers give you deep logical and analytical thinking that leads to smarter decisions.
And of course you also need the empathy and care for others that Introvert Feelers bring.
Your e-Commerce culture is stronger when you organise the different skills and styles to work together effectively. You have a collaborative e-Commerce culture where everyone knows what their role is, and what you expect them to do.
(see also our article about the book Alchemy by Rory Sutherland, which talks about the value of having both logical and illogical thinking in your business).
Values - Identify the right behaviours
The values you define for your brand and your business also help make clear what you expect your team to do, and how you expect them to do it.
Your values define what you believe’s important and how you expect people to act. They’re a big part of your brand identity.
Your e-Commerce culture asks people to understand and act on these values.
For example, with values like friendliness and empathy, you’d prioritise listening to customers.
Values like attention to detail and focus on expertise, would mean you prioritise offering the best advice.
And with values like speed and efficiency, you’d prioritise prompt responses to customer service enquiries.
Define what you’ll say to bring these values to life. Apply them to your tone of voice in your content writing for example. Bring them to life with symbols or icons or ways of working that make the values easy to understand and meaningful to people.
Whatever values come out of your brand identity, make sure your team understand them, support them, and feel motivated and inspired to deliver them.
Rewards - Encourage the right behaviours
Motivation and inspiration often come from how you reward people.
This can be simple and extrinsic rewards like salary and bonuses, or more complex and intrinsic rewards like publicly recognising their contribution, enabling them to master more interesting skills, and giving them more autonomy to control how they work.
Reward the behaviours you want to promote.
Reward your team for finding new online shopper insights for example.
Make it rewarding for customer service teams to fix issues when problems come up. Highlight positive comments and feedback from satisfied customers when your team have helped them. Feeling appreciated for a job well done is surprisingly motivating.
Look at who’s involved at each stage of the customer experience, and reward them for everything they do to make the experience better.
That could be any part of the customer journey. From great advertising work from your marketing agency that pulls in new customers to your supply chain team efficiently managing the last mile of the delivery.
The right rewards help people feel what they’re doing has a purpose rather than being purely transactional.
It’s usually down to the leadership team to define and communicate this purpose.
The leadership team might be one person or a committee of different functional managers.
But either way, leaders are accountable for making the overall business work. That includes the e-Commerce culture.
Leaders need to hire and train the right people, and define the organisation, values and rewards that support a great e-Commerce culture. They also need to be role models for the values and behaviours you expect.
Leadership is responsible for demonstrating the expected values and behaviours.
For example, they need to make sure everyone celebrates wins. They need to call out great performance. They need to look for and highlight customer stories.
Leadership needs to encourage e-Commerce teams to create better shopping experiences. They need to encourage teams to learn new skills, and give them the autonomy to make decisions that remove customer pain points.
Whoever leads needs to make clear who’s accountable for which decisions. This is particularly important for solving customer problems and testing out new ways to improve the customer experience.
Test and learn
E-Commerce technology lets you put ideas and concepts in front of customers quickly and cheaply. The leadership team needs to make clear that this test and learn approach is the way they want the business to work.
It can be quite a cultural shift to make decisions based on immediate customer feedback rather than internal preferences and politics.
It makes it OK that some marketing mistakes will happen, because you learn the most from those.
The leadership team sets the long-term direction for the business, so everyone’s clear on the goal. But they also need to be flexible and agile to take advantage of short-term opportunities.
Every change in the customer experience, every advert or social media post and every sales promotion is a way to learn more about the customer. It’s a way to make those experiences even better the next time.
In customer-centric business, the leadership team enpower customer service to fix problems for customers rather than count pennies and try to save money. Customer loyalty always counts for more in the long-run with successful e-Commerce culture led businesses.
There are also more tangible factors which affect your e-Commerce culture, like your team’s working environment.
Where you actually run your business for example. This could include offices, warehouses and delivery trucks. These are all part of your e-Commerce culture because the environment reminds people how to do things.
Is your business all in one place, or does it run from multiple locations?
Are marketing and customer service located where products are stored, packed and dispatched?
Clearly, most of your customer interactions take place online with e-Commerce, but what about your internal team interactions? If these take place online, how do you set up those systems to make them both secure (e.g. in terms of privacy), but also easy to access and use by relevant teams?
Consistent style and tone
You need to consider the style and tone of your internal communications. Is it consistent with the style and tone of your external communications and your brand identity. Your e-Commerce culture is stronger when there’s a consistent approach to how you interact with people, both internally and externally
With physical premises, think about the visual symbols that’ll help bring your values and culture to life.
If your product is complex, or needs demonstrations, make it easy for your team to access samples. It helps to physically have the product in front of you if you’re talking about it with a customer.
Standards and policies
Your e-Commerce culture also comes across in the standards and policies that drive your business.
So for example, the way you manage customer refunds and returns.
Some businesses choose to make this hard for customers, while others (like the online fashion business for example) make it super easy.
That’s a choice of how you do things, so it’s another part of your e-Commerce culture.
It could be how quickly you process an order. How long before it gets delivered. If you offer the option to customise or only offer a more standardised approach. These choices help define your e-Commerce culture because they’re all part of how you do things.
Systems and resources
Finally, you need to consider the systems and resources that support your day-to-day e-Commerce business.
They’re the engine of your e-Commerce.
But you need to invest resources – budget, time and people – to build and run those systems.
Resources are the fuel that drives your e-Commerce engine.
Your e-Commerce culture helps you identify the resources you need to fuel your business, and the systems that make it all run smoothly.
Set up these systems and resources in the right way, and it makes it easier for your team to focus on how they keep customers happy. That’s the end result of a great e-Commerce culture.
Conclusion - E-Commerce Culture
In a recent article we talked about how culture can drive breakthrough ideas. For most businesses, e-Commerce is one of those breakthrough ideas.
Technical skills drive what you do in e-Commerce, but e-Commerce culture drives how you do them.
The people you hire and train need to be organised so they’re united around a common goal – meeting the needs of the customer.
The values of the business and how you reward people need to work together to motivate and inspire your team.
Strong leadership skills lets people know what they need to do and feel recognised and rewarded for doing those things well.
Leadership also needs to make sure the work environment supports the e-Commerce culture and the standards and policies, and systems and resources are in place to make sure the culture stays strong.
Great e-Commerce cultures deliver better results. There’s a focus on customer needs, creative solutions and working together. A great culture improves how you do e-Commerce, and makes your team happier and more effective.
Read our guide to how to get more sales online for more practical online selling tips, or our article on breakthrough ideas for more on culture. Contact us if you need help with your own e-Commerce culture.