Why read this? : This article covers what IT skills are required for e-Commerce. We outline how IT supports each step in the online shopping experience. Learn the role of IT in digital media, websites, payments, order to delivery and customer service. Read this to better define what IT skills you need for e-Commerce.
IT people generally have a thankless task.
When your IT systems run smoothly, you forget the work the IT team did to make that happen. Most people assume IT just works. They don’t think about why or how it works.
Until something goes wrong, Then the IT ream is very top of mind. Angry, frustrated, impatient people queue up at the IT helpdesk demanding their problem gets fixed right now.
Like we said, thankless.
Thank you, IT
Mind you, a few of them like data capture and analysis and building website experiences at least allude to IT skills. You’d struggle to get far in those areas without IT skills.
To be fair, we didn’t forget them completely. We whinged about IT in our articles on barriers to e-Commerce and D2C challenges. But that was more about the type of senior IT person who likes to be a critic and get in the way of e-Commerce.
Most IT people aren’t like that. They’re usually helpful and come with skills you need. It’s those types of IT skills required for e-Commerce we cover in this article.
What IT skills are required for e-Commerce?
Your choice of e-Commerce channel influences the type of IT skills you need.
Simple channels have lot IT skill needs. Complex channels have IT skills needs.
The most complex channel is Direct-to-Consumer (D2C). With D2C, you directly control every step in the customer’s buying journey. As it covers the broadest range of IT skill requirements, we’ll use it as the focus for this article.
But let’s first briefly look at what IT skills might be required for less complex e-Commerce channels.
Print on Demand
You plug in your designs (on T-shirts for example), and they handle the payment and delivery.
There’s not much need for IT skills beyond knowing how to go online.
But really, that’s more graphic design than IT.
Other than that, these sites are set-up to be easy to use by anyone. Lots of templates. Everything automated. No major IT skills required for this area of e-Commerce.
Working with online retailers is more complex.
You need IT skills to set-up and manage payments and deliveries. For example, retailers often expect you to connect with their Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems.
You use these systems to exchange data on orders, deliveries and payments. You need IT skills to make sure the systems all run smoothly.
Finance and supply chain teams also need IT support in this area to set up and maintain systems to :-
- run financial reports.
- store data securely for analysis.
- manage operational processes like raw materials and finished goods.
- connect to warehousing systems to manage inventory.
- integrate with delivery company IT systems to manage delivery to the (retail) customer.
However, EDI and all these tasks aren’t unique to e-Commerce. Bricks and mortar retailers will ask you to do these things too. So, technically (pun intended), you can’t really call these IT skills uniquely for e-Commerce.
Direct to Consumer (D2C)
Where you definitely need the widest range of IT skills is when you go down the D2C e-Commerce route.
As per our setting up your own store guide, you need to be able to :-
You need to be a bit of a digital decathlete to organise and integrate all these activities. All of them have some IT requirements, though how complex each requirement is will vary. Let’s look at each e-Commerce step and see what IT skills are required.
Not a lot of IT skills required to do this. They’re set up to make it easy to pick your audience, and run your ad campaigns.
More complex e-Commerce advertising campaigns come with more complex IT skills requirements.
For example, you’ll often run A/B tests with these campaigns.
That’s where you run two similar versions of an advert at the same time. Each goes after the same target and has a similar spend.
You want to find out which performs better. Whichever one does better, you then spend more on that one, and cut the money on the other.
However, in reality, you may well run hundreds of these mini media tests. That can get complex. You need IT skills to set up software and processes to analyse and organise all that data. That analysis helps you make better decisions about your media.
You can also automate some of this decision-making with a process called programmatic buying. Here, media agencies use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to optimise the media spend for you.
You agree decision rules with the agency before the campaign starts. The system then applies these rules based on how each media placement performs. It moves money around to find the best mix of placements. Bigger e-Commerce operations (Amazon for example) may even do this in-house.
The IT skills required to set up and run your e-Commerce store website depend on which type of software you use.
WooCommerce is the simplest (and cheapest) option. It’s good if you need your store to run with a WordPress website. The same company (Automattic) runs both. WooCommerce is better for smaller businesses who don’t have complex needs. It’s fairly easy to run with only limited IT skills.
Shopify is a dedicated e-Commerce platform. It offers different levels of sophistication and cost options for small, medium and large online sellers. If your website is only for e-Commerce, it’s a good option because it’s dedicated to doing that.
Most Shopify stores are built using themes. These are layouts and frameworks which set up the basic structure of your store. You add your content, and adjust the style to suit your needs.
However, if you want to customise or build your own Shopify theme, you’ll need a developer. This IT role is skilled in writing and adapting the code that runs the website itself. You’ll need their expertise to make more technical changes on the front- and back-end of your Shopify site.
You’ll also likely require developers if you use the final option, Adobe Commerce. It’s the most advanced of the 3, and it gives you the most flexibility. However, it’s also the most technically complex (and expensive). You usually need developer IT skills to set up and maintain an Adobe Commerce store.
Integrating the website with other IT systems
Another key e-Commerce website area where you require IT skills is how the site integrates with other IT systems you use.
For example, when your website sends data to Google Analytics or other tracking software to capture visitor data.
Or, when you get an order, integration deals with how the website sends it to the warehouse. To make sure it has all the relevant details so the right product goes out to the right address.
Your website CRM system needs to e-mail the customer as the order progresses. We’ve got your order. It’s left the warehouse. You’ll get it tomorrow. It’s been delivered. We’ve all had those sorts of e-mails, right? But you need IT skills to set up those notifications.
That will also likely include tracking links from the delivery company. You usually need IT skills to make sure the link from the delivery company works in the email you send out.
The customer’s data also needs to be securely held, but also accessible by the right people. Customers may want to access details of their order online. Customer service teams may need to access these details to investigate any problems. You need IT skills to set up the right levels of access and security.
Your website also needs to connect to your inventory management system. Out of stock items need to be marked as such on the website, so customer’s can’t order them. That’s another IT integration skill.
The website also needs to connect to your financial systems. Your payment gateway for example, which we’ll come to in a second. More IT skills required to do this.
Other IT skills required for your e-Commerce store
Beyond all these integrations, you also need IT skills to help with testing your website. You work with them to identify different scenarios. Then you get them to run tests on the systems.
In addition to these e-Commerce IT skills, you’ll also need the more general IT skills required to set up and run a website. For example :-
- setting up the site on a server.
- installing upgrades.
- security and privacy management.
- managing additional plug-ins and tools.
- any bespoke coding requirements.
We mentioned earlier the website also needs to integrate with your payment gateway.
This is the part of your e-Commerce set-up which checks the validity of the customer’s payment. Only validated payments transfer money from their credit card to your bank account.
We cover how this works in our order to delivery guide. For this article, we’ll only refer to what IT skills it needs. That starts with deciding which payment gateway to use.
Setting the payment gateway rules
Next, you may need IT skills to help you set up the “rules” for e-Commerce payments on your store.
The gateway usually has a settings section which defines the types of payments you’ll accept. These work as “rules” on how customers can order products. For example, you limit the amount a customer can order. Or you don’t allow deliveries to certain locations or countries.
The payment gateway’s also where you handle refunds.
Refunds take money out of you bank account and send it back to the customer. You need to make sure only authorised people can do this. You’ll need IT skills to set up the e-Commerce refund system process and the right levels of authority to issue refunds.
Hosted or embedded
You also have a choice of whether you set up a hosted or embedded payment gateway.
With a hosted gateway, the shopper is taken to a page on the gateway’s website to make the payment. They’re returned to your site once the payment’s made. With an embedded gateway, the payment mechanism appears as a box within one your site’s pages, instead of going to a separate site.
The embedded version is a much better customer experience. It comes across as more professional and trustworthy. However, embedded gateways are harder to set up. You may need IT support to make sure the gateway embeds properly into your website. For example, you’ll need to check for compatibility issues with the software or theme your store uses.
Data security and privacy
Security and privacy is critical, because you’re dealing with sensitive information like customer credit card and bank details.
You should check the PCI compliance of your payment gateway provider. PCI sets strict guidelines on how to securely manage payments and protects online shoppers and online businesses.
You may need IT skills to set up data systems correctly to make sure your store is fully PCI compliant.
Payments to supplier snd service providers
Normally “payment” in e-Commerce means payment to you.
But as per our online store profit and loss article, you also need to be able to pay suppliers and service providers. There’s many costs in D2C.
For example, paying for digital media and your website hosting.
Then there’s payment gateway processing fees. Credit card fees. Costs to move goods from the factory and store them in the warehouse.
Then all the delivery costs. You need to pay for them to be picked, packed and shipped to the customer. There’s also the costs of refunds or damages to pay for.
Clearly you need to keep track of all these costs. You’ll need IT skills to set up your e-Commerce reporting system and dashboard with your finance team. IT can help you decide :-
- which reporting software to use.
- how to set up the capture and storage of data.
- how financial reports are produced.
- who has access to the financial data and reports.
The delivery part of the customer experience can be one of the most challenging ares of D2C.
All the steps up to here mostly happen online. It’s easier to control things that happen online.
But with product delivery, you need to make something happen offline. In the real world. The real world is far harder to control. There’s much more that can go wrong.
When an order goes into the warehouse for delivery, a number of things needs to happen :-
- the product needs to be collected to fill the order.
- the order needs to be packed correctly so it’s secure and protected in transit.
- it needs to be handed over to a delivery company.
- the delivery needs to go through the delivery companies distribution. network.
- it needs to make it through the last mile to the customer’s doorstep.
This needs to happen with every order. If anything goes wrong at any stage, you need to be able to fix the problem quickly.
Storage and preparing for delivery
There’s usually some sort of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system like SAP which is used to manage the movement of goods and orders.
It’s usually IT teams who set-up and maintain these systems. That means more IT skills based on your e-Commerce store requirements.
For example, your ERP systems usually handles your inventory system as we mentioned earlier. It’ll tell your website when products are out of stock or running low. It’ll tell you when you need more stock.
It also usually manages stock levels of the outer packaging materials you need. For example :-
- cardboard boxes.
- address labels.
- delivery documentation.
- filler material to protect products in transit.
Once the product leaves your warehouse, it’s up to the delivery company to get it to the customer. But the customer placed the order with you, and you’ll still be their first point of contact.
You need to set up with the delivery company how to keep the customer informed about the order’s progress. And how the customer can check progress if they don’t hear from you.
You usually need IT skills to set-up and manage this sharing of customer data with the delivery company.
For example, they need the customer’s name and address to deliver the product. But they also need contact details like an email address and a mobile phone number. To send them progress updates, or contact them if there’s an issue. These details need to be sent securely, but also accessible to those who might need them.
The connections between your IT systems and the delivery company IT systems can be complex. IT skills will likely be required for this part of the e-Commerce customer experience. Both to set it up in the first place, and to deal with any issues.
But if there are issues with an order, customers usually want to speak to a real person to sort it out.
But your customer service team will need access to the right systems to sort out order problems. IT skills are usually required to set up your e-Commerce customer service system.
Your customer service team need access to systems that’ll help them sort out order problems for customers. IT skills are required to set up this key e-Commerce system.
To help your team find a customer’s order details. To be able to track where orders are. And to be able to contact the relevant person in the process (e.g. in the warehouse, at the delivery company’s processing centre, the delivery driver).
The right IT set-up can make all these steps quick, easy and efficient.
You need IT skills to set up the CRM system that can handle all these e-Commerce challenges. That system will usually connect to your e-Commerce dashboard. You use that to track trends and spot issues early. It’s a key way to monitor e-Commerce customer feedback.
In the long-run, it’s all about keeping customers happy. If your key systems like order to delivery and customer service run efficiently, customers stay happy. Don’t take the hard work and expertise to set up and run these systems for granted. IT skills such as we’ve covered in this article are required to make your e-Commerce systems do what they’re supposed to.
Conclusion - What IT skills are required for e-Commerce?
IT skills are required at each step of the e-Commerce experience. They help you set-up the right technology and systems to support each step. They also help you make sure the different parts of the system join up properly.
In digital media, they help you organise and analyse the data from your campaigns. You use them to help you run A/B tests and measure results.
In the order to delivery system, IT skills are required to make sure key actions like payment and delivery run smoothly. When it does, customers are happy and everyone just works.
But when something goes wrong, the right IT set-up for your customer service team, goes a long way to helping you fix customer issues.
Priority IT skills for e-Commerce
It can be hard to prioritise the IT skills required for e-Commerce, but if it was us, here’s the 3 we’d focus on :-
- Data security and privacy – This is a must have in e-Commerce. Get it wrong and customers will never trust your store again.
- System integrations – No one system can do everything you need in e-Commerce. IT skills help you make sure all the systems connect and work properly.
- Problem-solving – At the start of this article, we talked about how IT people have a thankless task. They’re usually only called on when there’s a problem. Which makes problem-solving one of the most required skills you need for e-Commerce success.
Oh. And don’t forget to say thank you. IT skills can really help you out of a hole when you get stuck. Appreciate IT people for what they do, and they’ll help you deliver a great e-Commerce experience.