Why read this? : We share 8 different ways to improve the way your e-Commerce culture works. Learn how improving key areas like people, leadership, environment and systems helps you get things done. Read this to learn what’s needed to build a great e-Commerce culture.
If e-Commerce was easy, every online seller would be a millionaire. Clearly, that’s not the case though.
In our how to get more sales online guide, we share examples of the practical skills which help you grow online sales. For example :-
It’s not hard to work out what you need in e-Commerce. But how you make those things happen is often less clear. That’s where culture comes in. In businesses, culture’s how things get done. So this article looks at what culture means for e-Commerce.
Culture - How things get done
How you do things has as much impact as what you do. How you do things includes lots of people-related activities. Who you hire, for example. How you organise, reward and lead people. It includes the values and behaviours you promote. And how you set up the work environment, standards and systems in your business. Get the e-Commerce culture right, and you :-
- make better decisions.
- have happier customers and employees.
- drive more online sales.
Get your e-Commerce culture wrong though, and you :-
- make bad decisions
- have unhappy customers and employees
- lose online sales.
Getting it wrong creates 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?
8 culture factors
8 factors go into culture.
It starts with the people in your team. How you organise, motivate, reward and lead them.
Then, it’s about how you set up and manage the work environment, your standards and policies, and your systems and resources.
These all connect. Changes in one factor usually impact the others.
Let’s go through them, one by one.
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 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, IT, 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. Who know how to build relationships with them.
Factor this into how you recruit people. Your e-Commerce culture shapes the type of person you want. It’s not just about technical skills, but the way they think about customers. The way they come up with ideas to meet their needs. You want an e-Commerce business where everyone can be creative, and that’s easier if it’s part of your culture.
Factor this also into how you train people. Use your e-Commerce culture to motivate and inspire teams to focus on customer needs. To come up with creative ideas to meet those needs.
Next, you have to work out how everyone is going to work together. As per our e-Commerce knowledge article, the better the team-set up, the better the results they’ll deliver. (see also our e-Commerce lessons from 2020 article for more on the importance of people).
There are many different ways to organise e-Commerce teams. It often depends on your online business model.
Clearly identify an overall e-Commerce leader (more on leadership shortly). They should set the direction, resolve issues and take a more holistic view.
In the team, you’ll have diverse personality styles. On the plus side, this adds diverse thinking and energy. But the e-Commerce leader also has to find a way to make those diverse styles work together as a team.
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 which leads to smarter decisions.
And of course you also need the empathy and care for others which Introvert Feelers bring.
Your team is stronger when different skills and styles work in harmony. You have a collaborative e-Commerce culture where everyone knows what their role is, and what others bring to the team.
(see also our article about Alchemy by Rory Sutherland, which talks about the value of diverse thinking for your business).
The values you define for your business make clear how you expect your team to approach the work they do.
Your e-Commerce culture asks people to understand and act on these values.
For example, with values like friendliness and empathy, you prioritise listening to customers.
Values like attention to detail and expertise mean you prioritise giving the best advice.
And with values like speed and efficiency, you prioritise prompt responses to customer service enquiries.
Motivation and inspiration often come from how you reward people.
This can be simple and extrinsic rewards like salary and bonuses. Or it can be more complex and intrinsic rewards like recognising their contribution, enabling them to master more interesting skills, and giving them 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 motivates people.
Look at who’s involved at each customer experience step. Reward them for what they do to make customers happier. That could be any part of the customer journey. From great advertising from your agency which attracts 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 the leadership team’s job to define and communicate this purpose.
The leadership team might be one person or a committee of different functional managers.
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 which support a great e-Commerce culture.
They also need to be role models for the values and behaviours you expect.
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 which fix customer pain points.
Whoever leads has to make clear who’s accountable for which decisions. This is particularly important for solving customer problems and testing 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 this test and learn approach is how they want the business to work day-to-day.
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 advertising campaign 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.
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?
You need to consider the style and tone of your internal communications. Is it consistent with your external tone of voice and 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. These might be as basic as logos around the building. But they can also be more clever like Amazon’s famous empty chair for the customer. (see our customer feedback article for more on this).
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 which drive your business.
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 which 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 which drives your e-Commerce engine.
Your e-Commerce culture helps you identify the resources you need to fuel your business, and the systems which 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 how to get more sales online guide for more online selling tips. See also our creating a more creative culture for more on culture. Or get in touch if you need help with your own e-Commerce culture.