The strength of any business hinges entirely on its employees. Building a successful ecommerce team ensures you run a smooth operation, provide a top-notch customer experience and stay ahead of the competition.
This means finding the right talent sources, providing a supportive onboarding experience, clearly defining roles and expectations and offering growth opportunities to retain employees.
The ecommerce industry constantly evolves, and your team needs to adapt quickly. Building a customer-focused team that embraces data-driven decision-making will keep you ahead of the competition.
With ecommerce sales slated to grow 8.9% in 2023, according to Insider Intelligence, it’s a prime opportunity for ecommerce businesses to capture market share.
The most important hiring decisions you’ll make are for roles in your marketing and operations teams. Marketing teams promote the business, build brand awareness and acquire customers
Without them, no one will know about your product and you won’t generate sales.
Meanwhile, operations teams oversee the day-to-day management of the business, including logistics, inventory, order fulfillment and customer service. They’re the team that “keeps the lights on.”
Here’s how to build a winning, cost-effective ecommerce team that’s invested in customer satisfaction and operational excellence.
Each team member plays a crucial role in ensuring the ecommerce business runs smoothly. Here’s a closer look at the job functions for each role.
As the ship’s captain, an ecommerce manager — or director of ecommerce — implements strategies to ensure the business is profitable and customers remain satisfied.
They oversee all aspects of the business, including the following:
Marketing management: Overseeing marketing managers and campaigns including SEO, PPC advertising, email marketing and social media marketing.
Product management: Maintaining the product catalog to ensure information is accurate. Ensuring the ecommerce site is user-friendly, SEO-optimized and secure.
Customer service: Managing a team of customer service representatives and responding to customer inquiries.
Analytics and reporting: Tracking KPIs including website traffic, conversion rates and customer retention.
Partnerships management: Collaborating with third-party vendors, suppliers and partners to source products, negotiate pricing and manage relationships.
This role oversees the day-to-day operations of the business. An ecommerce operations manager’s job is to ensure the right products reach the right customers at the right time.
In other words, they oversee order fulfillment, logistics and customer service. They may manage a warehouse and potentially work with third-party fulfillment partners.
Using inventory management software, they track stock levels and ensure product catalogs accurately reflect inventory. They also implement continuous process improvement — that is, tracking business intelligence in real-time to identify ways to improve service delivery.
This means monitoring KPIs such as order accuracy, order cycle time (the time it takes to fulfill an order), inventory accuracy and return rate.
UX designers advocate for the user. They create a seamless, user-friendly shopping experience by designing the look and feel of an ecommerce website and mobile app. This includes the layout, color scheme, typography and imagery.
They also determine the website’s information architecture — ensuring content is searchable and easy to navigate. Most importantly, they create a logical user flow — the path taken by a typical user to complete a purchase.
Optimizing the user journey can help reduce website bounce rate and cart abandonment by ensuring customers can find the products they need and complete the checkout process.
Content writers and copywriters are responsible for writing enticing, honest and informative product descriptions that convert. They also improve a site’s search engine ranking by creating quality content with relevant keywords, increasing the site’s visibility to potential customers.
Well-crafted content can persuade customers to purchase by providing information they need to make an informed decision.
They also promote the brand “voice” by creating content that reflects the brand’s values, tone and personality.
Fulfillment teams ensure orders are received accurately, processed in a timely manner and shipped to the customer.
Here’s how that process works:
Receiving orders: Verifying that orders from the ecommerce platform and other sales channels are accurate and complete before starting the fulfillment process.
Packaging orders: Locating ordered items from inventory, packing them securely for shipment, assigning shipping labels and coordinating with carriers.
Inventory management: Tracking inventory levels and restocking items.
Quality control: Inspecting items for defects before packing and shipping them.
The human resources team sources talent for the ecommerce business. They recruit and hire new employees and onboard new hires. Another key element of HR management is administering benefits and compensation, and implementing training and development opportunities to ensure employees have the skills to meet pressing business needs.
Developers build and maintain the ecommerce website and other software systems the business uses, including frontend, backend and server-side. For example, a developer might build custom integrations with third-party services such as payment gateways or marketing automation platforms.
One of the team’s main responsibilities is optimizing website performance, such as site availability and uptime, to ensure the ecommerce storefront loads quickly, is optimized for different devices and enables customers to make online payments securely.
IT teams manage the technology infrastructure that underpins the ecommerce website — namely, the business’s network and server infrastructure. This includes installing updates, fixing bugs and troubleshooting issues within the organization’s hardware and software systems.
IT teams also set up databases for storing ecommerce data, and implement security controls such as firewalls and intrusion detection to ensure the data is secure and accessible.
Finally, IT departments typically run a “help desk” providing technical support to employees and customers.
Business analysts crunch data related to business performance, identify areas for improvement and make recommendations to help the business grow. This involves analyzing data on sales, customer behavior, website traffic, ad performance and more.
Analysts may work closely with marketing, operations and development teams to ensure their recommendations are implemented effectively. They must be skilled in data analysis, data visualization and explaining technical concepts to lay audiences.
Accountants manage financial records for the business. They prepare financial reports — income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements — to measure financial performance. They’re also responsible for tax compliance. This includes calculating and paying taxes, filing tax returns and keeping up-to-date with changing tax laws.
Accountants also perform financial analysis for major business decisions. For example, they may analyze financial data to identify potential risks and opportunities of entering a new market. They must be skilled in bookkeeping, financial reporting, tax compliance, budgeting and forecasting, financial analysis and auditing.
Enterprise-level support provides personalized support to customers requiring special assistance with a complex or technical issue. Often, this entails hiring a dedicated account manager as a point of contact for the client.
Account managers regularly check in with the client, provide personalized recommendations and help ensure customer success — which simply means the customer is able to achieve their objectives by dint of doing business with you.
Large ecommerce businesses may have an in-house legal team ensuring the business complies with laws regarding privacy, consumer protection and intellectual property. They also oversee contract negotiation with vendors, suppliers and other third parties to ensure the terms are fair and favorable to the ecommerce business.
Online stores face various risks, including data breaches, product liability claims and lawsuits. Legal counsel can help identify and manage these risks to minimize the likelihood of litigation.
The decision to hire full-time employees versus freelancers hinges on the nature of the work — seasonal or project-based jobs are typically outsourced — the payroll budget and availability of talent.
Core business functions such as customer service, accounting and operations may require an in-house team, while extraneous tasks such as content creation, graphic design and social media management are suitable for outsourcing.
Here are some things to consider when deciding between hiring a freelancer or FTE:
Continuity: Does this role serve an ongoing, critical business need? For example, a business intelligence analyst monitors data in real-time, enabling the business to adjust to real-world conditions. Freelancers may not be suited to these roles as they may have limited availability.
Control: Consider how closely the employee needs to be managed and how much interaction they’ll have with other departments. For example, project managers must understand the workflow for each ecommerce department and facilitate collaboration among teams. Full-time employees will be more invested in the business, unlike freelancers who work with multiple clients.
Skill : Freelancers are hired for their niche expertise and don’t require on-the-job training. Specialized roles such as PPC or email marketing are best outsourced.
The best ecommerce team structure for an online business depends on the size of the business, the industry in which it operates and the products and services offered. The structure of a business directly impacts company culture.
A functional management structure is hierarchical: employees are grouped by department, such as marketing, operations or finance. Each department is headed by a manager who ensures the team meets its objectives.
This is the de facto organizational structure in large, established ecommerce companies because it provides a well-defined reporting structure and enables efficient decision-making within departments.
However, communicating between departments often proves difficult, leading to information silos. Decision-making may be convoluted by the need for approval from multiple managers.
A flat management structure eschews hierarchy in favor of shared decision-making among employees. With fewer layers of management, employees have more autonomy. Staff are organized into teams according to skills and expertise, and each team manages its own work.
This structure is best for ecommerce businesses in competitive markets requiring agility and innovation. Flat structures speed decision-making, provide transparency and reduce bureaucracy. However, this requires trust among employees and a culture of open communication.
Ecommerce businesses with multinational operations often group employees by geographic region. Each region has its own management team overseeing all functions of the business. Geographic teams are responsible for their own marketing strategy, sales and other business functions.
This is effective for businesses with a global presence that require a high degree of localization. Hiring local talent enables the business to tailor its strategy accordingly. For example, a marketing campaign that was effective in one country may be deemed offensive in another. Products may need to be customized to accommodate local tastes.
Some businesses hire employees to work on specific products. These employees are grouped into dedicated teams. For example, Amazon hires employees into specific teams for its hardware business, such as Amazon Alexa and Kindle products.
By focusing on one product, employees prioritize innovation and product development, with a deep understanding of the product’s unique features and market. This structure is optimal for large, established ecommerce brands with complex products that must be continually evolved to meet changing consumer demands.
The biggest ecommerce companies own multiple marquee brands (household-name brands that are individually successful). Consequently, it makes sense to hire employees into specific brand teams.
Each brand operates as its own business unit, with teams being responsible for all aspects of the brand, from marketing to operations. This structure fosters ownership and accountability within brand teams.
Businesses that cater to a variety of markets — eg: adults, teens, seniors — may group employees based on the market segments they serve. Teams have a deep understanding of their customer base.
This organizational structure benefits businesses offering highly specialized products, such as medical equipment or B2B software. This enables businesses to perform account-based marketing at scale (marketing personalization for an audience of one), especially if customers need to be educated on the product over an extended sales cycle.
A process-focused structure organizes employees by function, such as sales and supply chain management. This enables the business to hire workers who are experts in their field.
For example, in a manufacturing company, the production team focuses on the production process, while the sales team focuses on lead generation, prospecting and closing deals.
Building a successful ecommerce team is about having the right employees onboard to fill all necessary business functions, and choosing the right organizational structure for the business.
Crafting accurate job descriptions and screening for relevant skills are immensely important.
While a hiring manager may not fully understand what a UX designer or procurement specialist does, it’s important to know what hard and soft skills to prioritize when screening, interviewing and selecting candidates.
As the business grows, so will its hiring needs.
The key to employee retention is to provide a positive onboarding and employee experience. Employees must feel that they are fairly compensated, have opportunities for growth, and are appreciated for their work.
Here are some perks a business could offer to boost retention:
Compensation and benefits: A competitive salary, comprehensive benefits package and paid time off.
Opportunities for growth and development: On-the-job training, tuition reimbursements, mentorship and professional development opportunities.
A positive work culture: A supportive work environment, work/life balance, communication and transparency go a long way.
Flexible work arrangements: Offering the option to work remotely, part-time or on a flexible schedule helps widen the talent pool and retain top talent.
Provide meaningful work: Employees want to feel that they are making a valuable contribution. Provide opportunities for leadership, promotions and challenging work.
Act on employee feedback: Solicit feedback through surveys and focus groups and make accommodations within reason.
While business structures vary, departments typically have the following responsibilities:
Marketing: Promoting the business’s products and services. This includes creating and executing marketing campaigns — content marketing, email marketing and other digital marketing — managing social media channels, and analyzing metrics to measure campaign success.
Sales: Generating leads, prospecting (eg: cold calling), building relationships with existing customers, negotiating contracts (if applicable) and closing sales.
Operations: Managing the day-to-day operations of the business including inventory management, order fulfillment, logistics and customer service.
IT: Managing the business’s technology infrastructure including the ecommerce website, servers and databases.
Development: Building and maintaining the ecommerce website and other software systems. This involves web development, testing and deploying new features and resolving tickets.
UX/UI design: Designing the user experience and interface of the ecommerce website. Doing user research and testing to ensure a positive user experience.
Finance: Managing accounting, bookkeeping, financial reporting and tax compliance.
Human resources: Recruiting and hiring employees, managing employee benefits and compensation and ensuring compliance with labor laws.
Legal: Drafting and reviewing contracts, managing intellectual property and ensuring compliance with applicable regulations.
As a major job creator, the ecommerce industry has a massive impact on the labor market.
There are 980,160 people employed in the ecommerce industry in the U.S. as of 2023. Amazon, the world’s largest ecommerce company, had 1.6 million employees in 2021.
Here are some other ways the ecommerce industry impacts the labor market:
Automation: Ecommerce has led to increased automation in order fulfillment, reducing the need for manual labor and warehousing.
Shifting skill requirements: Demand is growing for skills related to digital marketing, data analysis and website development.
Decline in traditional retail jobs: As more consumers shop online, this reduces job openings for sales associates, cashiers and store managers.
A growing gig economy: More workers are taking on freelance or contract work as warehouse associates, digital marketers and flexible delivery drivers.