How to navigate a career in the fast-changing world of eCommerce

eCommerce is a continually growing and changing sector, and if eCom is your passion, now is a perfect time to push forward in this market.

In today’s world, eCommerce is a strategic focus for even the most antiquated of FMCG organisations and how to get most out of it is the question on everyone’s lips. The projections vary (wildly at times) but what is not in doubt is that online sales are only going one way, and as such the demand for talent able to drive that growth is substantial.

In the early days of eCommerce, only responsibility was just tagged to the job descriptions of the likes of Online NAM’s, Category Managers & Shopper Marketing Managers. This was because it only covered about 5% of the sales in comparison shop floor sales so didn’t warrant a specialist position. As time has passed, businesses have continued to underestimate the impact of eCom and hence under-invested in developing the talent of future leaders.

This short-sightedness should have you licking your lips if you want to pursue a career in it. A lot is changing. Even in the last 12 months, there’s been a proliferation of restructures and newly created roles. The appetite from companies is most definitely there, but the talent to feed it is not.

Because there’s a lack of competition and a wealth of opportunity for candidates. Right now, there’s a huge opportunity for eCommerce enthusiasts to fast-track their career. The pace of development means that the scope to learn new skills and be exposed to new technology is far ahead of the more established areas we typically recruit for.

eCommerce is a function tailor-made for curious, inquisitive folk with a thirst for knowledge.

Where do these eCommerce roles sit under?

Sales? Marketing? Neither? Both?

Increasingly, there is no clear answer. Whilst that structure is still reasonably common, the creation of dedicated eCommerce & Digital teams has led to a more matrix-led approach. It now sits somewhere between Sales & Marketing with employees acting as ‘internal consultants’ across the business.

Now, as an eCommerce Manager, you might need to be just as comfortable negotiating trading terms with Online Buyers as you are understanding the role PPC plays in improving the path to purchase. The days of simply being an ‘Amazon NAM’ are numbered and expecting to transfer ‘bricks & mortar’ experience into ‘bricks & clicks’ is unrealistic.

What does this actually mean for you when you’re trying to navigate a career in eCommerce?

As recruiters we’re often speaking to people who aren’t eCommerce specialist in FMCG but would like to be. Broadly speaking there are 3 different types of people and here’s the advice we give them.


1. Working in FMCG with zero eCom experience?

Know about Cambridge Universities work on Hero Imagery? Got some thoughts on the INS Ecosystem?

I advise you to learn as much as you can from multiple areas. Soak it all up and start to form a picture of what you enjoy the most. You might want to remain in a broad role and there’ll continue to be no shortage of demand for that, but equally, if you find an area you love then specialising will pay dividends.

Lack of experience can be made up for by giving your 2 cents/bitcoin on the latest developments in the market. This is where it’s down to your willingness to learn. If your company doesn’t have the structure in place to give you the experience you want then start developing it elsewhere – go to events, be on top of the latest developments, get to know the online buyers at the retailers you work with or eCom teams at competitors.

2. Working in FMCG with some previous eCom exposure but not a specialist?

I advise you to think about moving into a broad, generalist position. If the structure exists internally to facilitate it, or externally.

3. eCommerce specialist with no FMCG experience?

Your best bet here may well be to play to your niche skillset. Figure out what you know that most people in FMCG don’t and find a company who, if not already there, is moving towards specialisation.

If you’re keen to broaden your experience, then once inside make this clear and find out the best way to move internally further down the line. In so many areas of FMCG the closed-mindedness when hiring outside of the industry means businesses shut themselves off to talent. But, when it comes to eCommerce, skills can outweigh market or category-specific knowledge, meaning it can be a great way in for people wanting to break into FMCG.


To conclude, is it better to be a jack of all trades and master of none?

A generalist approach is perhaps best suited to SME’s / those with relatively new eCommerce functions. But it’s unlikely to be the long-term solution. As the nuances of what it takes to get people to buy online become better understood, the creation of more specialist positions will proliferate. At the developed end of the market, you already see companies taking a more sophisticated, specialist approach.

Now, structuring their teams with the understanding that eCommerce is not just a commercial undertaking. A sale online has resulted from the culmination of every touchpoint. I’m positive that the same approach is likely to filter down & become commonplace in the market as time progresses.

If you’re still not quite sure what you need to do in order to progress your career in eCommerce, don’t sweat it!

In a nutshell, you need to become so knowledgeable that eventually, people see your talent as wasted anywhere else.

The outcome?

You’ll either impress so much at interview that your lack of experience won’t be an obstacle, or your knowledge and enthusiasm will be recognised internally and allow you to make the case for creating/shaping a role just for you.

Lastly, what does the future look like?

One example I’d expect to see, is more direct-to-consumer specific roles created over the next 12-24 months and businesses leading the way in areas such as this are already nurturing the best niche talent (I’m looking at you, Unilever).

Inspired to see what eCommerce opportunities are out there at the moment? Click here to browse our latest eCommerce & Digital jobs.