Earlier this year I was very honoured to speak at the Ecommerce UK event on the future of ecommerce and multi channel at the The Royal Society in London.
My presentation was called “The Extreme Generalist” and in it I talked about my leadership journey which had at its heart my philosophy of making myself uncomfortable every day in order to constantly challenge and expand my skill set and knowledge.
The presentation is embedded above and I will briefly discuss the main points of each slide.
Slide 1 – Extreme generalist
Before I wrote this presentation – didn’t realise how varied my career had been, I have worked in 20 different digital roles across 15 different industries.
The advantages of this variety as I see it are:
- Industry breadth means I can take the strengths from each industry into my own best practice mental model
- It allows me to join the dots between different digital departments and see the big picture
- I can relate to my team as I have walked a mile in their shoes
Slide 2 – A generalist with a digital specialism
I am generalist in terms of function and industry BUT a specialist in digital and ecommerce. Every single job I have ever had has been in digital and ecommerce.
There have been four distinct phases to my career:
- Techie – a programmer building ecommerce software, designing systems and managing servers and databases
- Consultant – worked with senior teams on the biggest digital challenges across a range of industries
- Entrepreneur – building my own business, launching products and learning how to scale
- Corporate – post MBA I have been running big digital teams and owning big P&Ls
Each one of these phases has really shaped my thinking and taught me very different lessons.
Slide 3 – What I think employers find interesting about my skill set
Customer: Listening to and delighting the customer, my job is to be the voice of the customer in every meeting and to do this I spend a large chunk of my working week with customers.
Trading: Hitting your trading numbers is an underrated skill in digital. It has give you a lot of credibility when asking for investment or when you require scarce resources.
End to End Experience: Working across the digital business as well as large and small companies allows you to see the big picture and make an impact across the channel quickly.
Personality: Being yourself and being authentic with the people in your team as well as resilience to bounce back from set backs can be one of the most important skills in business.
Strategy: The digital landscape can change quickly so building a flexible organisation as well as personally being curious and comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity can make life a lot easier.
Slide 4 – Change is accelerating – Matrix and more centralisation
This slide introduced how I have seen organisations try to organise themselves to incorporate digital teams.
More matrix working
Many of the digital teams I have worked in recently have been heavily matrixed. This allows the digital teams to get ecommerce on the senior company agenda especially if you are working inside a company that has only had one channel for most of its trading history.
Along side this there is a trend towards fewer ecommerce teams and more multichannel teams. Do you need multiple marketing teams, trading teams, operations teams is it not better to think about multi channel upstream? This is also a good way to take cost out of the business and create a more joined up customer experience.
Slide 5 – Ability to target customers anywhere, anytime
Ecommerce used to be simple – you had to think about only desktop users who were on the internet at home or in the office.
Now the Internet is everywhere and there are some interesting questions you need to ask yourselves.
- Which products should we sell on mobile versus tablet versus desktop? i.e. is it ethical to sell a loan on a small mobile screen?
- How do we deal with the huge additional number of logins mobile devices bring? i.e. more hardware investment
- How do our customer behaviours change in different channels? i.e. browsing versus buying
- How do we market to customers on a small screen?
- What about day parting? e.g. Saturday is the biggest day for loans should we talk to customers differently on Saturday?
Customers expect seamless ecommerce however delivery and last mile are still the bane of every ecommerce operation, they are slow, expensive and inflexible for customer. Customers want same day delivery at a time and location of their choosing. This is an area I think is ripe for innovation and has not changed much since the early beginnings of ecommerce.
I think we will start to see a revolution in last mile solutions:
- New click and collect solutions including pop up click and collect
- Pick and deliver – where the customer picks their items and then has them delivered to their door
- Secure delivery lockers in high traffic urban areas or train stations
- Unattended delivery in secure boxes at customers homes – good for operational efficiency and also means customers do not need to be at home
- Automated delivery – such as Amazon drones, driverless delivery vehicles etc
Slide 6 – Reversing Digital to physical as a cost saving
When you spent ten or hundreds of millions of pounds on a digital platform you need to sweat the asset and have very high investment hurdle rates for projects.
Many digital platforms have had 1000’s hours of designing and testing the best experience for customers, why shouldn’t colleagues get the same experience? This is why many companies are extending their platform to transform their internal back office systems.
Using digital is also a great way to make operational cost savings – taking manual steps out of process and take cost out at the same time streamlining operations.
A final comment …
Digital will continue to disrupt business models, change industries and cause change in operating models for the foreseeable future and some argue that this change will only continue to accelerate.