The leadership of ecommerce companies has shifted since the industry’s inception two decades ago. The shift can give us clues to ecommerce’s not-to-distant future.
In the early days, ecommerce management included skilled developers and technophiles, according to Rick Wilson, CEO of Miva, an ecommerce platform.
Today, software engineers and developers are in the tactical and technical trenches, if they even exist within the ecommerce organization. Marketers have taken center stage in many, if not most, ecommerce organizations.
“We have fully entered the age of the non-technical online merchant,” Wilson wrote in an email on September 14, 2022.
Although Wilson did not comment on the implications of this move toward non-technical and marketing-focused leadership, we can make some inferences.
Moving from Tech
As the ecommerce industry has grown, many complex technical problems are no longer an issue. Platforms such as Shopify and Miva have leveled the tech playing field, making it relatively easy for businesses to launch and operate.
Years ago, companies needed to build secure websites that properly merchandised their products. They needed to accept payments in a safe and Payment Card Industry-compliant way. They had to avoid data breaches and win at search engine optimization. And, often, they needed to integrate with legacy business systems.
No matter where one looked in ecommerce’s early days, there was a technical problem. Thus code-savvy developers and engineers rose to the top ecommerce positions.
Circa 2022, although using Shopify requires a few development skills — or at least a good template — services such as Webflow take no real technical skill. A small ecommerce business with a reasonably talented graphic designer can create an acceptable and functional ecommerce website with little to no programming capabilities.
Wilson’s company, Miva, is one of several platforms that make running an ecommerce business easy in terms of the required technical knowledge.
What’s more, hundreds of apps and tools require no code to integrate just about every software solution one could imagine. Want to connect an ecommerce shop to Amazon? There is an app for that. Need an order management system? No problem. Want integrated email marketing solutions? That’s why Shopify recently invested another $100 million in Klaviyo.
It is no longer about how to operate online. It is about how to market online.
The parity in ecommerce platforms and tools has given rise to a new breed of ecommerce professional — the marketer.
The problem now is not how to run an ecommerce website but how to create a profit-driving ecommerce machine that predictably generates sales. That’s just the sort of place where marketing professionals thrive.
Marketers have long used intuition, data, and grit to identify and scale promotional channels.
These professionals invented direct marketing, pioneered the gift with purchase, and transformed Facebook from a simple social media platform into an advertising empire when they learned they could use its behavioral targeting to generate ecommerce sales.
Marketers now lead many ecommerce operations because the real problem is a scarcity of sales.
If we accept this premise, we can assume that ecommerce could go through a significant channel shift, and marketers will continue to seek new and scalable opportunities.
New channels might include some combination of commerce video, text messaging, ecommerce marketplaces, or influencer marketing to drive sales.
All of this is good news for ecommerce professionals. No matter your role — merchant, marketer, or enthusiast — it’s an excellent time to get involved.
A new generation of ecommerce professionals — more focused on marketing and sales than technology — is emerging. And this change will almost certainly disrupt the market and create opportunities.