The world of ecommerce is a small but thriving community, where the mixture of digital skills, creativity and experience can make it quite difficult to become an established expert. In this interview series, I will be highlighting a number of prominent members of the ecommerce community, who come from a variety of different roles and backgrounds. My goal is to offer a glimpse into the daily life of an ecommerce leader, how they got there, and where they think ecommerce is going.
This week’s spotlight is on VP Digital at Alexandalexa.com, Elisabeth Ling. Elisabeth’s knowledge of ecommerce is both comprehensive and based on 16 years of digital experience, making her a prominent player in the UK’s ecommerce space. Elisabeth’s experience spans the dotcom crash of 2001 through to the recent explosive growth of online retailing in Europe, the US and South America. Currently, Elisabeth is responsible for a number of duties at Alex and Alexa, including customer acquisition, product management and international expansion. She chatted with me about how her career trajectory developed, what she’s doing today, and where she thinks ecommerce is going in the near future.
Elisabeth began her digital career in France in 1997, where she was Head of Consulting Services at Allaban WebSystems. She subsequently took on digital roles at PayPal, Ebay inc and TalkTalk, where she developed skills in product management and online merchandising, consulting, product strategy and customer acquisition, among others. She began working at Alex and Alexa in January of 2012, and this startup atmosphere allowed her to collaborate closely with the CEO and ecommerce team on developing a product strategy, optimising SEO and extending their marketing to an international audience, which is what she strives to do daily. Elisabeth shared with me a typical day in the life of a VP of Digital:
AM: She usually starts her day by focusing on short term goals, such as what sales and key performance metrics look like. She makes sure that everything is working as it should, and that any bugs, issues and concerns are looked into. She also keeps an eye on longer term goals and makes sure that her commercial forecast is on track. This allows her to get a full picture of how her company is doing on a daily basis, and tweak her strategy accordingly.
PM: She tends to spend her midday with the rest of her ecommerce team and makes sure she is always available to them. Elisabeth spends a large part of her day working on plans and changes with the Buying and Merchandising team in particular, and she regularly seeks advice and news on digital marketing trends from her peers and network. Another really important aspect of her work is monitoring customer satisfaction, and Elisabeth reads all her customer’s reviews daily to make sure that things are looked after and that concerns are solved quickly. This extra attention to detail is what sets Elisabeth apart, and she is keen to stress how important it is to visualise the customer as an individual, and not just part of a marketing segment.
When asked where she thinks ecommerce is headed in the coming year, Elisabeth highlighted two main points. The first was mobile commerce and the challenge of how to approach cross-channel analysis. Mobile has already become a major player in ecommerce, and in terms of customer acquisition and retention, it is becoming an increasingly difficult channel to control. Elisabeth expressed concern over how mobile can be used to increase customer satisfaction, and how to manage data layers and third party data in a way that does not compromise privacy. Privacy issues, she acknowledges, are of increasing concern, especially on this side of the Atlantic. We may begin seeing more limitations to third-party cookies, which would make cross-device analysis very difficult.
The second trend that Elisabeth highlighted for the future of ecommerce was that the golden era of getting lots of precise data from Google may be coming to an end, and soon. With Google increasingly following a policy of withholding information, for example keywords in search data, it’s clear that they are pursuing opportunities in many different areas of retail while at the same time stopping the flow of information to retailers. They are moving towards a position where they will give away less and less data on the impact of marketing spend and campaigns to their users, which sits badly with those who rely solely on Google’s tools. The upside of this, Elisabeth noted, is that analytics is becoming increasingly important, and the need for more sophisticated platforms to handle retailers’ needs is being felt globally.
This post offers only a key-hole image into Elisabeth’s career and thoughts on ecommerce, however it’s important to note how her role as VP of Digital relates to others in the industry. Alex and Alexa is a burgeoning luxury childrens’ clothing retailer that began it’s incredible growth in ecommerce in late 2006, and it hasn’t shown any signs of stopping. Marketing to parents and consumers of luxury childrens’ clothing may seem niche, but with shipping now available to 65 countries and a clientbase boasting celebrity loyalists, it seems Elisabeth has her work cut out for her.