TL;DR

The main responsibilities are project management, order management, customer services, purchasing, marketing, finance and business strategy. Develop your team with these roles covered. Even small companies should develop these roles and responsibilities.

Introduction

A business is only as good as it’s team. When I talk of a team I include the

  • structure
  • roles
  • responsibilities
  • business processes

Each of these allow members of a team to work together cohesively. Each cog needs to move in the right direction, at the right speed and at the right time for the business to move forward.

The Team of One Person

It sounds like a oxymoron but this is important for eCommerce startups that have a single founder. Think about a team from the very beginning.

Always create multiple roles within the company. Even if you are the one doing all them all. It will help you when you need to expand.

Each role will have it’s responsibilities and business processes to follow. We are actively creating the essentials for anyone to take over this position. A role should include an instruction manual and a clear explanation of responsibilities.

There are two main reasons this is important:

1) Foundation for growth

Let’s take customer services as an example role. At the start you may field customer services by yourself. You know the tone of your company, you know your product line up and how to answer most questions. If a discount and return has to be managed you know how, because it’s just you.

But when your business grows and you have to bring someone in to take over you quickly realise that you have been working this role in a specific way. Only you have access to these business processes.

You will have all this business critical information remembered and might not realise how very specific it all is until you bring in someone else which is why it’s important to evaluate your approach and lists the task and processes involved.

By creating a role and the accompanying documentation you are preparing for growth and a smooth transition. You are also reducing the risk of tasks being missed and processes not being fully carried out.

2) Responsibility and transparency

This boils down to who does what and who is responsible when an order is not fulfilled, when the wrong product is sent, when a customer emails a question, when there is a bug in the website, when the site goes down, when payment is not received etc, etc. Often times these items can be bounced around a company without getting resolved quickly because it isn’t always clear who should be dealing with what.

Ownership of issues means a quick result and it allows for measures to be put into place to future proof the company from the issue again. Responsibility allows you to develop your roles and grow your company.

Crucially, as the leader of a team, constantly re-assess what value each member is bringing to the floor. We are all good at something, but our skills vary and develop and assigning the right jobs to the right people is key if the business is to flourish as a whole.

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ECommerce Roles

With this in mind we recommend the following roles in your eCommerce business.

Bear in mind this applies if you are a small or a large team.

I will provide an overview of the different roles.

Each business is unique and roles may merge into each other or might not be required. For instance, a drop-shipping eCommerce company will not have to worry about warehousing. That said, if you are using your spare bedroom for storing stock then you should have a role for warehousing.

Strategy

Business strategy of the company drives growth. This role asks questions about what the product is and how to bring it to market. It is the impulse that helped form the company. The strategist constantly refines the companies direction.

We can help you here with our WooCommerce CTO part-time position. Take a look at how we can come on board to direct strategy.

Project Manager

The PM realises ideas and coordinates the strategy. They work with all roles within the company and with external agencies. They plan the development schedule and manage a priority list of work for specific periods.

This role should take full responsibility for getting things done and done on time. Things work much better when there is this single point of contact for every member of the team and for all external sources.

Technical

It is important to designate responsibility for the upkeep of the site. Who will manage the updates, test the updates, manage security and compliance. All these items are the responsibility of the ecommerce company. Consult and work with a development partner but have a clearly defined role to take responsibility for these items.

Order Processing

Managing incoming orders and ensuring goods are sent out. Each company will have it’s own business processes. Codify these so that there is a role that manages orders, rather than tagging this responsibility onto other roles.

WooCommerce provides fantastic transparency. Anyone can view order history and any notes but this is only relevant if it is managed and kept current. We have seen many eCommerce companies prefer to manage their orders via the order emails that are sent. By failing to tag orders as being complete you will not trigger the correct auto-responder emails that alert the customer with the status of their order. You will also create havoc for customer services who will not be armed with the information they need to answer customer queries.

Warehousing

This role works closely with order processing. They are the twin engines that power the heart of your online business. It’s also often neglected. If your customer has a poor experience at this point of the transaction then all the marketing cost employed to acquire the customer will be wasted.

Having a slick pick, pack and post process is critical. WooCommerce allows the easy cataloguing of inventory quantity as well as providing many ways of itemising products. Neither of these will make up for a lack of business process. Make sure these are outlined and that the responsibility for the order to be sent with the correct items is clearly assigned to this role.

If you are drop-shipping or are selling a virtual/digital product then your warehousing role still exists, but will be different – either managing the tech that holds your digital product or the integration that facilitates your drop-shipping.

Customer Services

Manages customer feedback and ensures a smooth customer experience. It’s often said that turning a negative experience around is the best marketing you can ever do. You can create a happy customer and great brand ambassador. When people tell me their experiences of a company they are often warning me or they are singing the praises of the fantastic customer services that saved the day. When you have a bad customer experience you should jump at the opportunity to convert that customer into a happy brand ambassador.

This is only possible if there is clear responsibility within the company. Who will help the customer? Whether there is an email enquiry about a product or a phone call about a problem, you need to have someone to addresses these items quickly.

This is a huge opportunity and a way to differentiate yourself from the Leviathan shopping portals like Amazon.

Content Curation

Responsible for all content on the site, from products, to home page to blog posts. We’ve all seen the site with a blog with 2 articles from a year ago. This scuppers consumer confidence and is a huge lost opportunity for growing your SEO profile and brand identity.

This responsibility could well be for the marketing role, but we think it is so important for online retailers that it should have its own role. Too often we see this neglected.

It’s really vital so include this role in your team.

Purchasing

Responsible for the supply of products to sell. Whether you create your product or are re-selling you will need to make sure there is clear role for who is responsible on the supply front.

The key to this role is understanding the demand on your product. This could include seasonal factors and it could include projected growth.

We’ve seen shops of ours who have sold out their main product as early as October in the Christmas period. Because of savvy purchasing they kept trading with an alternative product and gift certificates and managed to have a blow-out Christmas season.

If they had not defined clear responsibility for this role then a huge opportunity would have been missed.

Marketing

Responsible for bringing quality traffic to the site. Opening an eCommerce store is completely different from a bricks and mortar store. It’s like opening a shop in the middle of the desert; no one will wander past you unless you create a sign. And not any sign, you need to find the right sign and then wave it at the right person.

'Every team needs a role player. And your role on this team, Bill, is to sit at that desk and crunch numbers.'
Ok, so it’s a crude metaphor for digital marketing but you get the idea. Without marketing you cannot grow your site. All online businesses will need savvy marketing to succeed.

The good news is that WooCommerce (and most eCommerce platforms) have integration with a number of analytics packages. This allows you to have incredibly detailed insight into campaigns which work and those that don’t.

Finance

Responsible for all financials of the business. It is crucial that you have someone constantly monitoring the cash flow, general bookkeeping, financial forecasting and budgeting. There are plenty of accounting and financial planning software programs out there to help you. We use Freeagent and Float.