What it Takes to Build an Ecommerce Team from Scratch and Key Roles You Will Need to Fill

An ecommerce team of five young, diverse professionals look over documents in a meeting.

Ecommerce is the fastest growing segment of the retail market and entrepreneurs from legacy brands to online startups are racing to capitalise on the digital gold rush. While ecommerce presents expansive growth opportunities, it requires human resources and infrastructure that differ from traditional brick-and-mortar or wholesale businesses. Managing a company’s human resources effectively, including an ecommerce team, requires a lot of work that may differ from a brand’s core business.

What it takes to build an ecommerce team from scratch

An illustration of team building including five puzzle pieces being put together

1. Determine staffing size

For a digital-first company looking to scale, it’s crucial to accurately determine staffing needs. This means knowing which roles to hire for, when to do it in the life of the business, and where these employees should be located.

2. Identify the HR investment

Owning or managing a growth company means the people needed to run the operation can multiply quickly. In midsize organisations without an HR department, company leadership will need to devote significant amounts of time finding the right hires and training them. An organisation’s hiring needs will fluctuate with the scale of the business, the goods that are sold, and where the business operates.

3. Distinguish between in-house and contract talent needs

While businesses may be able to cut costs by hiring contractors to perform occasional services, outside help is not always available when merchants need them most. It is essential to distinguish jobs that should be kept in-house from those that can be outsourced to contractors. Ecommerce marketing requires a significant human resource investment, so determining when to contract out marketing talent or expand the team will also be critical.

4. Consider what resources are needed for onboarding and training

When organisations make hires, it is important to account for the time needed to train the new team. This can also take time away from senior members who could be focusing on strategy and growth.

5. Plan for ongoing HR management

Once a business builds a team, it is equally important to manage tasks efficiently, ensure different departments are not isolated in silos and be ready for market fluctuations that influence consumer demand and staffing requirements. As the team grows, managing people, cultivating corporate culture and building relationships becomes increasingly complex.

Here are the key roles you must fill to build an effective ecommerce team:

1. Director of Ecommerce

  • Responsible for overseeing the entire ecommerce operation and making sure that each team member or department is doing its job.
  • Tasks include overseeing buying, web sales, contracts, managing partnerships, reporting, contributing to strategy decisions, budgeting and generating P&L statements.
  • For smaller companies, the Director of Ecommerce is responsible for carrying out additional core tasks rather than overseeing other employees.
  • Additional tasks can include aspects of digital marketing and site administration.

Before hiring a Director of Ecommerce, it is crucial to know what tasks will be handled by other team members and which ones the director will be responsible for.

2. Web Developer

  • Responsible for making both frontend and backend alterations to create on-brand customisations.
  • Develops both the core functionality as well as the consumer-facing design.
  • Is expertly acquainted with ecommerce sites, plug-ins, integrations, emerging functionalities, and trends in both online ecommerce, platforms and user experience.
  • Well-versed in mobile integration and responsive design.
  • Smaller companies may not need a web developer in-house, but all companies, regardless of size, require in-house talent capable of making occasional alterations and updates.

In ecommerce, the brand’s website is the brand’s storefront. Therefore, it is essential that a merchant’s site is easy to use and efficient to manage.

On a foundational level, this means the storefront should be aesthetically pleasing, process various payment types and offer multiple search and filtering options. Additionally, the site should be able to support the complexity of a brand’s product or service catalogue, connect with the inventory management system and generate financial reports.

Experienced web developers can charge $100 to $150 per hour or more. Inexperienced hiring managers run the risk of unexpected dev times and costs. Be sure to accurately account for these variables.

3. Digital Operations Manager

  • Ensures that the website works seamlessly from the shopper’s perspective.
  • Responsibilities include inputting and monitoring SKUs, ensuring that all product listings are displayed properly, verifying discount code functionality, and assessing load speed.
  • Monitors the customer’s journey throughout the digital shopping experience, A/B tests layout options and performs other duties related to user experience and customer experience.
  • Works closely with the inventory team to ensure that frontend sales numbers match inventory accounting.

Essentially, the operations lead oversees the business’s content management system (CMS) and makes sure that all user interface options operate seamlessly.

4. IT Technician

  • Helps team members properly utilise the business’s digital infrastructure.
  • Links information online with inventory and logistics teams to efficiently move and monitor merchandise.
  • Responsible for data storage and security.

5. Logistics Manager

  • Ensures that bulk orders from the manufacturer are safely transported to warehouses.
  • Manages customs clearance for international shipments, transport insurance and quality control.
  • Operates last-mile fulfilment by monitoring business’s owned delivery fleet (requires a logistics team) or managing relationships with third-party delivery services.

While the ecommerce shopping experience takes place online, getting products to customers happens in the physical world. The core responsibility of the logistics manager is to assure that goods arrive from manufacturers and your customers receive their shipments in a timely fashion.

6. Inventory Manager and Team of Inventory Associates

  • Directs the flow of merchandise.
  • Ensures that information from the digital operations manager matches the inventory of physical products in storage.
  • Manages team of inventory associates.
  • Inventory associates are responsible for wrapping and packaging goods, organising inventory, clerical duties and moving products to the logistics team for fulfilment.

While smaller organisations may be able to get by with hiring a single person for each of the aforementioned roles, this department will most likely require multiple people.

7. Digital Marketing Manager

  • Responsible for bringing traffic to the site, meeting ROI goals and strategizing about campaigns.
  • Oversees key marketing functions such as content creation, SEO, SEM, copywriting, social media, digital ads, email marketing and other core tasks often performed by other members of the marketing department or third-party agency.
  • Coordinates with web developer and digital operations manager to ensure that marketing strategies such as loyalty programs, discounts, and rewards are seamlessly implemented into the site and user experience.

Ecommerce companies typically use paid search campaigns, social media, email, affiliate programs, influencer marketing and programmatic strategies to build online brand awareness and earn customers.

8. Customer Service Representatives

  • Responsible for processing returns and handling customer complaints via email and social media.

Customer service in ecommerce verticals varies from that of other industries as staff do not typically encounter customers face-to-face. Instead, ecommerce brands hire staff to use live chat, answer phone calls, and deploy chatbots to correspond with customers. Therefore, it is essential for ecommerce brands to build a streamlined digital process for customer service to coordinate with inventory, logistics and returns.

9. Finance and Accounting

  • Oftentimes outsourced to a third party.
  • Depending on organisation size, ecommerce brands may hire an individual or a small team to assist the Director of Ecommerce with budgeting, market speculation, and P&L reporting.

Finance and accounting operations become easier when a business’s website is designed to keep a compiled and up-to-the-minute list of revenue and expenditures.

10. Business Analyst

  • Responsible for key strategic decisions such as how to enter new markets, the development of new products and means of growing the business.
  • Typically filled by senior-level consultants or experienced industry veterans.

International expansion is changing ecommerce

The proliferation of both the internet and mobile data networks around the world are leading to an expansion of international ecommerce. To thrive within the changing global landscape, businesses must have flexible infrastructure both online and offline.

Flexibility is crucial to building an ecommerce team. This includes the flexibility to increase inventory storage and process thousands of orders a minute in times of high demand. It also means having the option to increase inventory staff during peak demand and operating with a lean team during low periods. Equally crucial is the ability to manage multiple currencies and payment preferences in addition to storefronts in different languages.

As businesses scale to sell in international markets, they need to scale the capabilities of their staff. This often means adding more people to manage the increasing complexity of the business. Flexibility is crucial to building an ecommerce team.

Benefits of partnering with a full-service ecommerce provider

It can take a substantial amount of time and money to hire, let alone find and recruit, quality team members for an ecommerce company.

Reliability and trust are essential to building a top-performing team. There is always a risk that a hire doesn’t have the skills needed to perform core tasks. Uncertainty in growth forecasts also pose an operational risk when you have a large staff, a transportation fleet, and a warehouse infrastructure.

Working with a full-service ecommerce provider like ESW takes the pressure off a business to find, recruit, and hire the talent needed to launch an online DTC channel. Instead, by partnering with us, brands get end-to-end support from customer service and fraud protection to fulfilment and logistics, to have both peace of mind and a competitive advantage. Our vast logistics network, global warehouse facilities, web development services, AI-powered personalization and internalization expertise can significantly reduce the number of staff brands need to hire.

What’s more, our flexible partnership structure provides predictable pricing, reduces the risk of customer churn, unused warehouse space, and idle inventory staff.

Benefits of using an enterprise ecommerce solutions partner:

  • Reduces upfront capital expenditure
  • Minimises the risks of expanding into new markets
  • Saves businesses time and money by helping them to run a lean team
  • Provides expert insights into industry trends
  • Affords businesses the time to focus on their core business, not HR needs.

Learn how to compete for the future of ecommerce

Beyond human resources and internal talent, DTC brands need to make considerable investments across five main areas of their business infrastructure. From international taxation, payment processing, legal obligations, branding, and logistics, DTC brands have to win them all to compete in the arena of global ecommerce. Let ESW reduce the burden and maximise your brand’s global success.

For consumer insights brands need to successfully launch DTC, download our latest Global Voice report.