Having recently returned from maternity leave, I was pleased to see how eCommerce recruitment has grown and developed over the last year or so across the Northwest. It's largely down to the amazing developments within the sector's companies in the region, from fashion to finance, and so I thought I'd write about the changing face of eCommerce recruitment and what this means to candidates, clients and to myself as a recruiter.

Laura 280Laura Walters, Director at The Candidate

I joined The Candidate to launch and develop the eCommerce division of the business, essentially covering all digital client side roles. I'm extremely proud of our position in the market now and the journey that we, as a team, have been on to get to this point, now delivering over half of the agency's revenue. I do however know that here is still so much to do, with the opportunity being so large and the continued growth in the sector! If I look back over the last year or so, I can see that recruiting within the eCommerce sector has changed and continues to change, at pace.

In my role as Director at The Candidate, I'm very lucky to get to work directly with so many different people with various skillsets, from one end of the spectrum to the other, from technical to creative, SME to corporate. I love working with such an array of very different businesses, one day I'll be meeting with a retail giant and the next a start-up looking for their first employees. It's a great challenge and has given me a great deal of insight into the region's eCommerce sector.

The general feeling I get about the market is that there continues to be a huge skills shortage, not only around specific digital marketing specialties, but across eCommerce as a whole. We've seen a huge increase in demand for insight and analytics professionals, CRM Managers and of course, the shortage of skilled PPC and SEO professionals continues. The aim is simple, retailers want to provide customers with targeted and specific messages about their brand or service and they need the best team in place to make this happen. In such a candidate short market, we aim to make the process as simple as possible for both candidates and clients, trying to find the most suitable role, company and culture for the specific candidate.  It goes without saying that we welcome relocators to the region as they are bringing fresh talent and skills here.

Multi-disciplined marketers

Victoria DobsonVictoria Dobson, Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors

I caught up with Victoria Dobson, Marketing Manager at Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors at Fairpoint Group PLC who said "It's obvious but worth stating that every marketer needs to have exposure to and have a solid understanding of the digital world. What I'm finding very interesting is the view harboured by some that you either have 'digital' or 'offline' / 'traditional' (yuk don't like that term!) marketers. This is not a view that I encourage. With the exception perhaps of SEO, PPC and technical build roles which require specific skills, when it comes to Account Execs, Managers, Directors and Head of Marketing or Director roles I believe candidates who can apply marketing strategies and select the appropriate on and offline channels to get maximum return on each project we run are more valuable than a 'digital' or 'offline' specialist. The risk with the latter is you could end up with a team of siloed, niche individuals vs a well-rounded team who can share knowledge and mentor each other."

I've really noticed this with a couple of recent client's key recruits, two examples being a Head of Acquisition and Retention for a multi-million pound retailer and a Head of eCommerce for an established retail business. Both of these clients were looking for well-rounded individuals, capable of leading teams from the front who thrived from being immersed within a fast paced eCommerce retail trading environment. They could pull all their knowledge from offline and online together to create an integrated yet digital driven marketing strategy.

Amy BrennanAmy Brennan,

Amy Brennan, Global Search Manager at agrees on the need for blended skillsets amongst specialists saying " I'd say the biggest shift we've noticed over the last 12 months is how we deliver a relevant and consistent message to our customer segments, at all points of the customer journey.

As a result, we've had to adopt a more holistic approach to our paid and organic activity. We can no longer rely on just one PPC Manager to be the front of all knowledge when it comes to paid media and likewise for SEO, Email and Commercial. Undoubtedly you will always have those go-to-people who are experts in their particular fields but our marketing team has an expectation that everyone is aware of how their role works alongside other departments and how it impacts the wider business."

International Growth
We do of course see other roles that require defined expert knowledge some recent examples being an International SEO Manager, Head of Affiliates and also Head of CRM roles. For such positions, clients don't want generalist marketers but instead candidates who are true specialists within their field who live and breathe their subject, essentially a mini CEO of their own business area.

We've noticed a real requirement for International roles from the Digital Marketing sector in the region that is very positive. Businesses' International expansion can be paramount for a number of the retailers that we work with, spotting an opportunity and acting fast enough with a tailored country specific response. They feel that this is critical to bolstering key trading periods and keeping ahead of their competition. Employers are not only looking for people to speak specific languages for these roles but they also require candidates to have a strong native and / or cultural understanding for the role.

Sam FarhallSam Farhall, Brooklyn Trading

Sam Farhall, Head of eCommerce at Brooklyn Trading said "International eCommerce represents a huge opportunity for any sized business; from "passive" trading facilitated through Marketplaces such as eBay & Amazon, to fully localised domains tailored to the native user. There are varying layers of opportunity and complexity. This brings with it a whole host of opportunities. The more we understand how each International consumer behaves and interacts, the more tailored and effective cross-border trade strategy we have to implement; ultimately leading to an enormous amount of potential new customers. I would imagine that International Operations, Logistics and UX skills, alongside localisation experience, to be in very high demand in the not-so-distant future"

Mark CoxheadMark Coxhead, The Protein Works

Mark Coxhead, Founder and Managing Director of The Protein Works says "The UK possesses an incredible hot bed of ecommerce talent and enterprises, and nowhere more than in the Northwest. The biggest challenge right now is leveraging this capability in international markets that are growing at a phenomenal rate. Critical for success for UK digital businesses in these exciting new markets though is building teams composed of exceptional talent who know the local markets. This is without doubt our biggest challenge right now."

DaneDane Stanley, Missguided

Dane Stanley, Global Head of Digital Marketing and CRM at Missguided agrees in saying "The International market is becoming more and more crucial in supporting our growth ambitions, and we understand the importance of having a diverse marketing team that has 'native' expertise and can bridge the gap between Missguided and its international customers. Luckily Manchester, and our brand of course, is a great pull for new employees so bringing European talent here has not been an issue to date. There is however a greater challenge in recruiting for roles that focus on markets further afield like Australia and the US.

There is a balance to be met in terms of experience and willingness. The sheer demand in the digital marketing sector means junior staff can often be put in to positions of high responsibility which is great for those that can step up, but a challenge whereby the experience needed is not matched in the employee. This sometimes sets candidate expectations too high and unless you are willing to take on a new team member for convenience, making the recruitment process for mid-level roles much more challenging than in previous years."

Millennial Talent and loyalty
Of course it is key to ensure that the workforce is happy and that they grow with the business and build upon their role. Victoria Dobson of Simpson Millar was keen to express her views around the subject of hiring (and keeping!) millennial talent following an interesting discussion that she had with a delegate at a recent marketing conference; "At the end of a session which gave a unique and interesting view of the different generations since the turn of the last century, one woman (an HR professional, not a marketer) offered the opinion to the group that she felt Gen Y employees were not loyal. The example she gave was of multiple employees who immediately left to take the next step up the ladder after they completed the training her organisation gave. The phrase she used was "they did not pay their dues". This struck me as an odd expression to use if you are looking to make people feel welcome, part of a valuable team and valued themselves.

Gen Y have joined a volatile marketplace where a job is not for life. Where restructures and redundancies are not considered personal but are not surprising either. A career, for the majority of Gen Y, will no doubt consist of multiple roles in a variety of industries and sectors. The sense of obligation and gratitude towards an employer for the opportunity should be considered a short lived and finite time period in the minds of the employer and see the employer motivated to offer an interesting and engaging working environment to the employee, and indeed, opportunities to progress within the business. One would hope that this view is a minority one. Just as we marketers need to understand the varied needs of our target audience, HR teams and hiring managers need to deliver a work place suitable for all generations and ask not what an employee can do for your company but what can the company do for the employee. There are a number of successful businesses globally and in the Northwest who are actually lead by gen y CEO's and MDs." 

The Candidate exists to find talent for such businesses and to ensure that candidates are aware of the incredible opportunities available to them in the Northwest and beyond. The sector that we work in, as challenging as it is at times, is one of immense satisfaction. I feel proud when we find a candidate their dream job, when they get in touch a few months or even years down the line to say it was the best move that they ever made, that they are happy and doing well in their role. It's even better when they come to us as clients, looking to build their team and to make key hires. This makes me, and all of us within The Candidate, very proud indeed! We will continue to enjoy watching the sector grow, being involved in the many twists and turns along the way. eCommerce is a very exciting sector indeed and we would love to hear your opinions on where you see things going in 2017!


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