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How to Structure a Remote Ecommerce Team Amid COVID-19

Salsify | June 9, 2020

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has forced teams across industries to work remotely, with many working from home for the first time. Between fluctuating retailer requirements, shifting algorithms, and fragmented cross-functional processes, ecommerce teams had their own set of challenges before this crisis.

Depending on the brand category, now they must also work to balance drops or spikes in demand with the physical, mental, and emotional impact of a pandemic.

These newly remote teams are trying to find the best way forward, and brand leaders must understand that employees are not merely working remote, but trying to work during a global crisis.

Employee Health and Wellbeing Come First

From the outset of COVID-19, consumers quickly identified food, beverage, alcohol, beauty, health, and home categories as essential, driving overall digital revenue from 12% to 20% year-over-year, according to Salesforce data.

Such an increase in consumer demand likely added immense tension to ecommerce teams already stretched by the inherent stressors and unknowns of a pandemic.

First and foremost, check in with your team members. Ask about their welfare. Ask how their households are holding up. Remember, some individuals are more resilient than others, and everyone is managing the pandemic differently.

Work With Your Ecommerce Team to Identify Pain Points

Ask team members and retail partners about operational hurdles. While working from home — or at any point — has your ecommerce team:

  • Had trouble communicating with other teams?
  • Felt isolated or siloed from other departments?
  • Experienced difficulties in remotely accessing and updating product information?
  • Been restrained by outdated files and spreadsheets?
  • Slowed time-to-market because product information required collection from multiple departments? 

The forced remote operations are probably further exacerbating team and tool inefficiencies that already constrained and delayed team processes — even when everyone was in the office.

Salsify’s product experience management (PXM) platform can help your team gain the flexibility, speed, and agility needed to streamline the go-to-market process. Equipping them with a centralized platform can help them eliminate common ecommerce challenges, improve cross-functional collaboration, and face new shifts in consumer demand.

5 Tips for Structuring a Successful Remote Ecommerce Team

Leading a successful ecommerce team during this time requires that employee health and wellbeing are the top priority. It also requires that brands take a step back and examine their processes to identify and implement changes that can help boost operational efficiency, eliminating some of the pre-COVID-19 challenges.

1. Have the Right Players in Place

Depending on your brand needs, the number of roles that make up your ecommerce team will vary. At the minimum, these five roles are critical for maintaining ecommerce health and success when working from home and at the office. These roles help teams maintain a clear and achievable strategy.

  • Director of ecommerce: This team member will guide the path forward in executing goals and navigating the pandemic ecommerce fallout.
  • Ecommerce program manager: This team member will function as a project manager to keep schedules and processes on track and ensure that retail partners are giving and receiving critical information.
  • Creative and marketing: These team members will create high-quality, engaging content for all omnichannel platforms and establish and execute marketing campaigns.
  • Ecommerce business analyst: This team member will monitor and manage objective key results (OKRs), key performance indicators (KPIs), and competitive benchmarks.
  • Tech and IT: These team members will ensure the site architecture, ecommerce software, and technology operations are developed, implemented, and operating smoothly. 

2. Ensure Systems Allow for Remote Work

Set security protocols to ensure teams are working securely. Consider if it’s safe for secure accounts to be accessed on public computers or WiFi. Assess if all team members have computers, headphones, video communication capabilities, and a stable internet connection at home.

Ensuring your team has the right tools will help increase operational efficiency and streamline cross-functional collaboration. The ability of ecommerce teams to be able to update product content from any location is critical.

3. Define Roles and Workflows Clearly

It’s never too late to outline roles and responsibilities. Team members might be feeling slightly rudderless right now. Help them get back on course by clarifying the importance and purpose of their functions.

Thrive Agency recommends leaders “outline reasonable expectations and ensure everyone on your team understands the new work policies.”

This reassurance includes having a clear schedule of when people are expected to work or are permitted to work flex hours. Pinpoint which communication tools will be used for meetings and work-related chats. Every team member should have a clear understanding of the workflow and their place within it.

4. Combine Flexibility with Accountability in Managing Remote Workers

Recognize that your team members want to work and are figuring out how to do so under an entirely new set of circumstances. Expect work is getting done and address issues and mishaps as they arise.

Communicate with team members often, but refrain from micromanaging. Be clear on how and what priorities you expect them to accomplish and in what timeframe. Think of creative ways to maintain motivation. 

Completing work on a cloud-based system means the work can be done at any time, anywhere. Teams will appreciate such flexibility and ease during uncertain times. 

5. Encourage a Healthy and Realistic Workday

Some team members will have the desire and ability to work from morning to midnight. Others may only have the ability to do the minimum. Set clear expectations and working hours, and consider promoting proper eating, sleep, and exercise habits. Encourage your team to take breaks throughout the day to reset.

Be aware of the number of meetings team members have to attend. Remote working situations are different for everyone, and individuals need solid blocks of time to complete core responsibilities. Avoid bogging down calendars and seek out other ways to communicate critical messages without requiring extensive time for meetings.

This is new terrain for everyone — and anyone can burn out.

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