Welcome to Bloc Virtual Coffee Break with….It's been a little while since my last one of these however I thought it would be great to utilise my network to share with you the backgrounds, thoughts, and feelings all things Digital Marketing related from leading professionals within this space.
Here was my catch up with Jack Stevens who is working as a Head of Ecommerce for a Luxury Retail brand in London. Enjoy!
Q. As Head of Ecommerce at OKA, can you describe what your role entails?
My role is to effectively develop and lead the ecommerce function to deliver agreed targeted sales and profit growth and help develop and support an integrated multi-channel business. I have a wide range of responsibilities which include P&L management, all aspects of digital marketing, and managing many agency relationships to deliver us the maximum commercial benefit, from hosting to web development. It’s a varied role which gives me exposure to many areas of how a successful multi-channel business is run.
Q. Why and how did you get into Digital Marketing? What do you love most about it?
I always had an interest in advertising from my time doing media studies many years ago during school. I had an opportunity to work in the marketing team for my first employer, Bank of Ireland, on more of the collateral production and events side of things. This progressed over time to a more digitally focused role which included website management and SEO. From there was where I got my first real taste of digital marketing which I thoroughly enjoyed and knew it was where I wanted to focus my career efforts going forward. Digital marketing, compared to other marketing channels, is so measureable which is what I love most about it. You can measure the impact of your efforts and what it has on performance quickly and effectively if you are set up to do so. Also, it is so important to basically every business worldwide and has grown astronomically over the past few years which is exciting to be a part of.
Q. You’ve developed from specialising in a few channels to having responsibility over Digital Marketing & eCommerce. What steps did you take to become broader?
I am fortunate enough to work for a dynamic business that gives me the opportunity to be involved in a few different areas of marketing and ecommerce naturally as the company evolved. Before we were able to invest in hiring people to focus on a particular part of marketing or ecommerce, we would need to prove that there was validity and a potential ROI for the investment so would often try things on a smaller scale first. This allowed me to start to expand out my skills and interest in a few different areas organically. I always took on any challenge or request to try things out even if I hadn’t done them before as I feel these are sometimes the best ways you can learn.
Q. What is your favourite Digital Marketing channel and why?
Since I started my digital career in SEO, I would have to say that. There is something very satisfying, even to this day, about seeing the changes and strategies you have worked on being implemented which lead to an increase in visibility, relevant traffic and sales. And, of course, there is no CPC involved so it can be a very cost effective acquisition channel if managed in the right way.
Q. What skills do you need to have in order to be awesome in your role?
Outside of technical knowledge, some skills that are required to succeed in my particular role are patience and strong leadership skills. I think that having a passionate team of motivated individuals who genuinely care about performance makes a real difference. If you are not a strong leader then this leads to an underperformance culture within the team which can be hard to turn around. Also, being a smaller business, our agility and therefore likelihood to change things and / or make quick decisions can be both a blessing and a curse. Being patient in the face of changes that can cause stress to the team and looking at the wider picture of what can be done to help it, and what the end result could be for the business helps to keep everything in perspective when things do crop up.
Q. What advice would you give Managers who are looking to step up into a Head of role?
One of the key differences for me was around about how you see how your role fits within the business as a whole and what you can do to support business growth. Although I am responsible for the ecommerce side of the business, but the role in which ecommerce has on the other areas of the business is huge. We help to drive people to stores, promote events, assist our trade team and drive awareness of our interior design service. Although some activities might not specifically drive sales through our website in the short term, they are important for us as a business. So having a slightly wider, strategic view of activity and not looking at things in silo is a good place to start.
Q. What are your favourite tools to measure results?
Unsurprisingly Google Analytics is my go to tool for everything ecommerce related. Outside of the standard reports they give you I would encourage anyone to take a course or do some reading about the true capabilities of it as the customisable elements of it can be terrific…and it’s free! Some great tools to help quantify impact of SEO activity are things such as SearchMetrics which helps to benchmark visibility in a really clear and digestible way. Majestic SEO is a good tool for benchmarking competitors organic activity from a link building and outreach perspective. We have just started to use RivalIQ to monitor social activity and performance as well and this is proving a really useful and insightful tool for us.
Q. What are the biggest challenges facing Digital Marketing professionals right now?
I think the biggest challenge is around cost and competition. Every year there seems to be heavier investment in digital channels and advertising meaning it is even more difficult to make a meaningful impact as everyone is jostling for the same piece of the pie. We are currently experiencing some really tough market conditions within the retail industry at the moment too so ensuring we maintain strong levels of demand whilst keeping a control on costs is paramount, but a real challenge I expect a lot of digital marketers are facing at the moment. Also, the increase in competition drives up costs of things such as CPC as well as Google increasing prices generally means that it can be challenging to maintain even similar level of sales compared to the previous year without significant increase in budgets and spend.
Q. Which companies do you admire most within Digital?
Moneysupermarket used to absolutely dominate the organic search space in insurance and produce so much great insightful content. They were so far ahead of anyone else at that time and still seem to do great now. From a UX point of view I think the AO site is one of the best, especially their purchase process which makes it so easy to buy. I also think MADE.com seem to have a really clear vision and do some really great and innovative things in digital and are extremely well covered in SEO and PPC. Their emails too are regularly picked out in various articles I read. They are clean and representative of their brand.
Q. Best bit of advice for those looking to get into Digital Marketing?
Passion and enthusiasm will go a long way. I would considering hiring someone with less experience but with the right aptitude and hunger to learn. Immerse yourself. I'd also encourage at the start of a career to focus on becoming an expert (or competent at least) in one particular area and build out from there. Internships can we a great way to get some experience needed to land that permanent role. That month or so of sacrifice could be worth it in the long run and sway the hiring party to pick you over another candidate because of your time there...or they might offer you a job themselves if you impress!
A massive thank you to Jack for joining me in this latest Virtual Coffee Break. Feel free to check out OKA using the following link, oka.com
If you’d like to get involved in a future edition, then please feel free to get in touch with me by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.