Former CEO of Sony shares what makes eCommerce teams successful

David Reeves portrait

"You’ve got to educate yourself so if your [eCommerce] platform isn’t
performing how you want it to, you are the one who has to tell
the retailers where they’re going wrong"

E Fundamentals' co-founder & a member of its Board of Directors, David Reeves, used to be the former CEO & President of Sony EMEA responsible for launching PlayStation 1 and 2 across Europe. Throughout his career span, David has worked for NASA on the Apollo project, launched & developed some of the biggest brands, led high powered teams and strategised across the entire sales & marketing mix. Back in 2014 he co-founded E Fundamentals with CEO John Maltman with the singular purpose to create a tool that will help global brands sell better online and advance their eCommerce channel. We tapped into his expertise to ask what makes a successful eCommerce team and manager...

1. What do you think about the current eCommerce market?

Very often, apart from Amazon, eCommerce had always been done as a backwater. When it comes to selling online, they have very little knowledge on who is going online, what impact you have to make and how is it different from that in store. Brands saw by accident that sales grew online and now are starting to heavily invest in it. Every brand’s focus should be on competing to become the category leader in a chosen area which has been reinforced by powerful leaders of CPG recognising this need. 

2. Why do brands fail in eCommerce?

Because they don't have the right tools that give them the relevant insights. We did a real time presentation for Coke Natural in summer 2015. They had a huge presence in store, but none online and they were amazed to discover this. Some brands haven't realised that their approach has to be Omnichannel or what makes it Omnichannel; you can no longer afford to keep on top of just one channel or be slow to move. Even if you have different targets for your online and in-store sales, you can’t execute your strategies separately despite it needing different approaches because your consumer doesn't see it differently.

3. Who’s getting eCommerce right?

Mars are quite close. They're a private company and they've invested heavily in eCommerce looking at confectionary and pet food. P&G have done quite a good job as well but it is still in its infancy. That is why we are here, we are able to record how well they are doing in each Fundamental that impacts eCommerce sales. Speed matters. The brands that learn and execute the fastest are the ones who will profit.

4. What are the key qualities that effective eCommerce managers have?

It’s definitely to do with the nature of the person. You have to have someone who is a real go-getter and a real self starter, someone who says “I'm going to make sure I own this and will make this category grow”. Having that type of person in the early stages is going to drive the performance of the whole category. Later on it has to come from above, so it’s your job to ask for the resources and technology and make sure you can get it to the right place so it can deliver.

5. How can this ‘go-getter’ get support to implement their eCommerce strategy?

You have to make it known that you will take ownership of your category. If you're part of a large company, run a test on the logistics and map out how you’re going to make it work as a blueprint. It’s too risky financially to put all your eggs in one basket at the start. You have to see if it will work in a test market and that is what brands should be doing, taking it step by step. Select certain products and regions and then push your brands in these concentrated area.

6. From your experience, what are the traits of successful eCommerce teams?

The belief that eCommerce is the future. You need to discover and work with the new rules that operate online compared to in-store. You’re able to walk around a store and have a peripheral vision, online there is just a screen. You have to make sure that you have good information on there because unlike in store, you don't get as many chances. And don’t necessarily follow what the traditionalist do in store. There are different rules. You’ve got to educate yourself so if your platform isn’t performing how you want it to, you are the one who has to tell the retailers where they’re going wrong. This is a totally different way of thinking. Just as the CD has faded into streaming and mp3, this is the same type of revolution that is taking place online. To get their first you have to be a little bit of a visionary. And a little bit different. Success happens when a team is diverse in approach.

7. How can brand owners work towards becoming category leaders?

Through ‘pulsed promotions’. For example, you know you’re coming up to an event and you should create a special edition of your product with a competition. By running pulsed promotions in-store and in lead up to the event, you’ll be at the forefront of consumer’s minds if what they see online matches up with what’s in-store and on TV. Consistently and repeatedly.

8. What is the most valuable business lesson you’ve learned...

Strive to be an iconoclast. Meaning, you have to challenge what you think and challenge when someone is being too traditionalist, too conservative. I was working for ICI Empirical (the owners of Dulux paint) and they did everything related to chemicals. They asked me as a scientist, “we’re going to build a new paint factory so how should we have the mixers”. And I remember saying to them, “you're thinking the wrong way, you should be mixing the paint in the factory”. At the time they weren’t very responsive but after I left they ended up doing exactly that. I found challenging things was the best way to compete and make a change.

9. Why did you start E Fundamentals?

To help companies strengthen their Omnichannel offering. Are your products listed correctly? What does it look like? Are you really promoting? Are you descriptions accurate? Are you showing sensitive information like allergies and sugar content. Are you running it at the right price? If you’re paying the retailer to put it online, is it being promoted at the right level and is there a benefit shown? Some people know this heuristically. But from an analytical point of view, The 8 Fundamentals drive online sales by asking the right questions. Just as you need to make sure the fundamentals are right for in-store, the online channel equally needs a framework for the eCommerce sphere to measure itself against.

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