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5 ways to build an eCommerce team when talent is in short supply

December 17, 2021
Christina Vail
Written By
Christina Vail

If you thought finding a good plumber was hard, try finding someone to hire for your eComm team. The explosive growth in eCommerce has created a mismatch between supply and demand for experienced digital talent, resulting in a land grab for high-demand roles. Finding budget to hire people appears to be no issue at all: 61% of eCommerce leaders at consumer brands are planning to hire eComm roles in the coming year (Profitero’s 2021 eCommerce Benchmarking Survey). The real issue is how and where to find them. 

Data from our latest survey also reveals some of the most in-demand eComm roles heading into 2022. 

eCommerce hiring plans — Roles with the biggest jump in planned headcount

Source: Profitero eCommerce Benchmark Survey, conducted in May - June 2021; Q: In which of the following roles does your company have or plan dedicated headcount?


Something that jumps out right away: Compared to pre-COVID times, the role of eCommerce category management has seen the biggest jump in demand. And this makes sense. As eCommerce moves from being a “center led” function to being integrated into brick & mortar teams, brands need someone who bridges the gap between technical knowledge of how eCommerce works and the more traditional ways of working with retailers. Many of the companies we talk to are not hiring eCommerce category management experts to replace brick & mortar experts. Instead, they supplement and support these people, and equip them with relevant omnichannel insights and data to support joint business planning. In many ways, this mirrors the changes Walmart and other retailers are making in creating hybrid category managers on their side. 

Less surprising, digital media and digital content specialists are also in higher demand. It makes a ton of strategic sense from a flywheel perspective. Winning at search drives traffic online. Complete, compliant and compelling content drives conversion. Analysts (also in higher demand) are then needed to monitor and measure it all. Interestingly, these roles and functions are also where the big eCommerce marketplace aggregators, like Thrasio and Perch, are hiring.

Aggregators are fueling even more talent competition

If you work for a CPG brand, you may not think of eComm marketplace aggregators as direct competitors, but they certainly are when it comes to hiring and recruiting top digital talent. Thrasio has been quietly gobbling up digital marketing, brand and analytics talent from across the industry to fuel its monster growth. 

Nearly a fifth (19%) of Thrasio's total workforce (as listed on LinkedIn in mid 2021) specializes in some area of digital marketing, e.g., copywriters, designers, video producers, or SEO / paid marketing specialists. Recent Thrasio hires come with experience from the likes of Chewy, Hasbro, PepsiCo, Trip Advisor, Walmart, Wayfair and more.

Thrasio hiring image


So what? Now what?

The short supply of eCommerce talent underscores the need for brands to systemize the hiring, training and development, and retention process. A brand’s ability to out-recruit, out-hire and out-train competitors for digital talent may become the most predictable indicator of long-term eCommerce growth over the next 2-5 years.

"The talent crunch is going to stay, and building a strong internal pipeline is critical to cater to that demand. So, come up with a strong long-term integrated training program. In addition, employer branding exercises need to show how the company is thinking digital in order to attract external talent."

Tony-Navin_Kraft-HeinzTony Navin
Head of eCommerce, International
Kraft Heinz, Europe


Here are 5 tips:

  1. Automate. Invest in eComm systems to automate basic tasks, freeing up existing talent to focus on value-add activities that accelerates digital. Our Benchmarking Survey findings revealed a correlation between brands that self-identify as eComm leaders and the adoption of tools like price monitoring, content syndication and digital shelf analytics. In fact, we found that eComm leaders are nearly twice as likely to have price monitoring tools in place vs. brands just starting to operationalize eCommerce.     

    eCommerce hiring plans — Roles with the biggest jump in planned headcount

    Source: Profitero eCommerce Benchmark Survey

    Systems at eComm leaders vs laggards
  2. Know how you stack up in terms of talent. Benchmark your organization’s talent against industry standards, peer group competitors and best practices to help you understand how you stack up, where you may have talent gaps, what eComm roles can help you get ahead, and which ones can be outsourced vs. insourced. Periodically reviewing your eCommerce team structure and composition relative to competitors can help you determine potential opportunities to enhance your eCommerce team. (Click here to quickly assess your eCommerce maturity and capabilities vis-à-vis industry benchmarks.)


    Benchmark against industry standards or competitive set to reveal gaps in your eCommerce team

    Source: Sample analysis using LinkedIn data

    12.21 Blog chart

  3. Upskill and cross-train internal talent. Nurture talent by slotting people in and out of eComm roles for cross-training. To do this effectively, you’ll first want to assess existing competency models for functions like Marketing or Sales, and develop similar frameworks to support eCommerce. These could be (1) separate from existing competency models, or (2) integrated with existing models, e.g., a commercial competency model that considers the skills and knowledge requirements all future leaders will need. Your end goal is building an integrated team, in which upskilling for competencies across eComm is critical. The process of mapping out competencies needed to succeed could help reveal your talent gaps too, making it more apparent where you’ll need to bring some fresh blood into the organization.

    "You must balance bringing in external talent with specific skills with creating paths and experiences for internal employees to build that expertise. This could take the form of cross-functional assignments, creating programs to 'rotate' talent in & out of eComm roles, and providing a robust eComm education program."

    Tiffany-Tan_CloroxTiffany Tan
    Senior Director, eCommerce Accelerator

  4. Systematize the hiring process. Build your recruiting machine by identifying the ideal talent profile and skills of different roles. This means developing a “best of” different job descriptions by function, and perhaps looking for new profiles of talent beyond the norm, e.g., from consulting or eComm agencies. Bringing in external talent from other eComm teams or outside your industry can be a way to infuse new ideas, ways of working, and subject matter expertise into your organization based on the previous experiences of new hires. A good rule of thumb we’ve found: Successful eComm teams aim for about a 50:50 split of high-performing internal employees and external hires. Then as more upskilling happens and you move closer to an integrated organization, the need to hire external “experts” goes down, and the split tilts more toward internal.

  5. Look outside your own four walls. Don’t wait for the talent pool to catch up. You may need to look outside your four walls to build or buy capabilities. There are plenty of brokers and agencies you can lean on and learn from to get ahead and become an eComm leader. (View our eCommerce Agency Directory online)

Contact us to learn more about how Profitero can help you rethink your eComm talent management approach.

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