Having worked very closely with one of South Africa's very best e-commerce brands for many years [right from when they were just a startup in a lounge] - I know how complex successful e-commerce is, and what it takes to get it right.
I have also been fortunate to work closely with far bigger brick-and-mortar retailers for many years - so I have seen both sides of how 'retail' operates...and how vastly different each of them are from the other.
If there is one key takeaway that I have from sitting in the front row and bearing witness to the unfolding of one of the country's best e-commerce stories, it's that;
'Leading a successful e-commerce business is not the same as managing a successful bricks-and-mortar retailer.'
It's not the same because it requires employees, at all functional levels, with a completely different skill set.
Successful e-commerce takes a culture of constant innovation to continually improve the system by working closely together in an open environment of collaboration. Successful e-commerce requires a very high standard of creative thinking and execution to construct a brand that doesn't just compete on expensive pay-per-click advertising, but builds a fanatical fan base of loyal devotees; and it needs a dedicated, inspirational leadership team who act like orchestra conductors - keeping the cadence and rhythm of the operation ticking over...day in and day out.
It's a business that requires a very different way of thinking.
What I find interesting, as we emerge from the pandemic-age, is that many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are identifying an opportunity to extend their footprint with an e-commerce channel; and are struggling to get it right.
The problem is that when you put a tool, which is an integrated, interconnected web of dependencies into a context which is siloed and hierarchical - it's impossible to generate the kind of systems integration required to make it work properly.
It's like a conductor trying to get a huge orchestra to play a beautiful piece of music when each section of the orchestra is sitting in different rooms...reading notes from different pieces of music.
Getting e-commerce right requires an e-commerce mindset and culture to lead. Simply plugging in a digital toolkit into an existing corporate structure is not going to work - no matter how much money or consultants you throw at the problem.
It needs to begin with a thorough understanding of what it is that the overall business is trying to achieve, which is followed up by a purposeful systems design to deliver on that vision.
So the transition to e-commerce should not be seen as a singular event, it is rather the heralding of a new era, a fresh start towards the future of what a retail brand could be.
The technology itself is just an enabler of that intention, the solution to the challenge of getting it right will not be found in the technology.
Improve your organisational thinking
Over the years, Jonathan Cherry has consulted to numerous organisations helping them practically apply alternative methods of thinking for accelerated business growth and resilience in uncertain times.
If you need a facilitator to take you through this process for your organisation, please get in touch here to chat with Jon.