Editor’s Note: Companies are in a frenzy to hire B2B ecommerce professionals—but not just anyone will do. Job churn is lower in B2B ecommerce and seasoned ecommerce professionals are staying in their current position longer, says EcommerceRecruiter.com founder Harry Joiner.
That’s because more employers are taking up to four months to find and hire ecommerce employees that fit with the hiring company’s goals, values and strategic direction. It’s a tougher vetting process than B2C ecommerce, he says.
Qualified candidates, especially at the senior levels of ecommerce responsibility, can command and receive higher annual compensation. But in return for giving the right B2B ecommerce candidate a big paycheck, employers expect loyalty and a career commitment to manage a more complex ecommerce operation than B2C, Joiner says.
In this question-and-answer article, Joiner, who also is founder of CMOSearch.com, looks at the current hiring landscape for B2B ecommerce professionals and provides details on what ecommerce hiring managers want these days—and what winning candidates with the right stuff get in return.
Q: Is it a buyer’s or a seller’s market for the current B2B ecommerce executive job market?
HJ: It’s always a seller’s market for A-players. These are the people who know how to build a profitable, future-oriented ecommerce business in a resource-friendly, reality-based way. That’s easier said than done.
Q: What are the conditions driving this market hiring trend?
HJ: Private equity (PE) is having an impact. Historically, PE firms have gotten involved in buyouts of family and entrepreneur-owned businesses, corporate divestitures in addition to operational turnarounds, restructurings and bankruptcies. That’s still the case. But now when they do, very often the PE guys will take one (or more) seats on the board and push the company to ramp up its ecommerce business.
Plus PE firms are now lending money to companies, too—taking deals that banks can’t (or won’t) touch. Banks face tougher regulations than PE firms, which means that both through debt and equity, PE’s influence over ecommerce is growing.
The PE folks are terrifically bright, and they’re not inclined to listen to old school B2B executives say “this ecommerce stuff won’t work in our business.” This is a seismic change in the marketplace. Low interest rates and a strong economy are supporting this trend.
Additionally, the B2B ecommerce hiring spike is being fueled by the “consumerization” of marketing and customer experience, coupled with a pressing need for transactional data to inform product development and sales and marketing initiatives. CEOs no longer see ecommerce as a nice-to-have–it’s now a must-have.
Q: What areas of the current B2B ecommerce executive job market are most in demand and why?
HJ: Both marketing and technology. In B2B firms, marketing and technology have always been siloed. There was never a need for either marketing-oriented technologists or technology-oriented marketers. An executive could be either a “pure” marketer or “pure” technologist. But the consumerization of B2B is changing all that.
Nearly every human being buys from Amazon and Walmart, and we all know what a personalized omnichannel customer experience looks like. B2B sellers are now being held to a B2C standard, where sourcing, distribution, pricing and promotional inputs are integrated and personalized downstream across millions of devices and locations.
A: Are any roles not in demand?
HJ: Only those that have relatively little applicability to B2B, such as pure affiliate marketing.
Q: Who is the hiring manager for most B2B executive ecommerce jobs?
HJ: It depends on where the company is on its ecommerce journey. For B2B firms with no ecommerce experience, the company usually goes outside for the hire. Such searches usually involve private equity or senior management (or both). Until 18 months ago, the new director of ecommerce would report to the chief information officer (CIO). But more and more, ecommerce is rolling up to marketing—in many cases reporting right to the chief marketing officer (CMO).
If a company is new to ecommerce, they might use a specialized ecommerce recruiter. But if they are backfilling the role, they might simply conduct the search themselves because they know from experience what they’re looking for.
Q: How long is the hiring process?
HJ: If a role has existed previously and is being backfilled, it usually takes fewer than 60 days to get the winning candidate through the hiring process. But when private equity is involved, the process might slow to three to four months. The PE crowd is extremely careful. Usually, they’ve raised a fund through institutional investors who have no stomach for volatile returns.
It’s not uncommon to see PE-backed hiring committees put a slate of finalists through a battery of expensive psychological exams to assess a candidate’s intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ) and more. I can’t blame them. There’s an old adage in the recruiting business that “People get hired for what they’ve done and fired for who they are.”
Quite often, the stuff that kills a career never appears on a resume or LinkedIn bio: Greed, sloth, wrath, pride and so on. The wrong ecommerce hire can destroy a ton of value—which can have ripple effects across a PE firm’s entire business.
Q: Where are employers hiring ecommerce executives from these days?
HJ: It varies. Very often, the most marketable candidates come from the Internet Retailer Top 1000 and surrounding areas. In general, B2B hiring committees look to hire business-oriented candidates who have built profitable ecommerce businesses over a four- to six-year period.
B2B human resource (HR) executives get nervous when they see a candidate has changed jobs every three years or less—and they assume that if a candidate has been in the same job for longer than six years, he or she is not hungry enough to drive change in their organization. These are not hard-and-fast rules. I’ve seen many exceptions.
Q: How are they finding candidates?
HJ: Mostly LinkedIn. However, there are known and unknown rock stars on LinkedIn: The known rock stars have great experience and put it in their LinkedIn bios.
The unknown rock stars have great experience and (for whatever reason) don’t add it to their bios. Obviously, LinkedIn’s search tool can only find those executives who put their experience in their bios.
To use a direct-to-consumer (DTC) expression, the list of known rock stars is a very tired list: The known ecommerce rock stars are contacted so often that they almost pay LinkedIn no attention whatsoever.
For both corporate and third-party recruiters, this is a huge challenge—which is why ecommerce recruiting remains a relationship-driven business.
Q: What does the compensation package for a B2B ecommerce executive look like this year vs. last?
HJ: Across the board, B2B ecommerce compensation is higher this year, but it depends on many factors such as location and candidate supply and demand.
Q: Are B2B ecommerce executives job jumping these days? If so, how often?
HJ: Anecdotally, B2B ecommerce executives seem to have longer tenures than their B2C counterparts. According to my contacts within LinkedIn, in April 2019 there were 29,000 ecommerce jobs posted on LinkedIn aggregated from roughly 40,000 sources around the web.
There were 1.06 million LinkedIn professionals with ecommerce listed somewhere in their profile. That doesn’t make all of these people “ecommerce” executives, per se, but it gives you a sense of how mainstream ecommerce has become.
Based on the volume of LinkedIn InMail activity between recruiters and ecommerce professionals, LinkedIn categorizes hiring demand as “very high.” The supply of ecommerce executives is high relative to the demand for their talent in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. New York City has the highest demand (along with the highest supply).
My sources at LinkedIn tell me that 230,000 ecommerce professionals changed companies within the last 12 months—meaning roughly 25% of the workforce turned over. Translation: The average ecommerce professional has the same job for roughly four years. To me, that feels about right.
It’s interesting to note that the “inventory” of ecommerce jobs turns over 8.62 times per year. So the average ecommerce job is open roughly 42 days. Again, that feels about right.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone looking to make a job move these days?
HJ: Obviously, step one is to be a known rock star: Get great experience and make sure you add it to your LinkedIn bio.
Make sure you understand how your company makes money and be able to connect the dots between what you do all day and how you bring a dollar in the door in a resource-friendly, brand-accretive way.
When you apply for a job, make sure you know:
1.) What the business is about
2.) Who the business is for
3.) What makes the business unique and valuable in the eyes of their slam dunk customer
Know how they (the company) make money and be able to make the hiring committee understand how exactly you will drive financial and operational value in the role. For PE professionals especially, there’s nothing as devastating to an opinion as a number. Be ready to show your math.
Naturally, you’ve got to do your homework, which often takes both creativity and effort. Smart candidates will ask their recruiters to support them in this process, which is why last year I launched NextGig.com. A good recruiter will make a candidate shine, both during their candidacy and once they’re in the role.
Recruiters are vested in a candidate’s long-term success—their respective interests are economically aligned.
Beyond that, go out and meet the people in your industry. As my grandmother used to say, “Many a live wire would be a dead one were it not for his connections.”
You don’t necessarily need to develop a 20-year master plan for your career, but you should at least have an idea of what job you want after the next one. Then make sure your network understands that.
Sign up for a complimentary subscription to B2BecNews, published 4x/week, covering technology and business trends in the growing B2B ecommerce industry. B2BecNews is owned by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes DigitalCommerce360.com, Internet Retailer and Internet Health Management. Follow Mark Brohan, director of B2B e-commerce research, on Twitter @markbrohan.
Follow us on LinkedIn and be the first to know when new B2BecNews content is published.