eCommerce: Attracting Sales and Talent.
By Vijay Dandapani
Tuesday, 22nd November 2011
Open source financial website Finchannel notes despite the fact that several pre-holiday surveys have confirmed shoppers' intentions to spend either the same or less on purchases during the 2011 holiday season as compared 2010.

The 'promise of convenience and cost-savings online will bring more consumers than ever to shop on the web for the holidays, spending a greater share of their gift budget there when they do.'

Similarly the website eMarketer estimates that US retail ecommerce holiday-season sales during November and December will rise 16.8% this year to $46.7 billion with year end sales going up 16.5% over 2010.

That spike has focused attention on the talent behind, or more aptly ahead of e-commerce. The Wall Street Journal reports that "the hottest thing on retailers' Christmas lists this year? Heads of e-commerce." The financial paper reports that "recruiters say they're spending a lot of their time turning up executives who can build and manage websites, handle increasingly complex inventory management, and unsnarl the logistical problems that come with developing a new sales channel."

The WSJ report notes that the "fierce competition for talent. E-commerce heads—who a decade ago made $50,000 to $100,000 a year and lurked in the back offices of retailers' catalog businesses or in tech support—have joined the C-suite. Their salaries now range between $300,000 and $500,000, on a par with heads of merchandise or marketing, recruiters say. Some stars can command total compensation that exceeds a whopping $1 million!

The hospitality industry is no laggard in the online space but, as yet, lacks stars where the expectation factors for them could (and ought) to include not just revenue ownership but creating and launching entire packages, product lines in retail speak. Other objectives should include developing partnerships and inspiring guests (potential and current) to become a part of the hostelry's "community" via continually evolving tools such as user-generated-content which are fast becoming a part of the fabric of the property's wesbite.

The Journal article cites the example of the CEO of Brookstone, who found the consumer electronics retailer was using its website only to provide an order form for catalog purchases. In May,  hired a ecommerce expert who brought about significant change in a short time. Brookstone now has a mobile app, added a tablet app and has expanded its online product offerings from 3,000 items last year to more than 40,000 this year. 

Hospitality companies that devote  resources in this area likely to find similar payoffs that come not only from thwarting the incessant rise of OTAs that eat away at profits but also from differentiating themselves from the competition.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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