10 Essential Retail Skills When it Comes to Ecommerce

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E-retail sales made up 14.1% of all retail sales globally in 2019, and the ecommerce market continues to grow. It’s predicted that the figure will reach 22% by 2023. Yes, the online retail sector is thriving.

If you’re an ecommerce business owner, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. You need to stay on top of industry trends and statistics. Otherwise, your venture won’t grow and scale efficiently, or remain competitive.

One facet of staying on top of your game is fostering key retail skills. There are a host of retail skills that are essential when it comes to ecommerce. These span both soft and hard skills and are skills that will make your online enterprise stand out.

Are you wondering whether your online retail business possesses these skills? Read on to find out ten of the most vital retail skills, and decide for yourself.

First, a little ecommerce background.

Rise of Ecommerce

Many physical stores are struggling because of factors such as rising rents and declining sales. Some blame ecommerce. For others, it presents a solution. Whichever camp you sit in, increasing numbers of transactions are being made online.

You may own brick-and-mortar stores and are thinking about diversifying into the online arena. Or you may be a fully-online enterprise looking to boost revenue. Whatever business angle you’re coming from, we’re living in an increasingly digital marketplace. 

Ecommerce retail skills are in greater demand than ever.

What’s more, the required expertise is diverse, covering a broad umbrella of skills related to the digital world. From data analysis and search engine optimization (SEO) to brand communication, you need a varied bunch of employees. The aim is to utilize their capabilities to generate as much profit as possible for your online retail store.

Let’s go through these essential ecommerce retail skills one by one.

1. Soft Skills

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When you’re starting out as an ecommerce entrepreneur, you may well be a one-man-band doing everything yourself. At that time, skills such as being able to write well, the ability to learn new skills, and networking are important. And active listening rather than passive listening is also key. 

As your online retail business expands, you’ll probably need to hire retail workers to help manage that. And the staff required to support your online business will need to possess certain important skills.

Ecommerce businesses are different from physical stores. There aren’t any cash registers, in-house store managers, on-site retail managers, or in-store sales associates. There are fewer face-to-face interactions.

Regardless, you still need retail associates with a customer-first mindset. As part of that, soft skills are crucial.

Defining soft and hard skills

Hard skills are gained by education or training. They’re generally quite easy for an employer to define, assess, and measure. They include languages, numeracy, design, and computing skills.

Soft skills are harder to characterize. They’re things like personality traits and interpersonal skills. Because they’re harder to define, in an interview you may be asked to describe a particular occasion when you displayed a soft skill.

For example, the interviewer may want you to talk about a time you showed particularly good communication skills. Or a moment that highlights your time management skills.

Now we’ve made that distinction, let’s get back to soft skills as an essential retail skill when it comes to ecommerce.

Soft skills can make or break a conversation and are strongly related to customer service skills. Why? Because to deliver excellent customer service, communication and interpersonal skills are vital. To carry out a retail job effectively, it’s also important to talk clearly, and be patient, empathetic, and friendly.

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Good timekeeping, adaptability, and multitasking capabilities are also important soft skills. These all come in handy when juggling multiple customers, each with different issues.

By displaying these soft skills and providing excellent customer service, you help build a base of loyal customers.

Similarly, your salespeople require certain intangible qualities as part of their sales skills. For instance, let’s say a customer is browsing your website and isn’t sure whether a product is right for them. Your salespeople need to be able to persuade them to make a purchase.

What’s more, the role of the ecommerce salesperson is evolving. These days, as well as helping sell goods and services, they also sell your brand. For example, a quality salesperson suggests website improvements to enhance the customer experience.

To help your staff communicate better from a technological standpoint, you may want to invest in a unified platform. An all-in-one solution that integrates messaging, video, and phone calls helps teams stay organized. It also means they can work together more easily.

If you’re looking for a cloud-based provider, it’s hard to beat 3CX on price, so it would help to look into the best 3CX alternatives, ranked for small businesses.

Unified communications can also help bridge IT skills gaps. How? By improving collaboration and cooperation between teams.

There’s more on technology and software in the next section.

Back to soft skills: as a business owner, you have a role to play there, too. As well as sharpening up on the already mentioned soft skills, there are others you need to think about.

For example, you’ll need to build on your leadership skills, particularly if you have a growing team. There’s a big difference between leading and ordering. Which camp do you want to be in?

Ecommerce business owners should lead through being understanding and inspirational. Your employees should feel empowered, safe, and included. Try to stay in the loop about their career goals and how you can help them progress.

Aside from leadership, you also need a continued desire to learn. To help with that, keep an open mind, and listen to suggestions from your employees.

Possessing excellent soft skills will help you and your employees connect with your customers and each other. For example, teamwork will be easier if you communicate well and multitask. Utilizing soft skills also helps forge bonds with stakeholders, potential partners, and merchandisers.

Without these soft skills, your customer service team and your salespeople will be less successful. Ultimately, that means your ecommerce store will be less prosperous, too.

Of course, you and your employees must have first-rate product knowledge as well, but soft skills still rank highly.

2. Technology

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The range of ecommerce technology on the market has exploded in recent years, and it’s something business owners need to understand and learn as much about as possible. From sales order management and payments to shipping and fulfillment services, there’s technology galore to help you and your business.

For example, an omnichannel retail management system offers a robust, centralized infrastructure. You can use it to house your inventory, orders, financials, point of sale, and customer relationship management in one place.

Choosing a one-stop system consolidates operational data. It provides software with service and adapts to existing workflows. It also supports operational agility and helps to boost sales.

On a different technological note, you’ll likely want to invest in video conferencing technology, too. That way, you can communicate with your team online. To help get the most out of your video calls, make sure you know how to do screen share.

By doing that, you can share things like monthly reports and product launches with the rest of your team. Screen sharing also helps explain topics more clearly and allows for enhanced brainstorming.

When considering screen sharing options, think about whether the platform is easy to use. And does it integrate with existing technology?

More advanced features include being able to choose how much of your screen you want others to see. There may also be the option to share content from a second camera. Through these features, the host has complete control and can customize each meeting.

Here are a handful more tools to consider investing in:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) platform. By managing all customer interactions in one place, it makes it easier to offer personalized experiences. With full consumer audit trails and order history, you can streamline sales and lead generation.
  • Human resources software. Use HR technology to help with areas like payroll, recruiting, and employee engagement. It can also assist with benefits and onboarding. From Sap to Oracle, there are systems to suit different business needs.
  • Point of Sale (POS) technology. This type of software can seamlessly sync customer info, orders, restocking, and inventory. It’s particularly useful if you’re straddling online and in-store sales channels.
  • Safe file sharing sites. Cloud-based file sharing centralizes documents and allows multiple people to work on them at once, from anywhere. Shared files can be annotated without affecting the original, and files can be dragged and dropped directly into team chats. It’s easier to stay organized, and productivity is boosted.

It’s also important to use the right ecommerce platform – if you go down that avenue. For example, is Shopify the right place for your online store? Perhaps BigCommerce or Magento suits you better? Weigh up the pros and cons of different technologies before committing to anything.

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By utilizing technology, you can simplify business processes and help make scaling simpler. Yes, you may need to hire software developers for their coding expertise. But you’ll reap rewards by differentiating yourself from the competition.

3. Content

We’ve all heard the saying “content is king”, right? Your online business is filled with content, from product descriptions and blog posts to scripts for videos. All of these things require first-rate writing skills as well as top-class product knowledge.

Your content drives your business and marketing; it’s your way of communicating with your audience. Writing is a super important skill that shouldn’t be underestimated. Of course, writing is subjective, but there are certain things to keep in mind when creating content.

Remember, it’s not just the words, it’s the tone as well. For example, if your target customer is between 20 and 30, the type of language you use will be different to an over 60s demographic.

Whatever market you’re targeting, be sure to create concise yet compelling content. That way, you’ll help build authority and loyal customers for your business.

Furthermore, there’s nothing worse than a typo. Spelling and grammar errors give off an unprofessional vibe, and your business reputation can suffer as a result.

We’ve all read website copy that’s made us recoil with embarrassment. But it can be hard to put your finger on what exactly made you cringe. As a general rule, here are some content pointers to keep in mind:

  • Develop your story – talk to, not at, your audience in a natural, conversational way
  • Simple is best: no fluff or overly wordy content
  • Too many adjectives can have a detrimental effect and render a description meaningless
  • Don’t write in clichés
  • Research your desired customer base and also your competition
  • But don’t lift chunks of copy from other websites – be original
  • Structure and formatting are key
  • Images are vital: high-quality and relevant pictures make content engaging and fun
  • Check the consistency and flow of content – try reading it aloud
  • Editing and proofreading are non-negotiables

In short, as an ecommerce entrepreneur, you need to know the value of content.

4. SEO

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The next few skills we’re going to talk about are linked to content creation. We’ve established that creating error-free, high-quality content is important. Search engine optimization (SEO) is up there, too.

Why? Because there’s no point having error-free, high-quality content if few people are reading it.

By concentrating on SEO, you make it easier for your web pages to be accessed and indexed. In turn, that drives more people to your online store and increases sales.

But ranking highly on Google’s search engine results pages takes research, planning, and marketing expertise. For example, if you’re an online clothing retailer, what keywords do you want and need to be ranking for? The answer to that will impact the type of content you create.

SEO is a technical skill that requires a strategy. Not only that, boosting your SEO ranking takes time and patience.

Organic search accounts for greater than 50% of all website traffic. So, overlook SEO at your peril. You may have a skilled SEO guru among your staff, but if you’re trying to master it yourself, there a handful of websites and tools to keep in mind:

  • Moz
  • HubSpot
  • Quick Sprout
  • Yoast
  • SEMrush
  • Ahrefs

SEO is essentially an organic marketing skill. That leads us nicely to the next essential retail skill when it comes to ecommerce.

5. Marketing & Advertising

Content marketing is the basis of a successful SEO strategy. By creating and sharing SEO-friendly material, you promote your brand.

That material can range from blog posts and FAQs to videos and positive testimonials. Remember: these can all be shared on social media platforms.

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By marketing your ecommerce business effectively, you drive traffic to your site and build a brand following. To help build a strategy:

  • Research your competition and what they’re writing about
  • Look into what keywords your competitors are ranking highly for
  • Gather data on which social media platforms you should concentrate on
  • Research influencers you can contact and potentially work with

What’s more, be smart about where and how you advertise. Are pay-per-click ads the way to go? Maybe you should concentrate on native advertising or pop-up adverts? How can your ecommerce business achieve the maximum return on its advertising investment?

These are all important questions, and the answers will depend on your specific online business.

You may want to use an enterprise referral program as part of your marketing. That works by giving your customers an incentive to become a brand advocate or ambassador. When implemented successfully, your customer base widens.

Why? Because people trust recommendations from a friend or someone they know – word of mouth is a powerful tool. If a customer posts a positive message on social media about your product, imagine the potential ripple effect.

Referral programs can be easily scaled and are relatively low-cost. But if you’re looking for another option, consider email. It’s still viewed as an effective marketing medium, so perhaps focus some of your efforts there. And if you need assistance, tools such as MailChimp or ActiveCampaign offer marketing templates.

A successful email campaign is achieved if the recipients take the action you want them to. But before you can send anything out, you need subscribers. To do that, invite people to join your list via a call to action (CTA) button on your website.

There are many marketing and advertising routes to think about. Whatever methods you decide to go with, they need to be well-planned and monitored. There’s no point investing in an expensive strategy if you don’t measure how well it works.

That’s where data collection comes into play. 

6. Data Collection

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To see how well a marketing campaign is performing, you need to extract facts and stats from the software packages you use. Similarly, if you want to compare this year’s sales to last year’s, you need the ability to collect sales data. The same goes for inventory level comparisons.

Furthermore, if you curate an email competition campaign, you want to know whether it has positive results. By collecting data about when respondents enter the contest, you can see whether the campaign has an impact.

Or if the competition campaign is sent out on social media, you need to have the ability to collect data on spikes in followers.

Additionally, tools such as Google Analytics track visitors to your website. Optimizely can help you gather data to compare different versions of a webpage (A/B testing). And Brightpearl’s data-driven tools report on customer behaviors and patterns.

Collect data, and use it to make informed business decisions.

To help manage the data you collect, consider a file sharing application. That way, you and your team have a single source of truth to refer to. Files can be accessed from anywhere and annotated directly. Each person’s notes and feedback are captured and synced into an up-to-date and clean version.

Once you’ve collected the data and have a place to manage the facts and figures, it’s all about analysis.

7. Data Analytics

Number crunching is an important aspect of an ecommerce business. Using data, you’re able to investigate an issue, problem-solve, and suggest a solution.

Being able to analyze the data you pull from your systems can help with marketing, revenue predictions, and pricing decisions.

And these days, you don’t necessarily need a data analytics expert on board. Business intelligence tools offer product and customer insights and can help you make smart decisions.

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They can also offer demand planning, detailed financial reporting, and informative management reports. These help you build a complete business picture.

And with retail accounting tools, you can gain real-time insights. For instance, it’s easy to stay up to date with key metrics like profitability, sales performance, and costs.

And using  Call Center Analytics Software can improve your customer support strategy. As it allows you to monitor and collate data about how your customers are feeling and, more importantly, how your sales agents are responding to them.

Let’s use the British lifestyle brand Cabbages & Roses as an example. With real-time insights, they’re able to report on sales every day, by channel. Everything is connected in real-time from one place, saving time, and empowering them to make decisions.

8. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Whether it’s utilizing chatbots or implementing bots to automate repetitive tasks, AI has a part to play in the ecommerce world.

Artificial intelligence solutions can help increase ROI, lower costs, and improve accuracy.

It’s possible to automate parts of order processing and fulfillment, shipping, and invoicing. For example, cycling brand Bikebug saves 25% of their daily order processing time with warehouse automation. And Kentucky-based The Woolery ships orders 78% quicker thanks to automation.

Automation tools can also be used within marketing. For instance, platforms like Marketo and Infusionsoft offer marketing automation software.

Automation like that frees up time for human innovation and brainstorming. It also allows staff to concentrate on other areas, such as customer service and fuelling growth.

9. Design

When you don’t have a physical store, window displays aren’t an option. You can’t draw customers in via a striking arrangement as people walk past. What you can do is design an eye-catching website.

Surveys show that 75% of people admit they’ve made judgments about the credibility of a business based on the website’s design. That means how your online store looks matters.

Decide what image you’re going for with your website: are you selling luxury goods or value-for-money products? If the design of your online store is not in line with your brand’s core message, potential customers may be confused and put off.

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How your website looks, the design of your adverts, and what your email campaigns look like are all important. Each should scream you and your brand. To help, you’ll need to decide on a logo, a color scheme, and preferred fonts.

A visually pleasing design gives customers a better experience. In turn, that can potentially lead to more conversions and sales.

Your website should also be easy to navigate, with calls to action signposting where a customer can head next. And being mobile-friendly is crucial.

Make sure you stand out from the competition with a well-designed and user-friendly website.

10. Project Management

To own and run a sustainable and successful ecommerce business, project management is a crucial skill.

You may be operating across multiple online sales channels and own physical stores, too. To help manage these, project management skills shouldn’t be underestimated.

Tools like Trello, Airtable, and Flock can help you stay organized and on top of things.

But successful project management also relies on effective communication. Why? Because without it, vital aspects of a project can be misunderstood and deadlines can be missed.

Online Retail Employees

We’ve outlined a host of retail skills your ecommerce business needs to prosper. How does your business fare? Think about where your business may be falling a bit short.

If you need additional employees, what roles do they need to fulfil and what skill sets are required? is it a retail buyer you need? Perhaps it’s someone skilled in merchandising? Or maybe a digital copywriter?

If you’re looking to hire staff to fill skill set gaps, consider outsourcing to a recruiter.

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Whatever the role, ideally you want people who are looking for a retail career. That means individuals who are dedicated to the ecommerce retail industry. And people who are passionate about helping your business grow.

You may receive hundreds of resumes and cover letters for each role you recruit for. But keep in mind the essential retail skills you’re looking for when deciding to whom to offer jobs.

Most Vital Retail Skills

Online shopping is a super popular activity, with worldwide e-retail sales hitting $3.5 trillion in 2019. To build and scale a successful ecommerce business, what essential retail skills are required?

Let’s remember, ecommerce exists in the digital world. And so the vital skills required relate to online retail. These talents are diverse, and include soft skills such as communication and leadership. Content writing skills are important, too. And related to that is SEO, marketing, and website design.

Technology, data analysis, and automation must also be included in the essential retail skills list. And that’s where software platforms can help. From file sharing to retail management, technology offers innovative and modern ecommerce solutions.