One of Diana Haussling’s secrets to ecommerce success is to not think of the practice as ecommerce at all — or at least not ecommerce only.
Haussling, who is VP-GM of digital commerce at consumer products giant Colgate-Palmolive, has worked at some of the biggest brands in the world and likes to make the point that creating a divide between digital commerce and brick-and-mortar commerce is deadly.
It’s not how consumers think or shop — and consumers are why anyone in the commerce field is in business. So think of them. Think like them.
“You shouldn’t be rewarding the digital commerce team for growing their business while the brick-and-mortar team is declining,” says Haussling, one of Signifyd’s 2022 Most Influential in Ecommerce. “If you really want to grow in this space, it’s about putting the consumer in front of everything you do and delighting them however they choose to purchase — whether it’s going in the store and leveraging their phone to drive digitally influenced sales or it’s picking a different form of modality, like click-and-collect or having something delivered to their home. We win when it becomes one strategy as opposed to siloed strategies.”
- It’s commerce. Not ecommerce or brick-and-mortar — but commerce
- Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Remain curious.
- Listening to customers is only part of the puzzle.
- Own a profit and loss statement.
Find more of Colgate-Palmolive’s Diana Haussling’s advice in “Secrets From Ecommerce’s Most Influential Revealed” and in the video interview below.
Listening is only the beginning of understanding customers
Listening to consumers isn’t about only listening literally, Haussling says. It’s about watching and learning and empathizing.
“We all know this intrinsically as consumers when it’s not working. If you buy something online but can’t return it in the store; if you are looking for a specific item but it’s an online exclusive, but you’re going into the store; if you want to have conversations and get help, but that help feels and looks different from a digital commerce perspective than it feels when you’re actually in the store — that disjointedness creates a very unfulfilling consumer experience. And we all know this as consumers ourselves.”
Retail is all about building customer lifetime value and that isn’t done incrementally or in a segmented way. It requires taking a holistic approach to engaging, delighting and retaining customers — something that is increasingly difficult in an era when consumers are bombarded with competing messages and can move on with a click of a mouse or a tap of a screen.
As important as creating the conditions for success while focusing externally, it’s at least as important to create the conditions for success internally. Haussling says when it comes to her career and the teams she leads, she’s developed another list of secrets. First off, don’t start with brainstorming tactics and execution plans. Start by identifying your North Star — what are the growth goals and ongoing trajectory that you need to meet in order to maintain and improve a healthy business? Define a strategic plan to get there and stick to it.
Owning a profit and loss statement is a key to commerce career success
“You can’t sway and adjust and change with every whim,” she says. “Hold firm to the strategic plan and then ensure that the decisions you make align back to and help progress that strategic plan forward. That helps take out the overwhelming nature of all the choices, all the options and helps you really prioritize.”
Additionally, it’s crucial to manage a budget and to clearly understand your profit and loss (P&L) metrics and influencers.
“Ruthlessly prioritize spend within your P&L, ” Haussling says, which means constantly examining existing budget exemptions and spending plans. Don’t simply do the same thing because that is the thing you’ve always done. Expect market and economic conditions to change and consider how you can pivot to cut spending while preserving the brand experience for consumers should they change for the worse.
Haussling, a black woman who has succeeded at a number of global household-name corporations, also has advice for those who are typically underrepresented among business decision-makers.
“The advice I would give any woman, and especially women of color as they venture into the digital commerce space, is first you can do it. Don’t be intimidated,” Haussling says. “Whether you’re starting today or you’ve had 10 years under your belt, digital commerce works so quickly. Wherever you start, you will be able to gain the knowledge that’s necessary to learn quickly and be able to be a practitioner within the space.”
Have a lot of questions and the network to get them answered
And she says it’s important to remain curious and leverage your network to be on top of what’s coming next — new technology, new consumer trends, new economic shifts.
“And the last piece would be to take up space,” she says. “Sometimes, especially when you’re in digital commerce roles, you may be put in the corner and not always given the opportunity to share your voice or your opinion. It’s critical that you get into those business conversations.”
Don’t wait for the ecommerce conversation to come to you, Haussling says. When ecommerce is part of the bigger business, bring the ecommerce conversation to every discussion. Make sure you’re in the right meetings, sharing your perspective.
It’s not always easy, Haussling acknowledges. But she says she reminds herself that her perspective is unique — by definition when she is the only black woman or person of color in a room.
“My employer is paying me to have a point of view,” she says. “And when I hold back and when I don’t speak up, I am not doing my job to the fullest of my ability.”
Identifying sponsors can also go a long way toward ensuring you’re in the rooms where decisions are made. Unlike a mentor, Haussling says, a sponsor is a person who pushes for you to get new and additional opportunities that lead to influence and advancement
“Often women, and especially women of color, we get overly mentored. While mentorship is important,” she says, “sponsorship is critical to actually advancing your career. A sponsor is the person who’s going to select you for a project. They’re going to put you up for that role. They’re going to say, ‘Despite not having a digital commerce experience, I think she’s got what it takes and she can figure it out.’”
For Haussling, pursuing and providing sponsorship is all part of the holistic approach she takes whether in her accomplished career or her successful stewardship of commerce enterprises.
Feature photo published under creative commons
Interested in networking with innovative retail leaders? Join Signifyd’s FLOW community.