Guest Column | March 26, 2020

Why Product Management For E-Commerce Is Different To Other Projects

By Kayleigh Alexandra, MicroStartups

ecommerce boxes packaging

A huge amount of work goes into running a successful e-commerce business, as anyone who’s ever tried to run a store (even just in their spare time) has rapidly noticed. There are the technical aspects that come with online operation: keeping the website live, adding valuable features, and optimizing for search performance. Then there are the financial challenges: making ends meet, arranging payments, and dealing with tax issues.

The task that ultimately needs to take precedence, though, is product management. Past the vitality of customer service and top-notch branding, you can’t compete if you don’t have the right products — or if you contrive to misplay your winning hand. Here’s why product management for e-commerce is so distinct:

It Can Be Approached In So Many Ways

Think about the contrasts inherent to e-commerce, with the most obvious one being between full-control retailers and dropshippers. Some sellers handle everything themselves. They design, develop and manufacture their products, then store, maintain and ship them. This provides them with great freedom to be creative. They can look at trends and come up with twists, or try to start fresh trends through their ideation prowess.

Dropshippers, on the other hand, are all about efficiency: instead of stocking their own products, or even third-party products, they stay out of that area entirely and effectively act as mediators. This affords them accelerated business development, requiring no R&D or infrastructure costs and making it extremely easy to get established. Product management for dropshippers is very different, then — it’s all about carefully weighing profit margins against popularity and coming up with ingenious ways to take generic items and market them in eye-catching ways.

It Requires Many Different Skills

What does it take to be a fantastic product manager? You need a broad understanding of the market you’re operating in, all the relevant products available, how much it costs to take a product from first concept to final delivery, how different marketing approaches compare (particularly in the time of omnichannel tactics), how to use agile methodology, how to keep customers happy, and how to relentlessly iterate — and that’s far from a comprehensive list.

In essence, product management is incompatible with professional mediocrity. Not only does this mean that the hiring of product managers should be taken extremely seriously, but it also means that product management training must be a top priority. Everyone in your business, whether directly or indirectly involved, should be kept apprised of the latest tactics and technologies — and your organization needs to be a well-oiled machine.

It Demands Near-Constant Attention

Things move quickly in the world of online retail. Back when the internet had yet to emerge, shoppers had much lower expectations of changes in inventory: stores would stock up and offload their items slowly, knowing that their rivals had to do the same thing. These days, though, it’s hard to have that long-term approach — when your products start to lose their appeal, your prospective customers can just go elsewhere.

Because of this, you can’t afford to be relaxed about product management. The moment you think your top sellers are starting to dip because of a lack of interest, you need to devise a plan to sell your remaining stock as quickly and profitably as you can. And to be fully informed, you need to watch your rivals carefully — their activity should guide yours to some extent because your goal should always be to outperform them.

Overall, product management for e-commerce is largely different to other projects because of its incredible complexity and importance. If you want to compete online, you need to invest in your product management, which means carefully sourcing the right hires and training your team on an ongoing basis.

About The Author

A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh Alexandra is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy.

About MicroStartups

A team of writers and marketers, MicroStartups was founded to inspire the entrepreneurial and business community to give back. We believe in business growth through giving and supporting the local community.