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Is digital marketing or e-commerce the way to go for my next career move?

Question :

I am a senior digital marketing executive working in the e-commerce department of a large traditional retailer. Looking ahead, my career path would logically go digital marketing manager, then maybe marketing manager or director. However, I’m wondering what other options might be open to me as I build more and more e-commerce expertise. With your knowledge on how the e-commerce landscape is changing and the demands of hirers, what sort of alternative career paths might you suggest? I have a particular interest in analytics and social media optimisation, not necessarily just in relation to e-commerce. 

Posted by Jill on Saturday, 07 Jan 2017

Comments :

Both e-commerce and digital marketing are expected to be amongst the hottest jobs in the market in the years to come and you are right that the knowledge and work exposure required of a director of marketing and a director of e-commerce differ as you progress in your career. It is indeed wise of you to be aware of the overlaps and differences, and to be mapping out your career path at such an early stage.

As you may know, digital marketing is but one facet of marketing that has experienced exponential growth in recent years. To grow to become an all-round director of marketing, you may need to strengthen your overall marketing exposure in areas other than digital marketing. This would include PR, events, advertising, CRM, database marketing, trade and product marketing, and, of course, the overarching brand and integrated marketing strategy. Depending on the structure and sophistication of your company, you can focus on deepening your exposure in selected areas.

On the other hand, as a head of e-commerce, you will need to generate website traffic and convert your online visitors into registered members and customers, as well as be responsible for the P&L of the company’s online business. You will need to take charge of everything from development, user experience, security, site maintenance, analytics and operations to customer service and brand loyalty. This is in addition to social media optimisation and content marketing, which you should already be familiar with.

The best e-commerce candidates are equipped with sound marketing knowledge, technical know-how and an acute business mind. E-commerce professionals work closely with website developers, and are accountable for selecting e-commerce platforms, online payment systems and other related technologies. Moreover, you should also be skilled in data analytics, possess a deep understanding of e-commerce metrics, and be able to use this knowledge to improve online business performance. Last but not least, you should also have strong domain knowledge covering operations, logistics, supply chain and product delivery management.

From my experience, in companies with traditional business models, good e-commerce leaders may also be asked to play critical roles in change management, driving the company’s transformation from their legacy model to a state-of-the-art e-commerce model.

To become an e-commerce expert, you have to be certain that you enjoy the industry. It is easier for good marketers to transfer their marketing wisdom between industries than for e-commerce professionals. For example, I have seen luxury retail marketers successfully transferring their skills to become premium banking marketers; however, a head of  e-commerce in luxury retail will find it a struggle to switch into a similar position in another industry, such as the more regulated banking and finance sector.

With solid digital marketing experience and an interest in data analytics and social media optimisation, you are in a good position to pursue either route. If you also happen to be tech-savvy with a strong business mind, perhaps e-commerce will come more your way. I hope the above gives you sufficient insights into your career paths in question, and I wish you every success in the pursuit of your chosen career path.


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as What's better: digital marketing or e-commerce?

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