I’ve broken up slews of bar fights between merchandising and marketing teams. As a spectator sport, they’re probably a kick to watch – but they suck the life out of the team’s productivity. Not to mention what happens to the customer experience when everybody finally goes back into their corners.
Spats can be good. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (great book, read it) by Patrick Lencioni says that one of the signs of a great team is that they have heated, honest debates. That’s what gets the hard issues on the table and settles them the fastest.
But if the teams are going to fight, they should fight about the right stuff.
If the steady stream of whining is about which team “owns” the customer experience, which team “owns” conversion metrics or which team “owns” the website, you’re doomed. Even if you answered the question, it wouldn’t stop the fights.
So why are these guys fighting so much?
- Marketers have some amazing customer behavior data - they’re itching to make it count.
- Merchants aren’t set up to let that data lead their decisions and processes – it’s not the way their jobs are structured.
- Product insight and content on the website is a big mess with no strategic ownership.
- So, we can’t be great at matching people with the products and content they’re looking for. Everybody’s frustrated – the marketers, the merchants, the customers.
- And, (worst of all) well meaning e-commerce leaders are pitting these teams against one another by giving them conflicting success measures.
How did we get so messed up? Retailers with their roots in brick & mortar have traditionally built elephantine power centers in merchandising. Trouble is, e-commerce success is by nature driven off of the immediacy of the customer dialogue and the customer being in control…..customers are arriving at the front door of a site saying “show me what I want to see, not what you want to show me” and that feels like driving in the wrong lane for a lot of merchants. Marketers have the real time data, but in most cases, it’s not getting infused into the merchandising decisions.
An evolution is happening – but as the leader, you have to jump start it since we’re dealing with human behavior here:
- Whatever you do - get merchants and marketers working together on everything. Stop at nothing - physically breaking down cubicle walls, skin fusing, etc. They can’t spend enough time together.
- Maniacally demand that marketers bring customer insights to the forefront. Turn your business processes upside down if you have to - just get the data into the decision making.
- Wake up and stop thinking about your product content as a production expense. It’s a strategic asset. Manage it that way, put your best merchant in charge of it. And join them at the hip with the marketers.
- Find a big metric that really matters and get both teams to focus on it as the most important thing. There will always be a ton of good metrics to track, and you should track them, but hold both teams accountable to the biggest one.
- Encourage the fights to continue – if you do the above, the subject matter should change.