People often ask me: What trends am I seeing these days in the recruitment and hiring of digital commerce leaders? One definitely stands out: The steady rise in B2B digital marketing and ecommerce hiring. McKinsey reports that two-thirds of businesses surveyed said digital engagement of customers is among their top three strategic priorities. Look at Amazon. Five years ago, I don’t think too many people would have considered Amazon to be a serious B2B player. They are definitely a player today, and I know so because in conversations with B2B hiring managers many are now talking about the “Amazon effect.” I think Amazon has done an amazing job leveraging their expertise in B2C and turning that into products they can sell to businesses.

Five years ago, calls and emails from B2B’ers accounted for maybe one out of every five searches. Today, fully one-half of my practice is B2B digital marketing and ecommerce hiring, and there have been brief periods when it’s reached as much as three-quarters or more. According to Gallup, only 29% of B2B customers are engaged with the companies they do business with. Sounds like pretty fertile ground to me. My number one search right now is with a multi-billion dollar manufacturer that knows it needs to do a better job exploiting the digital channel, and what’s interesting is that this push didn’t just come from just the CIO to whom this position reports. It came out of a series of meetings at the highest levels of the company’s executive branch, spearheaded by the CEO himself who declared that delivering a subpar customer experience is “no longer an option.” They’ve already been transacting online for many years so we’re not talking about a seismic cultural shift, but this particular manufacturer takes product to market through thousands of distributors, dealers and wholesalers, not to mention their own sales force and also some direct to end-user. In this environment, managing customer engagement is truly multi-dimensional.

Pretty exciting stuff!

I’ve heard many B2B hiring managers give example after example of how online customer experience is cumbersome and inefficient. Lack of speed and visibility is huge. Post-sale customer service is sub-par. No fault of anyone’s really because more often than not, in large B2B enterprises that responsibility falls under IT. Customer engagement, of course, is an art and science all of its own. Using the example of the search I am working on currently- Director of Ecommerce and Digital Transformation as we’re titling it- this will report directly to the CIO, putting this position on par with his other IT department heads. By extracting this function from software developers and systems integrators, and putting it in the hands of an expert who’s done it before in a similar business environment and who knows how to lead internal change, customer centricity can truly prosper.

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 80 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

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