Online retail is more competitive than ever, with ecommerce giants and niche online stores vying for customer dollars. When consumers can switch from browsing bespoke furniture to comparing high-tech gadgets with a single click, standing out requires more than just a catchy slogan or a slick website. Experts in ecommerce product management ensure digital services are finely tuned to user needs.
Ecommerce product management adapts the principles of traditional product management to the unique rhythms of online commerce, focusing on the product life cycle of goods as they journey from concept to shopping carts. Learn about the responsibilities of ecommerce product managers, the challenges of the discipline, and best practices for ecommerce product management.
What is ecommerce product management?
Ecommerce product management is the practice of strategizing, planning, executing, and optimizing online retail offerings to drive sales. Ecommerce product managers are responsible for guiding the end-to-end lifecycle of products on ecommerce platforms. The goal is to maximize the performance of ecommerce products by understanding customer needs and overseeing the development of tailored retail strategies.
What do ecommerce product managers do?
- Conduct market research
- Define product strategy and roadmaps
- Analyze customer data and feedback
- Optimize website performance
- Measure and report product performance
- Test and iterate marketing and sales strategies
Ecommerce product managers are the strategic linchpins in an ecommerce company, ensuring that products meet market needs and exceed customer expectations. Ecommerce product managers do the following:
Conduct market research
To inform product decisions, ecommerce product managers delve into consumer behavior, market trends, and competitive analysis. They scrutinize search patterns, purchase data, and examine social media feedback to identify what customers are seeking. This research shapes product development, helping to create realistic user stories and ensuring offerings align with current demand.
Define product strategy and roadmaps
Developing a product strategy involves outlining the vision and direction for a product’s lifecycle. Ecommerce product managers synthesize market research insights to set clear objectives, prioritize features, and schedule product releases. They collaborate with business development managers to align product roadmaps with broader business goals, ensuring a coherent growth-driven strategy.
Fellow, a company renowned for its pour-over kettle, has expanded its product roadmap from exclusively selling coffee gear to including expert-selected coffee, enriching the home brewing experience. “You can’t make bad coffee taste good just because you have a good grinder,” says founder Jake Miller. “We partner with roasters from around the world. … We pick our favorite coffees, and then we sell those coffees to our customers.”
Analyze customer data and feedback
Ecommerce product managers analyze customer data and feedback to drive product improvements and customer satisfaction. They review metrics from sales analytics, customer service interactions, and online reviews to gain insights into customer preferences and pain points. For example, the team at Fellow understands their coffee brewing tools are a constant in their customers’ homes and take their impassioned feedback seriously.
“Customer reviews are pure gold. Every entrepreneur and any employee should obsess over what feedback you’re getting from your customers,” Jake says. “We’re weekly, as a company, reading the feedback that we get—both the good stuff and the bad stuff. Then, our product team translates the bad stuff into product improvements. We’re seeing our Net Promoter Scores] and our [customer satisfaction scores] improve over time, because we’re constantly trying to make our stuff better.”
Optimize website performance
Ecommerce product managers work closely with web developers to enhance site speed, navigation, and mobile app functionality. They conduct A/B testing to determine the most effective design elements and call-to-action placements. This continuous improvement process is vital for giving customers a seamless shopping experience and ensuring digital storefronts are attractive, functional, and ahead of the competition.
Measure and report product performance
Ecommerce product managers track and report on ecommerce KPIs (key performance indicators). They use analytics tools to monitor sales trends, conversion rates, and customer engagement, reporting regularly to stakeholders. This data-driven approach allows them to measure the impact of changes and identify areas for optimization.
Test and iterate marketing and sales strategies
Ecommerce product managers work with the marketing team to test different approaches—from email marketing to social media advertising—analyzing which tactics yield the best results. This iterative process is essential for refining the marketing mix and improving the effectiveness of sales channels.
Starting as a bootstrapped company, Fellow focused primarily on securing media coverage, a strategic move that netted it broad media placements—from Eater to Epicurious. “PR has been a big part of our success. We have a team at Fellow that’s dedicated to our PR efforts,” Jake says. “We didn’t have big budgets to acquire customers, so we needed to get coverage. We needed to get that free media whenever possible.”
Challenges of ecommerce product management
- Keeping pace with market and technology changes
- Balancing user experience with conversion optimization
- Managing cross-functional teams and stakeholder expectations
Ecommerce product management faces several unique challenges in bringing products to market and positioning them in a competitive ecommerce arena. Here are some of them:
Keeping pace with market and technology changes
Ecommerce product managers must stay current with rapidly shifting market trends and technological advancements. Online retail is highly dynamic, with new platforms, tools, and consumer behaviors emerging regularly. Product managers must continuously learn and adapt to these changes to ensure their product offerings remain relevant and competitive.
Fellow swiftly rose to become a market leader in coffee gear with innovative designs, and imitators emerged quickly. The company fortified its position by securing patents to protect its original creations. “It’s important that you protect the work and your original ideas, both in the US and abroad, depending on where you’re gonna sell and where you manufacture,” Jake says.
Balancing user experience with conversion optimization
Ecommerce product managers must ensure their websites and mobile apps are user-friendly and provide all the information customers need to make informed purchasing decisions. At the same time, they need to implement effective conversion rate optimization strategies without compromising the integrity of the user experience. This balancing act can be complex because changes to increase sales shouldn’t detract from overall customer satisfaction.
Managing cross-functional teams and stakeholder expectations
Ecommerce product managers often work with other teams, including marketing, customer service, IT, and supply chain management. Coordinating diverse teams and ensuring everyone is aligned with the product vision and strategy can be challenging. This requires communicating effectively, prioritizing tasks, and managing conflicting interests through solid leadership and negotiation skills.
Tips for ecommerce product management
- Use agile methodology for ecommerce seasonality
- Prioritize the mobile experience
- Embrace emerging technologies
- Focus on customer lifetime value
Navigating the complex and ever-evolving landscape of ecommerce requires a strategic and adaptable approach to product management. Here are tips to help:
Use agile methodology for ecommerce seasonality
Agile methodology is crucial for managing the market’s seasonality, allowing teams to adapt to changing consumer demands and peak shopping periods. By employing an agile approach, you can quickly switch strategies, optimize inventory, and update marketing campaigns to align with seasonal trends. For instance, an agile team could shift from a summer-centric product line to a fall-focused campaign within weeks, capitalizing on the back-to-school shopping surge.
Prioritize the mobile experience
Given the increasing prevalence of mobile commerce, it’s critical to prioritize the mobile shopping experience. This means ensuring your ecommerce site is optimized for mobile devices and users. Key considerations include a responsive design that adjusts seamlessly to different screen sizes, fast loading times to keep bounce rates low, and a simplified checkout process to increase conversion rates.
Embrace emerging technologies
Incorporate emerging technologies like voice search, augmented reality (AR) commerce, virtual reality (VR), and blockchain to elevate the ecommerce experience. Optimize for voice search to capture the growing number of customers using voice-activated devices. Use AR and VR to offer immersive product visualizations, enhancing customer engagement and confidence. Leverage token-gated commerce to foster customer loyalty by offering exclusive access and rewards through blockchain technology. These technologies can differentiate your brand and provide customers with unique shopping experiences.
Focus on customer lifetime value
Shift your perspective from short-term sales to the long-term value of a customer. Understanding and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV) is vital for sustainable growth in ecommerce. This involves developing customer retention strategies, such as loyalty programs, exceptional customer service, and regular engagement through marketing personalization. By focusing on CLV, you encourage repeat business, which often is more cost-effective than acquiring new customers. A loyal customer base is critical to the success of your ecommerce business.
Ecommerce product management FAQ
Is there software available to help with ecommerce product management?
Ecommerce platforms like Shopify offer built-in features for effective ecommerce product management, including analytics and multichannel sales integration.
What is the goal of an ecommerce product manager?
The primary goal of an ecommerce product manager is to align the product strategy with user needs and business goals to drive sales and improve customer satisfaction.
What’s the difference between a product manager and a project manager?
A product manager focuses on a product’s vision, strategy, and feature definition. By contrast, a project manager oversees the execution of specific initiatives and projects, ensuring they are completed on time and within budget.