What is ecommerce product management and what product managers working in ecommerce companies work on?


Traditionally all ecommerce functions in DTC brands and retailers have been managed by ecommerce operations and marketing.

Hypothesis: this structure leaves a gap in having a focused and sustained eye on specific growth related activities required for a thriving ecommerce business and brand.

What do ecommerce product managers do? They focus on understanding, improving and innovating:

  1. Customer acquisition: acquiring new customers from non-marketing type activities, including what is refereed to as PLG (product led growth). An example is social sharing and transactional email acquisition options.
  2. Engagement: if customers are not engaged after they make the first purchase, they will likely forget about you.
  3. Retention: some customers slow down their shopping from you, and there are reasons for this. understanding the reasons and attending to them can keep the customers happy and coming back.
  4. Analytics - this is the foundation of all above without which no improvement will be possible so it’s a critical part of the product role. And this is not just website analytics, it’s the complete experiences and touch points.

These are large topics and include hundreds of individual tactics driven by the overall company strategy.

The product manager or team needs to start from the internal and external data and build a list of potential ideas, hypotheses and experiments, work on implementing limited experiments and proving or disproving the hypotheses and build on the successes.

Depending on the size of your company one person might be doing everything to start but as the company grows you will need more people to handle the load. The workload will likely be split up as follows:

  1. Ecommerce manager responsible for the actual sales channels including the website, marketplaces like Amazon, affiliate programs, merchandising, production, customer service, returns and newer models like livestream shopping.
  2. Product team responsible for analytics, experimentation and on site optimization, CRO, engagement and retention.
  3. Marketing handling content, brand building and traffic generation

There will always be differences between different companies but in general these are the functional roles involved and the key to the product role is “optimizing profitable revenue”.

Profitable revenue is revenue that is generated with minimal CAC (customer acquisition cost) and as a result improving margins. It’s always possible to increase revenues by spending on paid advertising but that drives up CAC, reduces margins and you’ll be in the negative margin zone which is very difficult to get out of.

The other key responsibility of the product team is to increase LTV (lifetime value) for the company. This means the value of each customer needs to be more than just that initial purchase. In fact, if you only sell a customer once it is a loss, even if it’s an automobile. Which is why car dealerships and manufacturers depend so much on after-sale service and accessories for the real profits.

And as I’ve written before a key tool for improving LTV is your account page.

So if you are a DTC brand or retailer and have not thought about Product Managers as a key role in your growth trajectory, think again. You will most likely not achieve the goals you’re looking for without them.