Defining an eCommerce Operation – Product Management

UPDATE 10/27/10 – I posted a mind map of my eCommerce Operation on mindmeister that replaces the original map contained in this post. This includes the latest updates to my organizational thoughts on an eCommerce team.

In my last entry about eCommerce operation and structure I wrote about the functional area for content management. In many organizations, content management and data setup are one in the same. The responsibility for product management or product selling is a different group or individual. In this context ‘product’ is not the eCommerce software but the product or service being sold on the eCommerce site.

Another way to organize the functional roles of content manager and product/service manager are to combine them. Doing this offers a couple of advantages to the eCommerce team and individuals involved:

  1. It allows the product/service manager to expand their experience and knowledge to Internet related skills. I often hear product/service managers tell me that they would like to get more involved with Internet activities but they are not sure where to get started. They have performed the role of a traditional product/service manager which is channel independent. But they would like to understand more of the intricacies with online setup to give them personal growth.
  2. The same is true in reverse for those that have only been involved with data management activities. As a by-product of their working with online product/service setup these individuals often become subject matter experts on these product/services because they understand the business rules and attributes necessary to sell. Allowing them an opportunity to step into a management role allows the possibility to grow the individual in the direction of a business owner with experience in the marketing, finance, and supply chain management of a product/service.

Assigning the role of product/service management and online management to the same person then has advantages for both the individual and the organization. I realize that eCommerce is only a single channel among many options. However, depending on the business, the Internet may be the only channel. So this is an option that organizational designers should consider based on their situation.

Functionally, the product/service management area of the eCommerce operation is responsible for:

  • Merchandising – Determining how to use the characteristics and features to promote and sell.
  • Cross Selling – Determine which, if any, additional products/services are a complementary or related product to the primary. These are then offered and/or recommended during the sales process to the customer.
  • Comparison – Deciding the main characteristics and features used as part of the decision making process by the customer. This provide a comparison of similar products so that customers can look at the differences between features to make an educated comparison.
  • Search – Decide the categories in which to place a product so as to enable the customer to find the product/service through navigation of the site or using the internal search page.

Combining these responsibilities with the previous ones discussed, the concept map of our eCommerce operation looks like this.


In future posts, I’ll explore other functional areas necessary for the eCommerce team. What are your thoughts about combining the roles of content and product manager in an eCommerce operation?

2 Replies to “Defining an eCommerce Operation – Product Management”

  1. Hi Bob…great unique post.

    I would add that that Product team’s needs to understand how translate features of the product to benefits and why customers should buy the products. They are often the all-important link to the Marketing team. For instance, they should help merchandise targeted email marketing efforts.

    Since the Product team knows the products best, the ability to work closely with the Marketing team becoming critical. I’ve seen Product teams work in silos while the Marketing teams struggle to get critical product data (such as bestsellers, promotion details or vendor sign-off) and other product assets (such as proper product images and vendor signoff).

    Keep up the great posts,

Comments are closed.