Ecommerce at Hallmark

We sat down with our new Head of E-commerce, to learn about his career, and the new roles within his team in Ecommerce.

Briefly describe your career to date.

Having started stacking shelves at Homebase to fund my way through University I quickly realised how much I enjoyed retail and the various elements which go into creating great customer experiences. Whether it was talking to shoppers and helping them with their needs or ensuring inventory was accurate and products available to purchase the whole end to end process fascinated me. Having been fortunate enough to land a job at Tesco I worked across various channels, learning about the different shopper needs and expectations. The changing landscape of online and opportunity to learn grabbed my attention and I decided to focus my career on E-commerce. Having lead various trading teams across the commercial general merchandise business I took the plunge and moved to the online team where I headed up the analytics and optimisation team across multiple platforms. This was by far my steepest learning curve but equally one of the most rewarding 12 months of my career, working with data scientists, product owners and UX designers was a brilliant experience and together we made some huge steps forward across the business. Eager to get back into trading I made the move back into the commercial team where I ran the Tesco Marketplace trading team, this was a small team who worked in incubation alongside the wider business, collaborating with partners (sellers) to develop a proposition which gave shoppers a differentiated and value added experience. Whilst I had a great time at Tesco, having been there for 9 years I was eager to learn more about retail and apply my knowledge elsewhere, the card industry and Hallmark wasn’t my first choice but after looking at the challenge and opportunity to transform a traditional business model it soon became clear that this was the right role for me.

Did you have a career path in mind when you left University?  

Not exactly, if I said I wanted to be a Head of E-commerce back in 2008 then I’d be lying, back then the role only existed in a handful of companies.  I knew I wanted to work in business and whilst I hadn’t plotted each role of my career I was always driven to progress and was willing to adapt my roles whilst I focused on learning and developing myself. The same is still true today, whilst I have a clearer focus on my career path it’s still founded upon a huge desire to improve myself and the businesses I work for.

Has your career taken any interesting turns along the way? 

Absolutely, retail is always evolving and in new channels like online there’s always an emerging area/function which interests me so I’m keen to explore. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work on exciting projects such as augmented reality, the launch of hudl online and . Some of the most satisfying and worthwhile moments of my career have come from projects or moves that I least expected, likewise they’ve largely been the most demanding.

What do you enjoy about working in the E-commerce space?

I love the transparency of online, the volume of data points gives you the ability to create and influence an end to end shopper experience which touches upon the whole of your value chain. I’m a bit of a data geek and with the right tools and knowledge you can measure some really important metrics throughout your business, using them to form a tangible shopper experience which can be measured, reviewed and improved at each key stage. Outside of data and shopper experience I really enjoy the fluidity of E-commerce and the constant newness which comes with it, keeping up to date with the latest trends is something I’m passionate about so I’m always reading blogs, attending conferences, learning new skills or talking to people in the industry to absorb more information.

What advice would you give to someone starting off in their career?

It’s important to deliver your objectives and meet the needs of your business/employer but don’t lose focus on developing yourself and continuing to learn. All industries will continue to go through change and inevitably with the introduction of new technologies and changing shape of the economy roles are going to change, having transferable skills and knowledge will enable you to adapt and take charge of your career.

What do you see for the future of E-commerce?  Either for Hallmark or the industry in general?

For me E-commerce and traditional retail will eventually merge, the concept of ‘New Retail’ will happen and as shoppers have convenience at their fingertips the barriers of entry will largely be eradicated. Amazon, eBay and Alibaba are three of the most prominent players in the market today, they each operate their own unique marketplace and have millions of shoppers every single day purchasing from sellers who most shoppers have either never heard of, I believe E-commerce will become even more fragmented with smaller players continuing to be able to access mass audiences through a multitude of platforms and the further simplification of operations and fulfilment solutions. It’s clear that AI and new technology will play a key role in the acceleration of E-commerce however fundamentally like anything within retail the winning solutions will be data led and based on shopper insight.

Who has been your inspiration/mentor over the years?

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and meet many people who either inspired me or played the role of a mentor. Generally speaking I’m inspired by people who communicate clearly with passion and have a real sense of purpose, regardless of the size or scale of the task. From a mentor perspective I’ve always enjoyed mentors who challenge me to expand my thinking and ways of working, it’s always been important to me that I have a variety of mentors at any given time as each is able to support in a different capacity. In effect it’s more like a general counsel, filled with (ex)colleagues, family and friends who I rely on for support, when I look back at my career they’re people I’m thankful for and who I owe a lot to.

What opportunities would someone have joining your new team at Hallmark?

This is a new team being hired to effectively start a brand new function within Hallmark so the opportunities are huge. We have a clear vision for the team, it’s culture and the shape of our business however we need the right individuals to deliver it. The team has a genuine opportunity to make a difference at Hallmark, they’ll be empowered to make decisions and harvest a test and learn culture which delivers continuous improvement throughout the business. They’ll have an opportunity to work with some awesome colleagues who have a passion to create and tell stories through our products, they’re itching to support such an exciting channel and can’t wait to start moving at pace with the team.

What will be the biggest challenge for someone joining your new team at Hallmark?

The biggest challenge is that we need to work at a fast pace and yet alongside the wider business. It’s important that we take the wider business on the journey so collaboration is vital. Any individual joining the team will be responsible for leading the development of their role and function within Hallmark so at times it might be lonely and it’ll definitely be challenging but in the end it’ll be highly rewarding. Self-starters who can influence and inspire others will flourish in the team and make a visible impact on the business.