Holiday Shopping Season Is Here: What Does This Mean For E-Commerce Employers?

With productivity and efficiency at the core of the success of e-commerce departments, consumer and retail businesses in China are challenged with attracting and retaining the best talent. What will it take to do this in 2019?

Holiday Shopping Season Is Here: What Does This Mean For E-Commerce Employers?

6 Dec 2018 by  Judy Zhang

From Singles Day (11/11) and Black Friday in November through to the Lunar New Year in February, holiday shopping hits its peak at this time of year. Today, a significant amount of this shopping is done online but what this means is that a particular group of people, namely e-commerce employees, is doing more shopping of a different kind—ordering take-out food for dinner, from their desks at the office.

In Aon's 2018 E-Commerce Human Resources Report (China) focusing on the e-commerce department in the consumer and retail sectors, surveyed companies expect an average sales increase of 46.1% through e-commerce—which accounts for 19.2% of total sales. This is slightly higher than last year. For companies whose e-commerce departments are 3 years old or less, sales can even increase by 500%. By contrast, companies with mature e-commerce departments (more than 5 years) are only growing at an average of 16.9%.

In addition, more than 80% of the companies surveyed say that there are conflicts between their online and offline businesses, and more than 60% of e-commerce departments are planning to be or have been reorganised in the last year. 

With productivity and efficiency at the core of the success of e-commerce departments, how can consumer and retail businesses in China attract and retain the best talent in 2019?

1. Rewards, recognition, and career opportunities

Our survey found that excessive salary growth is the biggest challenge in e-commerce talent recruitment. More and more China companies are using a higher salary ratio (the actual salary level of employees divided by the company's policy salary level) to attract higher-quality talent to the company; and at the same time, companies promote e-commerce employees at a significantly faster rate than employees working in traditional consumer retail industry at the same level. 

While it is true that the increasingly competitive business landscape demands companies recruiting e-commerce talent keep up with this excessive salary growth—or even exceed it, companies can also incorporate e-commerce job role opportunities into their employee retention and high-potential plans in order to provide more targeted development and training. Some enterprises have also begun to introduce functions such as data analysis and mining, self-operating platform construction and maintenance, website design, and performance optimisation into the e-commerce department—offering a breadth of new career opportunities to existing employees. 

At the same time, when these new departments grow to a certain volume, companies can set up an independent salary structure for these departments in order to enhance the salary competitiveness in recruitment.

2. Creative incentives

Most companies surveyed in our study focus on short-term incentives for their e-commerce departments—the most popular among them are sales incentive (primarily for sales functions) and performance incentive (for other functions such as marketing and operational employees). While this is effective for a short period, when employees can see the fruits of their labour through an annual bonus, it still doesn't prevent the loss of core employees over time. In fact, our survey shows that in 2018, the overall turnover rate of core employees in the e-commerce department is up to 19.1%—significantly higher than the turnover rate in other departments.

To keep costs down and retention levels up, companies can look into more diversified incentives instead of participating in the vicious competition of high salary poaching. In addition to cash incentives, this includes other forms of rewards such as internal recognition programmes, attractive gifts, and more.

In addition, during special periods (such as Singles Day), companies can consider special incentives such as overtime compensation, team activities, and spot bonuses to reward the hard work of employees. 

The talent war in China affects all industries in different ways, and there is no single or simple solution. For your e-commerce department to stand out from your competitors and be attractive to potential candidates and existing employees, you must utilise rewards, recognition, and opportunities to demonstrate how much your company appreciates the hard work of your e-commerce department—not just during the hectic holiday season, but throughout the year.

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Judy Zhang

Judy (Leilei) Zhang has been with Aon for more than 7 years, with diversified working experiences including compensation and benefits diagnoses, engagement study, job evaluation, salary structure design, short-term incentive plan design (including sales incentives), HR strategy, project management, and leadership assessment and development. Her clients include private companies, state-owned enterprises, as well as foreign enterprises—such as McDonald’s, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes Benz, China Resources, Merck, Medtronic, Karl Storz, Sanofi, OCBC Bank, Poly Property, CIFI, Yango, Hong Kong Land, and Shanghai Jiahua.

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Judy Zhang
Judy Zhang
Shanghai, China