At Ally, our mission is to drive outcomes for our clients. eCommerce is complex and constantly changing, so we rely on a fast-paced, innovative culture to make it happen. We want to help you get to know the people behind your eCommerce engine, so today, we’re taking you behind-the-scenes with Elyse Welch, our senior manager of client operations.
Meet Elyse: Q&A Lightning Round
Senior Manager of Client Operations at Ally
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with Ally.
I’m a total process nerd and that ability continued and strengthened after attending Georgia Tech with my Management major and minor in Technology & Management. After I graduated, I dabbled in healthcare consulting, but quickly realized it wasn’t the right space for me. An opportunity arose to move to San Francisco, so I started in on the job hunt again. While looking for permanent work, I opted in to a temporary week-long data entry job with Fitbit. At the end of the week, they asked me to stay, and I ended up working there for four years! A lot of my career has evolved this way — seizing random opportunities to help others and problem solve at just the right time.
At Fitbit, I started by helping them figure out their fraud department as well as customer service returns & order process. This led me to work closely with engineering team and homegrown tech platform, which then led to working closely and scaling their eCommerce presence. I’ve been super lucky to have been part of a brand that prioritized DTC because I was involved in important things early on, like how to hire an amazing crew, manage global inventory and order management, partner in website localization efforts, and more. We introduced pre-orders on the platform, managed backorders, orchestrated website product launches, the list just rolls on. It was so fascinating to be a part of Fitbit as it was growing and evolving.
When it was time for a new challenge, I looked outside of Silicon Valley and found Ally. I gravitated towards a startup atmosphere as well as the unique way that Ally solved DTC challenges. I applied for a role that wasn’t really a perfect fit, but worth a shot. I was so excited and curious about what was going on, and I had a lot of great experience. The application led to several conversations that ended up leading to a job created just for me. It started out as eCommerce operations, and it’s grown from there.
Walk us through your typical day. What are the core components of your role?
My typical day is all about achieving balance. I manage two teams — account management client operations and our merchandising and creative team. For the client operations side, I work directly with the members who are on the ground and managing their subject matter areas. They do a lot: promotions, pricing, inventory management, sku creation, feature improvements (like pre-orders, bundle builders, etc), and more.
On the other side is the merchandising and creative team. They design websites and assets, as well list all products across a client’s website and marketplaces. They’re also greatly involved in managing the new client onboarding process. Trust me, it’s a lot!
So when it comes down to it, my day is constantly ensuring that everyone has the appropriate priorities, but also that they’re equipped with the tools and resources they need to be successful. My goal is to continuously build these team members, and together with the incredible technology we’re working with, we continue to raise the bar.
“Communication with inventory is key. You think you have it down pat, but there are so many stakeholders that need to be in reliable communication with each other providing the appropriate inputs/requests if it’s going to work. That’s where things fall apart. If you’re a huge organization and you’re siloed out, it’s easy to miss tiny pieces.”
Let’s talk about your teams. What roles make up the client ops/merchandising teams?
When it comes to a great team, I like to focus on one thing: It’s not always about the experience that someone brings to the table, it’s about the ability as well. As we hire and grow, that’s what I’m trying to pry out of the applicants. I want to hire, and be around, people who are motivated to find solutions and get creative, aren’t afraid to be scrappy, and are willing to take on an opportunity and truly own something.
One thing I heard and love to emphasize to others about Ally: You have the opportunity to leave your fingerprints on the company. Who doesn’t want to be in that kind of place? I am motivated to find people inspired by that. The type that if we hit a roadblock, we don’t stop but figure out how to get around it and keep going. That takes creativity and teamwork – people who know how to tap into their team and community around them. I don’t want superstar individuals who only want to rely on themselves or promote themselves. At Ally, we’re all about listening and learning, sharing knowledge, and sharing what motivates us. That’s why we have this really amazing diverse team that can rely on each other.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
My team, hands down; I could talk about my team forever. They’re the ones, day in and day out, accomplishing so much. I aim to motivate them across our many priorities and give them a platform — they do the rest.
Working at a startup has its challenges because as we’re growing and expanding, we’re figuring out how to make things work most efficiently. That’s a full-time job. The way that I help chip away at the challenge is with hiring — finding the right person to fit the mold that is ever evolving! But when we do, it makes all the difference in the momentum of the entire company.
“We’re really good at carving out time to find the areas that we need to fix, and working the problem while also doing everything else that we’re doing. We’re ruthless at prioritizing, so we’re constantly discovering and fixing, and then going back to the drawing board to align with our goals and chip away at the glacier.”
What’s the biggest mistake brands make when it comes to pricing? What about inventory?
One of the things that I’ve been seeing recently is how eCommerce channels are struggling to maintain control of pricing across channels. It hurts so much when I see a variety of lower pricing options outside of the website because it ultimately affects conversion. If a customer is going to a brand’s site, they want to know that they’re getting the best price, the best warranty, the best everything. If there are lower prices available elsewhere, it destroys that trust.
As far as inventory goes, one of the biggest concerns is ensuring that the owner of the process has great visibility and communication across inventory needs for the company and has a reliable tool. The tool is critical and super important — it allows you to incorporate the lead time across your supply chain and transit while looking across historical sales information to help project forward — but impact is lessened if you don’t have someone closely monitoring the communication for all stakeholders. It’s critical for all sales channels to feed in historical data and lend visibility to volume requests. For example, if there’s a marketing promotion or ad sent out and you weren’t aware of it, you might not have the right quantities of the product, and that’s unfortunate. You lose your impact, AND you look really silly.
Why should brands be considering — if not prioritizing — selling direct to consumer (DTC)? In your words, what benefits and opportunities does this strategy offer?
I came from a brand that had the priority early on, so it was also really easy for me to see the benefits of DTC. It’s a channel with a great margin. Hopefully, you’ve already got a website that’s trusted by your customers, so why not layer on the option to help them make that purchasing decision? We live in a fast-paced world, and you need to give the customer the right opportunity at the right time. Another benefit is that you can list your full product catalog on your own site. Individual retailers may only take one or two colors but on your website, you control the experience, and you can offer a fuller variety, test between colors and sizes, and get all of those great analytics back into your product development plan.
Why do you think Ally is the best solution for brands looking to set up or improve their DTC eCommerce operation?
It takes a small army for an eCommerce solution. I mean, so much has to go into this. Where Ally is really successful is that they make an eCommerce solution easily accessible. The sheer amount of knowledge you need to be successful is a reason enough alone, but Ally is really second-to-none when it comes to hitting the ground faster. If you’re a brand that doesn’t know where to start, or you’ve tried and failed, that’s where Ally is valuable. We have the creatives, the engineers, the operational services, and we’re here if you need to utilize any of those pieces. We’re reliable, and that’s something that will propel your business forward and iterate change fast.