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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 Cal Harris our eCommerce Manager. 


Meet Cal: Q&A Lightning Round

Cal Harris

eCommerce Manager at Ally



Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with Ally.

I was in Seattle for a few years working for Amazon as a vendor manager, but I’m a native of Atlanta and I moved back home to start a family. When I was leaving Amazon, I really wanted that small technology company experience and feel. There are plenty of companies in the Atlanta area that have tie-ins to eCommerce and logistics, but Ally really stood out in terms of their approach to driving direct to consumer eCommerce, and their culture was top-notch. Plus, there were a lot of parallels to the vendor manager role.

Walk us through a typical day in the life as an eCommerce Manager at Ally. What are the core components of your role?

There’s not really a typical day — how many times have you heard that? In the account manager role, you are a utility player. The focus is on client needs, and you’re doing all kinds of things based on how each wants to drive their business forward. Our clients’ needs are as diverse as the Ally team, but the main component of my day is always thinking about how I can holistically drive a client’s’ eCommerce business toward growth. This could include a host of different strategies: a new website, a new promotion, a new bundle offering, a new functionality of some kind, to name a few. For example, we recently built out a custom pre-order functionality for a client’s website, so they can begin the marketing cycle sooner and allow people to purchase in advance of product launches. At the end of the day, I’m most focused on keeping an open line of communication with my clients for both long-term alignment and short-term needs.


“Ally is a unique place with a unique offering, and we’ve got a dynamic team filled with top-tier talent.”



You’re responsible for ensuring that the eCommerce sites for Ally’s clients are optimized for maximum performance. What do you look for? What recommendations do you make?

In eCommerce, everything boils down to what we call the eCommerce equation: Traffic x Conversion Rate x Average Order Value = Revenue. One of the challenges in eCommerce is distilling that focus because there are so many levers you can pull, but for max performance, you really need to hone in on those three. There are certain best practices we always employ: same-day shipping, free returns, clear warranty info, that help customers feel comfortable making their purchases, and these days it’s table stakes to nail those too. They help keep customers on-site and reassured that they’re getting value when they purchase from you.

When you start working with new clients, what are some common problems that they come to you with? How do you help them solve those problems or correct past mistakes?

A lot of our clients get “paralysis by analysis.” Say you’ve got a sales team at a brand manufacturer tasked with building out an eCommerce channel, and they’re used to working with Sam’s or Home Depot, where they’re more or less a step removed from the actual customer. When you throw them into eCommerce, they’re in this “sea” looking at a myriad of different performance metrics and customer needs. Making this transition is hard. How do you do it effectively? You have to have a dedicated team to pursue an eCommerce business as a whole, tying together operations with marketing and so on. A partner like Ally helps distill what really matters and focus on channel performance. Sometimes when companies are looking at the marketplace for an eCommerce partner, they consider instead investing internally to try to do what we do, involving many different departments, which often winds up wasting most of their internal bandwidth and budget. At Ally, we help you focus on strategy and growth, and not just keeping the lights on.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Reporting great results! We’re building a unique scalable strategy, we’re sharing thought leadership and best practices, and we’re continually optimizing ourselves for both Ally and our clients. When that manifests itself as successes for our clients, it’s a success for us too.

And the most challenging?

Keeping up with what’s changing. Shopping behavior and habits are consistently in motion; we want to ensure a foundation for long-term success in an always-changing industry. We do this in many ways, and we start by taking in new information, tools, and customer preferences and making sure they fit into a cogent framework of value. We then leverage that framework to show how we can drive growth, and avoid getting distracted by the noise.

 


“I’m learning like a sponge, but also collaborating to help move both our clients and Ally to the next level. I’m here in the trenches, seeing the foundational aspects of the Ally business come together and grow.”



Why should brands at least be considering, if not prioritizing, selling DTC?

Direct to consumer is a long-term trend: consumers are buying online, and they aren’t going to start going back to the mall anytime soon. It’s also a hedge against online retailers and channels like Amazon or eBay, since you ideally don’t want too much reliance on sales channels where they own the customer experience.

Think about how you learn about new products: Your friend mentions it and you’re probably not at the mall or the store. So what do you do? You grab your phone or your laptop, and you look it up. Being able to be that first search result and control the end-to-end customer experience is really paramount to showing this potential customer why they should be interested in your product. And as the market becomes increasingly more tech-savvy, being seen as a polished brand online is a huge reflection of the overall brand itself. If you’re not in the driver’s seat of your brand experience, you should be.

How does Ally help brands set up or improve their direct to consumer eCommerce operation?

Ally truly brings a wealth of eCommerce expertise, strategy experience, and operational talent to the table. We uniquely understand the needs of enterprise customers, and we are utilizing those three values to build an innovative and agile multi-channel technology platform, enabling our customers to create an eCommerce channel that can be set-up in a matter of weeks. There’s a lot of speed to value there, and for these larger companies to open up an entirely new line of business it would otherwise be quite cumbersome. We consider the branding, the strategy, and the overall needs of their eCommerce channel so that the client doesn’t have to get caught up in trying to tie together various point solutions. We unify strategy, technology, operations, customer service, and all of the other little bits and pieces that go into creating an effective eCommerce business that provides a best-in-class customer experience.
Want to learn more about Ally? Get in touch today.