By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork
The first time I spoke at a conference in Chile, I stayed a few extra days in a lovely little hotel out of the Santiago CBD. Walking through the local neighbourhood, I came across a shop selling, literally, round crystal balls. Sadly they were not the ‘see into the future’ kind, but they looked identical. They had big ones and small ones and for a long time, I stared at the display and thought to myself, ‘buy one, then you can say you have your own crystal ball and can see the future.’ I had visions of bringing it to strategy workshops or speaking engagements and telling my audience to look deep into my crystal ball and all would be revealed!
Alas, the practical side of traipsing around Chile with a very fragile, quite large crystal ball won over my vision of seeing the future and to this day, I regret not purchasing it. But I digress. So what does a crystal ball and a job description have in common?
In June, I was in Seattle and had the chance to visit the Amazon Go store. Yes, impressive, but what impressed me more was Amazon’s campus. Amazon employs about 40,000 people in the Seattle area and as a result, Amazon is doing some really cool things in the city.
Take for example the Amazon Biosphere. Right next to Amazon Go, three geodesic domes are filled with 40,000 real cloud forest plants. This is Amazon’s ‘creativity’ meeting space. Amazon employees, needing to brainstorm the next big thing, simply book a table in the biosphere and hold their meetings there. Or what about Amazon’s food trucks? Fifteen to twenty food trucks come to specific streets near Amazon HQ every Monday to Friday between 10-2. Feel like a banana on the go? Stop by one of Amazon’s two free banana stands and get served by banistas. Seriously, who would not want to work for such a cool company? No wonder Amazon employees are proud to call themselves ‘Amazonians.’
I admit, in a moment of getting swept up in all that is Amazon, I had a look online for a job at Amazon Go or Amazon Fresh. I mean, wouldn’t it be amazing to work at Amazon on the front edge of the curve?
While I did find some cool Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh jobs, the job that really caught my eye was a job posted by a major CPG (consumer packaged goods) company looking for a Strategy Director for their Amazon business. I was not interested in this job, but diving into the job description showed me just how much the retail world is changing. Take a look at the following excerpt from the job description and tell me this doesn’t give you insights into the future. (Note: I have changed the company name.)
Job description: Director Amazon Strategy, based in Bellevue, WA
The Role: The Strategy Director for Amazon will report into the VP/GM for Amazon within Company X. This role will provide oversight of strategy deployment and leverage CI principles and tools to deliver breakthrough results in the fast-changing ecommerce world. (Note: CI stands for continuous integration). The role will interact with the CD Sr. Leadership team as well as across Company X. It will work with the Company X BU Strategy Deployment Directors, Field Sales VPGMs and teams, VP of CD Capabilities and HR Directors within Company X to enable a cohesive Amazon agenda and manage the critical linkage across the portfolio of Company X. This role will also develop and drive an overall strategy that leverages internal and external SME’s to drive improvements in how we partner with Amazon across platforms, delivers a ‘vendor ecosystem’ that provides a competitive advantage in the ecommerce world, and builds ecommerce capability within Company X such that we are positioned as the best CPG ecommerce team in the industry.
After reading the above, how many of you, my fresh produce friends, feel prepared to compete in this new e-commerce world? C-Suite readers: how many of you feel your organisation and people talent have the skills required to forward your company’s goals in this new online environment?
I think both the scary and exciting thing is e-commerce is coming like a freight train and the fresh produce industry has not yet even begun to get its head around the opportunities or threats this represents. I do work in China and I can tell you, China is way ahead of the e-commerce curve when compared to the USA. Go online and look at companies like TMall Fresh, JD.com, and Fruitday.com. However, the USA is catching up. Every week the trade press reports on a new, mainstream retailer partnering with online delivery technology like Instacart or Ocado. Whether it is Amazon or some other ecommerce vehicle, ecommerce is coming and it will impact every single one of us in the fresh produce industry.
I recall having a conversation with a C-Suite executive from a very forward thinking produce company. When asked about their strategy for e-commerce penetration and growth, he said, “Frankly Lisa, we don’t have a strategy. At the moment, were just trying to figure out what works.”
As I gaze into my hypothetical crystal ball, I see a future where fresh produce companies will have to recruit a skill set similar to the skill set Company X was looking for in the qualifications list below.
Required Qualifications (edited to partial list only)
- 3-5 years working in Ecommerce, preferably with Amazon – managing business, running a business, P&L; vendor management; contents/search/data analytics or working with agencies who specialize in these areas
- Minimum of 7 years of business leadership experience with a history or demonstrated business success
- 10-15 years of experience in strategy deployment or project management
- Demonstrated learning agility to work in ambiguous space
- Leadership with CoA principles and CI processes
- Ability to navigate ambiguity
So…what does a crystal ball and a job description have in common? As you have just read, both predict the future. The question becomes – now that you’ve seen the future, how many of you feel prepared to respond?