Over the course of a 30-year career in marketing, somehow by genius planning or sheer blind luck, I have been working in the world’s most interesting categories at the most interesting times. In the 1980s, it was consumer goods and financial services for brands like Procter & Gamble, Unilever and American Express. In the 90s I lived through the explosion of IT marketing for players like IBM, Cisco and Yahoo!. And in the past 15 years, I’ve had a front-row seat at the global expansion of digital.
If I started over today, I’d spend the first three years in eCommerce. Not just because of the frothy revenue growth outlook, but because eCommerce would give any young marketer incredibly valuable, “transportable skills” that could propel their careers for the long haul.
Here are five reasons why I’d bet my career start-up on eCommerce:
1. eCommerce has a fantastic long-term global growth outlook.
The total market today is huge – over $1Trillion and predicted to grow at 17% per year. And we are just at the beginning of the beginning. Online selling is well established in the US, but there are immense growth opportunities left in emerging markets. The burgeoning eCommerce market in China now delivers sales of $1 billion – per day. Imagine how eCommerce will continue to boom as India, Brazil, Russia, Southeast Asia and other emerging markets catch eCommerce fever?
Mobile commerce is just a few years old and is already capturing 20% of eCommerce sales. Guess what happens to eCommerce as tablets and smart phones sweep the world in the next 10 years? So, whether eCommerce becomes your long-term love affair or not, spending three years there can give you skills and experience that will be in red-hot demand for at least the next 15 years.
2. eCommerce teaches you to think like a General Manager.
I cannot think of any other profession that is such an intense microcosm of all the fundamental skills of business. eCommerce exposes you to product marketing, supply chain, pricing and profit management, customer acquisition, cross-selling, up-selling, customer service and much more. So many jobs let you see a little piece of the puzzle, but never the whole enterprise at work. When I hire for my company, I love to see eCommerce experience on the resume. It means I am looking at a business person who knows how to make the cash register ring.
3. eCommerce gives you a “feel” for Customers.
In addition to all the hard business skills, an early career in eCommerce can hone your “soft skills.” eCommerce encourages a deep appreciation for the value of Brand Experience and Customer Experience. It makes you a better storyteller. It forces you to take a customer-centered view of the world. It exposes you to not only what customers say they’ll do, but to what they actually do. Increasingly, it will illuminate the connection between consumers’ shopping behavior and their social behavior. These are outstanding skills in the art of Marketing to build early in a career.
4. eCommerce accelerates your learning curve by giving you access to real-time results data.
Many companies have lost the art of testing. They are not great places to learn. Some businesses do lots of disciplined testing and learning but it takes a really long time to accumulate actionable results (Procter & Gamble was like this when I worked there). eCommerce gives you the chance to do lots of testing, and you get a report card back from the customer every day if not every minute. This real-time feedback loop accelerates your Marketing learning curve exponentially.
5. eCommerce might make a difference in your life, not just your day job.
Some day in some way it’s going to be pretty damn handy that you paid your dues in eCommerce. Maybe you want to promote your band. Or help raise money for your favorite charity. Or start up your own company. Or turn your favorite hobby into an extra source of income. Being smart at eCommerce is something practical and relevant that can last a lifetime.
So, there are my five reasons. It’s the advice I give to new recruits, aspiring hotshot MBAs and my own kids. Are you sold? Tell me what you think . . .
For more on what Brian and his company think about the future of eCommerce visit ContinuousCommerce.ogilvydo.com
Originally appeared on the LinkedIn Influencers platform