August 1, 2013, 3:07 PM

Exclusive survey results on e-commerce hiring

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The survey makes clear that e-commerce companies are competing on pay to keep their workers. While Gilboa says his company's internal surveys show that employees value company culture and the "ability to learn and grow" far more than pay and benefits, the Internet Retailer survey points in a different direction. Not only does it show that compensation leads other factors in retaining talent, but 60.3% of participating retailers say they pay their e-commerce workers more than other employees. 37.9% reported that pay is about the same, while 1.7% said the pay was less.

But just because they're being paid more doesn't mean e-commerce staffers aren't open to better offers. 70.7% of retailers report that e-commerce employees typically have shorter tenures than do other staff members.

So what's next for e-commerce hiring? Mobile commerce seems like one safe bet. 17.2% of retailer respondents say they plan to hire m-commerce staff in the coming year.

Recruiting those workers likely won't be easy, given how new mobile technology is, combined with an increasing demand for experts, including mobile developers, according to retailers leaving comments in the survey. As one retailer put it, for "mobile, there is not enough experience in the industry to have a good pool [of candidates] yet."

Many of those candidates will likely be able to write their tickets in the coming years. But for many e-retailers, the frustrations may grow as more consumers use phones and other web-enabled devices to shop, increasing the competition to hire top talent.


Even in high-tech centers, recruiting can be tough

Hiring e-commerce workers in Austin, Texas, should be as easy as finding a band rocking out in one of the Sixth Street bars down there, right?

Not so, says Robert Gilbreath.

"It's getting harder," says the vice president of marketing for shipping software vendor ShipStation.

Not only do such e-commerce firms as LLC, Golfsmith International Holdings Inc., Dell Inc. and Bazaarvoice Inc. make their homes in or around the Texas state capital city, but so do tech-savvy entrepreneurs hungry for talent. Combine that with what Gilbreath says is the tendency of workers to stay at companies for a while and an unemployment rate (5.8%) below national (7.6%) and state averages (6.9%) in May, and executives looking to hire for such jobs in Austin can face a search that lasts several months or more.

But make no mistake: Locating an e-commerce business or an e-commerce department in a city that offers sophistication in culture, food and nightlife can pay off.

For instance, eyeglass retailer Warby Parker benefits not only from the growing tech presence in New York City but also the access to Manhattan's fashion and design scene, says co-CEO Dave Gilboa—a world that includes design-oriented e-retailer

There are other reasons beyond headquarter proximity why such established retail players as Walgreen Co., W.W. Grainger Inc. and Staples Inc. have located their dedicated e-commerce offices in major urban areas—in Staples' case, its "Velocity Lab" in Cambridge, Mass.

"The Boston/Cambridge area is quickly becoming a hotbed for technology talent," says Faisal Masud, the chain's executive vice president, global e-commerce and marketing. "Our proximity to the innovation community there, with universities like Harvard and MIT, and our startup mentality has enabled Staples to recruit great talent."

Multiple respondents in the Internet Retailer e-commerce hiring survey this summer highlighted the challenge of luring top candidates away from the top tech areas. "Finding e-commerce experience is hard is our geographical area," reads one such comment.

But paradises can bring their own problems. Take Rivet & Sway, a startup that sells eyeglasses online. It is based in Seattle, a metropolitan area home to such giants as Inc., Microsoft Corp., Nordstrom Inc. and Walgreen-owned, along with assorted other Internet-focused firms.

"Since much of our recruiting depends on referrals and top talent recruiters, we would be hard-pressed to build our team in a smaller community," says CEO Sarah Bryar. "The biggest challenge we have in Seattle is that much of the talent is working in larger companies. Not only is it hard to pull talent out, but it's also hard to find people truly motivated and ready to take on the risk/reward profile of an early stage, scrappy company."

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