There are certain traits and skills habitually displayed by successful business leaders. Among this list are excellent communication skills, a results-driven approach, and the ability to innovate.

Many such strengths overlap regardless of industry, but flourishing amid the rapid growth and competitive nature of today's $3.4 trillion-plus global e-commerce industry requires a specific set of skills, pulling from a mixture of passion, marketing savvy, and technical adeptness.

1. They live and die by the data.

In e-commerce, data is everything. If you've seen the movie Moana, you might recall the character Maui describing the navigational practice of wayfinding as "knowing where you are by knowing where you've been." Data mining is like wayfinding.

Utilizing data, shrewd e-commerce experts identify patterns to cultivate, uncover errors to correct, create benchmarks to measure against, and more. Gleaning these insights allows for optimal forecasting across the board, from inventory planning, to shipping strategy, marketing, and beyond.

2. They devour technology.

When your professional world exists online, you need a working knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes. How do the moving parts interface? What technology optimizes your efforts? What tools will track what's working and enable you to correct what's not?

Having an aptitude for digital technology or being a quick study will serve you well. In fact, some might say it's a prerequisite. In my experience with budding brands, the best e-commerce leaders have an affinity for technology.

3. They embrace change.

My company has served e-commerce businesses since 2000, and one thing that's remained true since the earliest days is that the industry exists in a state of perpetual transformation, perhaps more so than any other. As all the moving parts shift--technology, trends, business, people--it requires leaders to be comfortable with pivoting quickly.

Good managers do this; great managers inspire their team to follow suit. The energy surrounding change should be positive, signifying that not only adapting to it but celebrating it is encouraged and rewarded.

4. They think customer centric.

One of the weird and sort of wonderful things about e-commerce is that a person's digital personality can differ entirely from that which they display in the physical world. A great e-commerce leader prioritizes understanding who their customers are, what they expect, what they value, and what defines a positive online shopping experience for them.

This is best and most often accomplished through analyzing data. Some additional ways smart leaders gain insights are through social media engagement, monitoring online communities, secret shopper programs, and tracking their customers' influencers. Understanding and catering to behavioral nuances paves the way for valuable communication and interactions, resulting in happy, loyal customers. 

5. They adopt trends.

Technology and consumer trends are driving forces behind e-commerce innovation and evolution. A.I. and AR technologies are transforming the way consumers shop; mobile and voice commerce are on the rise; online shopping satisfaction is increasingly tied to personalization; growing environmental concerns have ushered in groundbreaking sustainability initiatives and solutions--the list is almost endless.

Regardless of how mature your business is, failing to recognize and respond to these developments can cause major setbacks. There is no room at the top of the organizational chart for those who fail to monitor and adapt accordingly.

6. They are equally adept in marketing and operations.

At the crux of e-commerce success is a simple notion: Attract consumers to your website and provide them with an experience that converts them into paying customers. Attracting, converting, and retaining customers comprises equal parts marketing and operations. Some of the most valuable marketing skills include sharp copywriting, SEO competence, email marketing and automation platform expertise, and having an eye for design. Likewise, effective e-commerce operations management is predicated on one's ability to strategically tackle order logistics and fulfillment, inventory, and shipping.

Knowing your strengths is an important early step, as are honing new skills and supplementing your weaker areas with proven experts in their respective disciplines. E-commerce is more competitive than ever, but with smart, skilled people at the helm, the opportunities for growth and triumph are abundant.

Published on: Dec 23, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.