How to bring a digital team with different perspectives together – an interview with Christine Goode from Eastpak
Remember the days when E-Commerce and Online Marketing used to be mutually exclusive? Nowadays, both departments are often completely entwined in a full-force digital team. Over the last two years, Eastpak, part of VF Corporation, is one of those brands setting their strategy to focus on digital-first. Their employees in Online Marketing and E-Commerce have since been working together closely in a powerful collaboration to realize the common goal of optimizing the Eastpak online shop while also meeting their individual goals. To name just a few, their teams aim for creating a great user experience (UX Designer), representing the brand and telling its story (Content Manager), positioning and selling products (Merchandising). That’s a lot of to dos that need to be balanced. And with the different targets in mind, seem to be an invitation for conflict. Because even though both E-Commerce and Online Marketing aim to sell more products, the way how to do it might differ and even be at odds with each other. So how does this work out for Eastpak?
Christine Goode, E-Commerce Trading Manager, is one of the people juggling the various goals in Eastpak’s digital team. She is responsible for the long term strategy of merchandising on the website and thus, developing the medium by making sure that all products are presented on the website the right way. She plays a key role in connecting the product, market, content and CX in the shop. Making her one of the best people to ask about how to bring a team together, enable good communication, solve conflicts and realizing common and individual goals in a digital team. In this interview, Christine shines some light on how to maintain a good spirit across teams and how to enable each other to produce better work.
Sportyjob: Let’s start by taking a look at the realization of Eastpak’s Online Shop. How do the various roles in your digital team come together when launching new products on the website?
Christine: I’ll explain it with the launch of a special collaboration with a designer. Because for important collab-launches and peak commercial moments, we really come together with all colleagues from cross-departments, like the digital content team and the customer experience team. It’s like a task force approach.
The aim is to make sure we got the right product at the right time in the right place on the website. And it needs to look great, it needs to be appealing for the user. So, we all play a role in realizing that. It will all begin with a combination of product performance knowledge, being up-to-date with market trends and trying to be in line with the marketing strategy. We will brainstorm where everyone can bring in their ideas. Once we are all aligned, we will proceed in covering all points: What are the key points of that product or collaboration? What sort of content are we going to have? What experience do we want the consumer to have? How do we wanna make it fun? How do we wanna make it look amazing? And you know, all of these things. Once we have our plan of what we want to do, the work begins.
Sportyjob: Working so closely together, where does one role start and the other end? For example, where does Merchandising end and the Content Marketing and Storytelling begin? What would you say?
Christine: Ultimately, they all go hand in hand, right? Because we need to. We never just work on our individual part. The common approach is: „How are WE going to do this?”. We play on our individual strengths on what we know from the data, from our insights, skills and experiences. It’s always good to get an external perspective if it’s not your direct area. You know, I contribute my direct insights, for example which country loves which products or colors. And then we build on it the content and the user experience, you know. That’s ultimately our goal.
And we always have fun in the process, that’s the other thing. It’s an enjoyable process. It's not a drag. It's together. So, in the end it’s something that we all feel proud of and no one is saying like - and I have experienced it a lot in the past in other jobs - “Oh but why did they do it like that? Maybe it would have been better if they had done it like this.” We don't have that in the digital team because we work together.
Sportyjob: So basically, the part about there being a conflict between Online Marketing and Merchandising is something you don’t experience at all. From what I’ve gathered, you’re actually getting along great. Why do you believe that is?
Christine: Of course, Marketing will have their goals and objectives. And so does Merchandising. I’m trying to drive performance, I have financial targets, so I need to hit that sitting on my shoulders. But I can't do it without the support of the Content Marketing. That would be really hard. I can plan all the actions and promotions in one, but if we don't have the communication and the content, it's pointless.
I think it comes down to empathy. It comes down to having a conversation about your to-dos, workload, targets. What you’re under pressure with. And my lovely colleague Bryony, the Digital Content Manager here at Eastpak, fortunately is someone who shares the passion for working collaboratively. So, we both discuss our individual to dos and pressures. But instead of taking it all on individually, we are supporting each other. The conflicts get kind of removed, because we’re both very open and honest with each other. We have lots of conversations, we have lots of meetings, we plan together, so we can see immediately what might be a problem because of whatever reason. So we work around it and come up with a solution.
Instead of finger pointing or blaming the other person, it’s important to be united. And if we all just support each other a little bit more, there're fewer conflicts and a better work atmosphere for the whole team.
Sportyjob: So you are definitely working around this. But more in general, would you say the conflict is an outdated prejudice?
Christine: It definitely still exists. I have experienced it in previous workplaces. It's a very different pressure. It’s having different goals, different targets. For my part of the business, it’s always financially driven and VF is financially driven, aimed at driving profitable growth. I have to push, push, and push. Although marketing don’t have financial targets, digital marketing are always supporting in helping to achieve our targets.
Sportyjob: So you really have a good fusion of the different departments. Apart from Content Marketing, you also work closely with the CX team. How do you encourage a better connection with the other teams?
Christine: So, my professional contact points are the CX manager and the UX analyst as much as Digital Content Manager. Depending on what the initiative is, one of them will set up the task force. A small group of people with relevant knowledge and experience to work on things, for example a product page redesign or a new homepage feature. The UX analyst, she is amazing, she’ll come up with great ideas. We have regular follow-ups. Depending on what the initiative is, for example, one department will lead the project. It can be led either by the digital content manager or the UX specialist, or sometimes myself.
Sportyjob: Looking at the recent work conditions due to Covid-19: How have you managed to stay connected on a professional and personal level during the last year, especially with remote work going on?
Christine: Well, of course with the zoom calls like everyone else. We have also organized a lot of fun team moments, like quizzes, for example. So especially in the beginning, we would have a Zoom call with the whole team on Friday afternoons. It’s not work talk. Let’s just hang out for a bit on Zoom and chat.
When we come together for let’s say a Monday afternoon meeting. We call it the “didgeridoo”. I can’t remember where it came from but anyways, that’s the title of our meeting. So it hasn’t got a very corporate name in our agendas. We do cover our points of business like: What do we have coming up? Does everyone have what they need? Are we all OK? Does anyone need support on a project? We get that out of the way and we’ll just hang out a little bit and talk about the weekend or share some funny stories.
And these moments are everything.
When you’re having a really busy, focused day, then it’s really nice to take that moment out and just talk about some silly stuff. And we all have a laugh. You know, my last intern, she started during COVID. So she was in the office like once or twice and we were never really together physically but she was very much part of the team anyways. So it didn't feel like strange or weird. She was totally in.
Sportyjob: That sounds like fun! And apart from the more personal meetings, is there any advice you have to maintain or gain a good team spirit?
Christine: I mean empathy. Again. It's a bit repetitive but EMPATHY. You have to be understanding to each other. Someone might be having a really bad day, but maybe there is a really good reason for why they’re having such a bad day. So again, rather than being like: what’s wrong with her? What’s her problem? It’s more like: Hey guys, I think she’s having a bit of a bad day. Let’s do something fun or nice. We always try to support and uplift each other, not back people down.
Honesty. You can always be honest without being mean.
And positivity. Like I’m a very positive person and so is Bryony, the Digital Content Manager. We’re very positive people and love to give the team members credit. Push them to share, so that they get good visibility with management. We share the glory, we don't take it for ourselves. Because it's so easy and we've all seen it a hundred million times: Something goes well and you will always have someone leading take the glory. We don’t do that.
And it works the other way round. If something goes wrong, we don't just let one person take the hit. We all did it. To keep it moving. If someone is down, we're gonna pick him up.
Playing on the strengths of the team, of course, and letting everyone have a moment to shine.
The interview caught your interest?
Read on with Part 1: Digital Transformation at Eastpak: “No small steps, but a big, bold transformation” – Chris Delahunty on the Digital Transformation at Eastpak”