10 Traits of a Great CPG E-commerce Leader

As a CPG professional, you’ve probably already heard the following transformative statistic: Online sales represented 64% of the total omnichannel growth in CPG sales in 2018. But has it really sunk in how that massive market shift affects you personally? If not, maybe this statistic hits harder: $17 billion in CPG industry sales have shifted from large players to small ones since 2013.

The point of sharing these statistics is not to scare professionals at legacy CPG brands, but to offer a wake-up call that this disruption can actually offer a plethora of opportunity for your career. The CPG industry is in a state of seismic change, and legacy brands need to figure out how to get to market faster with new products and experiences that delight today’s demanding connected consumers. The reality is, your employer is likely at one of the many various stages of readiness for this undertaking. Regardless of the stage, it takes change agents to lead the business through a fully adopted digital transformation.

This article discusses the top 10 traits that CPG e-commerce leaders need in order to facilitate widespread change in their organizations.

Intellectual Curiosity

The strong desire to be in a continuous state of learning is an ideal trait to possess during periods of dynamic change. A great e-commerce leader should read various forms of short- and long-form content, listen to podcasts, and watch videos from relevant subject matter experts. It would also be wise to seek out innovators from outside the CPG industry. To truly challenge old systems and produce new solutions, it takes a different perspective that can be applied in a fresh way.

Social Listener

The internet changed the way CPG brands interact with consumers. With the rise of social media, consumers have a direct line to brands. Consumers regularly use this channel to share their feelings about a product or brand, providing feedback on price points and suggestions for taste, formula and packaging design. The feedback that brands receive on social media can be invaluable, but only if they’re able to turn those comments into actionable insights. A great e-commerce leader is able to utilize social chatter within a broader decision-making framework to drive successful change.


With barriers to entry shrinking, the proliferation of new brands and products is causing a state of constant innovation in the CPG industry. While most of this innovation is incremental, great e-commerce leaders need to understand how it’s affecting the entire value chain. To be successful at driving innovation, your ideas (or your team’s ideas) must link to clear business outcomes. While that is sometimes a challenge, it is imperative for great leaders to be comfortable managing uncertainty and creating a path for ideas to become reality.


Since e-commerce touches all aspects of business, a successful digital leader understands how to make collaboration intrinsic to their team. To prevent barriers such as culture, mindset and departmental silos, it’s important to implement internal communication processes that encourage cross-departmental sharing of information, insights and ideas.

Data Proficiency

Data is the fuel for the digital economy. Gone are the days of making decisions based on gut feelings. While analytics is certainly not a new concept, the sheer number of ways that a brand can now capture, analyze and mobilize insights has created a need for data-savvy e-commerce leaders. Leaders that can concentrate on turning data into a holistic view of the customer have a plethora of opportunity. Those deep customer insights can be used to project what customers are going to want in terms of new products, promotions and other business objectives that drive sales.


The ability to adapt to change is a crucial skill for any e-commerce leader. As the old adage says, “The only constant in life is change.” It is important not to get too attached to a single strategic plan, but instead adopt a flexible approach. Since things can change at the speed of light with e-commerce, being able to adjust easily and communicate with cross-departmental teams is key to thriving in the future of the digital-first CPG industry.


Simply put, passion is about vision, and it’s also about energy, excitement and enthusiasm. As a digital change agent, your eagerness for the digitalization process at your brand must be contagious to others. When trying to change the status quo, a great e-commerce leader must be able to communicate to others what is intensely meaningful to them. This sustains others’ energy and focus, which is necessary to help the organization truly succeed in a digital transformation.


According to Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” For a digital transformation to happen throughout an organization, its culture must reflect a willingness to accept both the good and bad outcomes of experiments. Making mistakes is an unavoidable part of a rewarding learning curve, and a successful digital leader understands that. By giving those around you the confidence to understand that failure is a natural part of progress, it can inspire employees to make bold, creative decisions.

Fosters Relationships

With the speed of change only getting faster daily, success often requires tapping into external sources of skills and expertise. When internal variables restrict the achievement of goals, a great e-commerce leader partners with or acquires other resources to be successful. Partnerships have always been a critical strategy for businesses looking to grow in unfamiliar markets and reach new customer segments. Building relationships and sharing valuable information are incredibly important in today’s digital landscape, and a great digital leader always has their finger on the pulse.

Networks With Others

With every competitor also trying to adapt to digital disruption, it has become a “land grab” for e-commerce talent in the CPG industry. A great digital leader understands the value of networking. They have a strong ability to attract, engage and retain digital talent. While traditional networking is seen as adequate in most cases, it is an e-commerce leader’s ability to find fresh places to connect with people that transforms an organization.

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