Meet an expert – Emma Bonar

How much do you know about ecommerce? Or about the people that are making it happen? Our busy Client Services Director, Emma Bonar, spares some time to share the experiences that shaped her into a leader in ecommerce. Go behind the scenes and learn what it takes to do the job, and what’s to be expected in the years to come.

I began my online career as Webmaster for the Metropolitan Police about sixteen years ago. I was lucky enough to start when you didn’t need any qualifications to do a job in digital – we were all just making it up as we went along. Over the year’s I’ve worked for the police, government departments, charities, health insurance and retail in roles around online marketing, content, tech and design. I ended up at Karen Millen as Ecommerce Manager, where I rolled out their international websites and click and collect. I’m really proud of the Karen Millen website redesign project. We spent a lot of time looking at the user experience and figuring out how to implement the brand online, making the shopping experience similar to the in-store experience. We integrated content with ecommerce and a lot of the elements which I introduced are still live on the site now.

I then moved to Amsterdam to work for  Hunkemoller, the largest lingerie brand in Northern Europe, as Head of Ecommerce. I was responsable for the strategic direction of the brand’s digital presence, including 4 websites, concession sites, mobile platform and apps, online marketing and multichannel implementation. 

One way of describing the work environment might be ‘relentless pressure’. I think that’s very common in fashion retail because it’s so fast paced – you are launching new product on a weekly basis and things change all the time. You are up against the previous year’s numbers, with targets that are more than likely higher than last year’s, and a multitude of factors that you can’t control that can impact trade. Like most retail businesses Hunkemoller is a numbers-driven organisation, so each day would begin with a team meeting to review the previous day’s performance and plan what we could do to meet the sales targets. 


One thing I love about ecommerce is that the role changes all the time, because digital develops so quickly. When I first started at Karen Millen I wouldn’t have even dreamed of assigning Budget for social, and now you would be crazy not to. I remember having to write a business case to prove the benefit of using models instead of mannequins to display product on the site. I have redesigned multiple websites, done user testing and usability studies, implemented content management systems and personalisation, set up an in-house photo studio, launched click and collect and even done pick-pack in a warehouse. No two days are the same! 

In order to succeed in this role you need to be curious about new things that are going to benefit your customers. You need to be really customer focused, because it’s all about providing an experience that will encourage people to shop. Be numbers literate, understand analytics and turn it into something which will drive changes to benefit the business. Keep on top of what’s going on by reading journals, subscribing to the right newsletters, blogging and networking. Talk to the people who are good at predicting the next big thing – of course they’ll sometimes get it wrong, but it helps to have an idea about what’s coming up.  

I think the profile of ecommerce within an organisation will change within the next few years. Traditionally it’s always been very siloed within IT or Marketing departments, and treated separately to retail stores. The way in which stores and online are merging will mean that ecommerce will be absorbed as part of retail. I can envisage Ecommerce Directors becoming Retail Directors in future because it’s all about omnichannel.