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We are working with Harman International in their search for a Vice President, Global Ecommerce – Lifestyle Division based in Stamford, CT. Harman is the worldwide leader in the manufacture of high-quality, high-fidelity audio and electronic products for automotive, consumer and professional use. It is the parent company behind an array of legendary brands that includes Harman Kardon®, JBL®, Mark Levinson® and Infinity®.

Harman has developed, both internally and through a series of acquisitions, a killer range of product offerings. It operates in three segments: Automotive, Consumer and Professional.

  1. The Automotive segment designs, manufactures and markets audio, electronic and infotainment systems for vehicle applications primarily to be installed as original equipment by automotive manufacturers.
  2. The Consumer segment designs, manufactures and markets audio, video and electronic systems for home, mobile and multimedia applications.
  3. The Professional segment designs, manufactures and markets loudspeakers and electronic systems used by audio professionals in concert halls, stadiums, airports, houses of worship and theme attractions.

For more than 50 years, Harman’s legendary brands have taken a leading role in the creation and innovation of progressive technologies, from the world’s first car radio in 1948 to today’s most revolutionary infotainment systems.

The recently formed Lifestyle Division along with the Home & Multimedia SBU is charged with re-energizing all of Harman’s Consumer Businesses. It coincides with the company committing to its largest ever Marketing investment. Ultimate brand relevance will come from a combination of compelling segment strategy, differentiated product roadmap that is meaningful to consumers, significant brand investments and of course in-market execution which are all ongoing initiatives in our Lifestyle Division.

Harman is now looking for a world-class ecommerce leader who can leverage all this marketing and product development investment and create a world class e-commerce vision & strategy for its new state of the art e-commerce sales channel/web site to support significant web sales targets.

The Vice President, Global Ecommerce will lead Harman’s ecommerce team web team and be responsible for maximizing the use of the internet as a vehicle for business & sales with its customers around the world. Through the development of easily navigable web portals, effective web design, market savvy product web promotion with a trusted and secure payment systems we will create a new ecommerce business within Lifestyle that will be world class and a significant revenue channel.


  • Work with Executive Management team to define the Lifestyle Division ecommerce vision & strategy. Define, identify, and implement customer acquisition strategies for all online marketing channels.
  • Analyze and assess the effectiveness of all existing ecommerce operations and current needs based on new technology and market competition. Evaluate market share and competition.
  • Develop the business plan and annual operating budget for the ecommerce function. Supervises all web development efforts including application of new technology and content design.
  • Ecommerce P&L responsibility for annual web sales targets and profitability.
  • Oversees the day to day ecommerce operations, merchandising, maintenance, and performance measurement of the web site effectiveness. Help drive the social web marketing strategy as it relates to customer acquisition.
  • Directly supervise e-commerce content editor, technology and design staff and all other web operations staff.
  • Work closely with Lifestyle Divisional operations team to ensure the entire web sales process exceeds expectations on product availability, quality and order processing timeliness.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: Beyond the responsibilities listed above, Harman’s new VP of Global Ecommerce will be charged with gross in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

Much has been written about the potential of these combined countries, both in terms of their output, but of increasing importance, their ability to consume value-added goods and services. (Here’s the latest research from Goldman Sachs.)

According to the Goldman Sachs global economics team, “in BRIC nations, the number of people with an annual income over a threshold of $3,000 will double in number within three years and reach 800 million people within a decade. This predicts a massive rise in the size of the middle class in these nations. In 2025, it is calculated that the number of people in BRIC nations earning over $15,000 may reach over 200 million. This indicates that a huge pickup in demand will not be restricted to basic goods but impact higher-priced goods as well.”

Obviously, the promise of these markets for online retailers is stunning: Currently, China ranks 1st in the world in both number of mobile phones (900 million) and number of Internet users. People are often surprised to learn that there are more Internet users in China than there are people in the United States. Likewise, India ranks 2nd in number of mobile phones, and 4th in Internet users, while Brazil and Russia round out the top 5 in terms of mobile phone usage.

According to Forrester Research, in Asia, 41% of all online users live in China. Similarly, in Latin America, 41% of all online users live in Brazil. China and Brazil rank as the world’s two largest emerging economies in terms of GDP: China at $7 trillion (second only to the U.S., at $15.1 trillion), and Brazil at $2.5 trillion (equal to the U.K.).

Forrester expects the Chinese online retail market to grow from $94.6 billion this year to $159.4 billion in 2015 (this includes both the business to consumer and the consumer to consumer markets). While smaller than China, the Brazilian online retail market is the largest by far in Latin America, and will grow from $11.9 billion this year to $22 billion by 2016.

It will be the VP of Global Eommerce’s responsibility to establish online retail beachheads in each of these markets and grow those businesses in a way that maximizes their long term value to Harman. On a personal note, I have traveled extensively throughout China and Brazil (where I lived at one time), and I cannot think of two more colorful markets …

Additionally, I have had several conversations with Harman’s senior executives in charge of the search, and here are the top-level takeaways:

  • The business has huge potential, both domestically and internationally. Consider this one tiny angle: There are hundreds of international comparison shopping directories. Now consider the potential for email, affiliate, and so on. It’s endless.
  • The company’s pipeline of elegantly designed, consumer friendly products is very healthy.
  • The company sees a tremendous opportunity to expand into mobile commerce and personal audio.
  • The BRIC markets represent a major opportunity for Harman.
  • The company’s ecommerce operating model is in its infancy. The company is organized in a matrixed fashion and filled with brilliant, aggressive, and business-oriented people. These resources need to be marshaled around the development of this opportunity.
  • Harman needs an executive with a proven track record of establishing a successful ecommerce channel in a similar environment, or category. This will be a very challenging job, and the ideal candidate will likely have an MBA from a top school.

Seriously, the right candidate will want to draw on a background in strategic planning and international market assessment. Personally, I have done this kind of work in the past and it’s easy to make mistakes. Those mistakes can turn into real whoppers if you’re not careful. We need a strategist who can also market and execute. And lead.

There is nothing small about this role: The compensation is big, the bonus is big, the responsibilities are enormous, the visibility is great, and the opportunity for personal and professional growth is as great as any I’ve ever seen.

UPDATE: This search is now closed.

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