Mark Hammond is a senior digital professional, who has extensive experience across the industry.
Mark has 15+ years experience in building, leading and mentoring digital and ecommerce teams across industries which include: Travel, Retail and Hospitality.
Mark is currently the Consulting Director at Matter Of Form.
As part of his previous experience, Mark Hammond has held senior digital level positions with companies such as: Stonegate Pub Company Limited, Associated Newspapers, SHOP.COM and PetsPyjamas.
We sat down with Mark to take part in our latest Q&A session. Mark talks us through his career background, overcoming his most recent challenge, his interesting experience working in California; and his passion for cooking!
How long have you been a member of the Digital Leaders Club?
About 14 months now, although I’ve known Jack for a few years - he actually found me my previous role.
Why did you join the Digital Leaders Club?
When I found myself out of work at the start of COVID, I decided to make a more concerted effort to chat to like-minded people in the digital space. There are too many people to mention, but I’ve had some amazing conversations with others in the group, be it advice (both ways), or just as a sounding board while I considered different options for the next step in my career.
What's your career journey been like to date?
I think “varied” would be the best word to sum it up! I started life as a Database Developer, but soon fell into (and in love with) ecommerce with the marketplace SHOP.COM. Since then, I’ve worked in retail, travel, publishing and hospitality, building and leading teams across all aspects of digital from acquisition to retention and development to optimisation. However, the passion for data has never really left me and if I had to revert back to a single discipline it would either be website optimisation, or working with customer data and CRM.
What is your current position?
After a life-time client-side, I now find myself as Consulting Director at Matter Of Form, a London-based agency with a big focus on designing new and innovative digital customer experiences. It allows me to use all the knowledge that I’ve gained through the years to support a number of clients, across a variety of verticals, to develop and optimise customer journeys and explore growth opportunities within digital marketing and CRM.
Have you had any interesting moments in your career so far?
One highlight was quite early in my ecommerce career, where I was seconded to California for 4 months to project manage the restructure of a website taxonomy. Across the UK & US this amounted to about 20 million products within almost every product category imaginable. I had little experience in UX, but wrote SQL scripts to create tags based on mapping keywords from descriptions and various other data fields - these tags were then used to build the website hierarchy.
From the success of one category, we built Java tools to automate the process across the entire website and saw some great uplifts with both engagement and conversion. Obviously, there are now a number of off-the-shelf tools to do this very quickly, but back then it was months of development, testing, learning and late nights!
Have you had any challenges in your career to date; and how did you overcome them?
Being jobless in the midst of a global pandemic is hopefully as challenging as my career gets and I know that there are many others still in this unfortunate position. My advice to anyone looking is to focus on what you’re good at (and get better), reach out to others for help/advice (you’ll be surprised how many people will respond positively) and brush up on new digital skills. I realised that I’d not actually built a website myself for many years, so created a new WooCommerce site from scratch, redid my Google Analytics Academy courses and arranged a couple of calls a week with peers, ex-colleagues and agencies I used to be a client of. A combination of these kept me sane and boosted my knowledge in a number of areas, which came in very handy when getting back into work.
Tell us about your best success story
I joined an 11-month old start-up called PetsPyjamas a few years back as Chief Digital Officer and over the next 5 years we built a marketplace for accessories and toys, a pet-friendly travel agent and a social network for pets, on top of this sat a loyalty program with a variety of ways to earn points.
All of this was driven by data, determining what products related to which breed in the shop, what communications and content a customer should receive based on our knowledge of their pets and then setting up tools and systems to automate it all. We didn’t have big budgets, so nearly everything was built in house and the customer feedback was pretty amazing.
Anyone should work in the pet space given the opportunity, there are some of the most amazing (and quirky) customers you’re likely to meet, although you need to ensure they get the right service, as they’re also very vocal. Plus, it’s a CRM dream - customers insist on telling you about their pets, sending you photos and encouraging you to contact them on their birthdays. It was so refreshing in a world normally shrouded in data, privacy and security concerns.
What’s it been like working remotely over the past year?
I was fortunate enough to have the exact same 6 months off work that my kids had off school, so I found myself in a much better position than many. However, starting a new job mostly in lockdown was certainly a challenge on a number of levels and it’s great that we’re now mostly back in the office a couple of days a week.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I have 2 young kids, so while I probably can’t call them a hobby, they take up a lot of my time and energy and give me most of my enjoyment. However, one benefit of lockdown was turning me from someone who ran a bit into a consistent runner and all the well-documented health and wellness benefits I can completely vouch for. I do a significant amount of my presentation prep and new idea thinking while pounding the local pavements, as well as listen to audio recordings of all the books I never seemed to find time for.
What's the coolest/interesting trend you're excited about?
Despite spending most of my career in pureplay online roles, I’m really excited to see what offline has to offer the digital experience. We’ve already seen Amazon Go shake up the shopping experience and both Burberry and Lego launched some really cool AR in store activations over the last couple of years.
We’re going to start to see some really innovative, engaging and immersive experiences across retail and hospitality in the coming months as businesses try to lure customers back to the high street.
What's your plan for the future?
Work wise, I’m more than happy where I am right now. Matter Of Form has given me the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people I’ve met, across strategy, UX and design and I’m learning more right now than I have for quite some time.
What would you be doing (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
It would be something to do with food - if I’m not cooking, or eating, I’m t