In her current role of Head of Global Commerce at Verizon Media Group, Andrea Wasserman is working with her team to build a new set of commerce businesses for Verizon. Whether that’s launching media and commerce verticals to help Generation Z and Millennials shop, or finding ways to integrate video into these platforms, Andrea is constantly generating fresh ideas of driving the business forward all the while keeping the consumer informed and engaged.
No stranger to the retail industry, Andrea got her start working at the mall as a teen and has gone on to serve various positions in retail management including Director, Vice President, and Senior Vice President of various businesses including Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and Nine West Group among others. Her successful leadership and project management ability has led to the development of mobile apps, retail pop-up experiences, online media platforms, and a bevy of other innovative ideas that have allowed retailers to scale their business and their consumer reach.
As a former contributor to Forbes’ retail vertical, Andrea often shared her business gems and insight to the masses. Andrea spoke with us about her agenda in her current role and her vision in this ever-evolving landscape in the retail industry.
Her Agenda: What is your outlook on the current retail climate given the impact of COVID-19 and also the impact of cultural values shifting across the country and globe?
Andrea Wasserman: I think what we saw in 2020, and continue to see in 2021, is that there are more opportunities than ever for commerce growth online. People are shopping in new ways. Companies are providing new experiences, and the offers and value propositions are just getting better and better. As we move through 2021, I see exciting brick and mortar retail making a strong comeback, as consumers are excited to get back to those experiences and connect with brands in ways that will feel new again.
Her Agenda: In your career you’ve had success in ownership of P&L’s. Any insight on how businesses can better manage their P&L statement?
Andrea Wasserman: I think not looking at the business in silos. It’s important to think about it as one business. That can mean thinking differently about where corporate breakdowns lie. It can mean rethinking whether ecommerce and store P&L should really be separate. I say that both of those things are important. I think that when managing a P&L, it’s important to get a view of it that is digestible for a broad team of people to understand. Everybody has a different aptitude for looking at numbers, and people who are interested primarily in their one slice of the business but want to start learning about the business overall should be able to get a snapshot of the P&L in a way that that feels accessible to them so that they feel attached to the results as well.
Her Agenda: What are some exciting goals or projects you have coming up in your role at the moment?
Andrea Wasserman: Recently our In The Know platform launched a couple of exciting new businesses. In The Know is a Top 25 U.S lifestyle property, with 20 million visits per month. It’s a large and growing platform, it just won a best digital video platform award from Digiday. We also recently launched new verticals attached to In The Know that focus on parenting for Gen Z and millennials, and then also on cooking. [The verticals] look terrific so I’m really excited about that. We also started a shoppable video mini-series, and these are videos that our editors are doing. Again, they might be about parenting, they might be about cooking, and maybe about fashion. A cool feature is that right alongside the video, you can actually shop the products right away that are featured.
Her Agenda: So many exciting projects launching and in the works. How do you generate fresh ideas and maintain creativity in your role?
Andrea Wasserman: In terms of new ideas, I think that they can come from anywhere. I always ask people I meet with around the organization, not just ones who directly report to me what do you think that we need here? What do you think that we’re missing? What ideas haven’t you shared? Or what have you shared, but hasn’t taken off that I should know about? So that is certainly a big source of inspiration and a way to keep ideas flowing. We just internally did a little contest for people to come up with new ideas around some specific domain names. And I’m constantly reading everything out there listening to as much as I can. In a non-COVID world, I definitely spent a lot of time in every new retail store that opens seeing how things are evolving.
Her Agenda: In your position, what traits do you look for when hiring or promoting?
Andrea Wasserman: What I really look for, both in internal candidates for promotions and also increasingly as I’m interviewing externally, is an ownership mentality. People who don’t wait to be told or asked to step up and problem solve or take accountability for something, but those who are just doing it. And so I’m constantly coaching my team on demonstrating that for any business that they’re touching. A common type of interview question that I’ve been asking is “tell me about a time when something wasn’t going as planned or results weren’t great, and what levers you pulled personally to try to turn around the situation.” That usually gives some insight there as to what type of problem solver they are, because we should always be focusing on what we can control and influence and also what we can’t.
Her Agenda: What are some mistakes or misconceptions you think people have about the hiring process in business positions?
Andrea Wasserman: I think it’s not so much about what people shouldn’t be focusing on. It’s more about making sure to look around corners to step back and think about the context to look long-term. Present any near-term opportunities you’re talking about, with recognition for what the long-term views are.
Her Agenda: Do you have any recommendations on resources folks can use to sharpen their leadership skills?
Andrea Wasserman: My favorite recent book on leadership is Radical Candor by Kim Scott, which is all about the need to challenge directly but care personally, and to do it in real-time. I find that those are really important when working with others. Another book I love for leadership is Build an A Team by Whitney Johnson. It’s about how to think of the team as a portfolio where everybody has different strengths and opportunities and maybe at different points in their journeys. And also how to think about hiring for potential and not just for the experience.
Her Agenda: What is one of the most memorable learning experiences you’ve had in your career thus far?
Andrea Wasserman: In 2019, in my retail experience team at Verizon, we launched a totally new store concept called Verizon Express. The premise of this store is that it’s a smaller footprint that can fit into urban areas and one that it is highly leveraging digital tools so that consumers can come in and take care of what they need as quickly and seamlessly as possible. This was a huge point of team pride. We designed the store, the creative consumer experiences within the staff training, we built new technology for it, and found the real estate. But I think that along the way, we all learned a lot about areas of the business and complexities that we didn’t necessarily know about before, down to the coding regulations for outside retail signage on certain blocks in certain cities. So I think that the lesson there is going into any project, before putting out timelines and making commitments really think about all the things that you might not know.
[Editors note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]