How and Why to Hire an Intern for Your Online Business

by
March 14, 2017

 

Need some coffee or your pencils sharpened? Get an intern! Just kidding—This isn’t the 1980s! We have computers and Keurigs and Favor and the days of using interns for mindless tasks are (thankfully) gone. Today, many e-commerce businesses hire interns for complex tasks, including marketing and sales efforts.

ShipStation proudly utilizes interns on our Marketing, Sales, and User Success teams. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve spoken to one of our interns as they gathered information, gauged interest in User Success Stories, or invited you to one of our User Meet-Ups.

Interns have clearly been beneficial for ShipStation. But how can you find and use an intern for an e-commerce?

Where Can You Find a Great Intern?

Many e-commerce companies find talent through local colleges. Company Folders, an innovative online presentation folder printing company based in Keego Harbor, Michigan, found two graphic design interns at nearby Ferris State University.

Cocoweb is an online retailer headquartered in Irvine, CA that specializes in LED lighting products for interior and outdoor design. The company discovered interns through colleges and through Internships.com, a site that allows you to post internships and search for interns for free.

Albany, NY-based e-commerce company Twill offers US-made blankets, beanies and tote bags. For every Twill product sold, another is given to a local friend of the buyer’s choice. The company is a big fan of hiring interns, and has between one and five interns working at any given time. One Twill intern was found through a conversation with a man delivering Twill’s products. In addition to word of mouth, the company uses college job boards to find interns.

ShipStation does the same: our interns have come from University of Texas Austin, St. Edward’s, Texas State, and more.

Check out how Zappos advertised for their summer internship program:

zapposinternship

What Can Interns Do?

While the interns at Company Folders provide graphic design, the interns at Cocoweb work on social media marketing, web development, graphic design and online marketing.

Twill has very specific responsibilities for its interns in the following areas:

  • Social Media – Interns use content generated by Twill’s photographer or customer content on all social media accounts. One intern is solely responsible for customer engagement on social media, including saying thank you, liking and commenting on posts, and responding to any direct messages or questions received.
  • Sales – Interns run vendor tables at various events, near and far, where they are able to interact with potential customers and complete sales at the event.
  • Special Opportunities – Some interns reach out to social influencers, such as popular bloggers or celebrity influencers where they work together, send product where their followers can see the use of Twill products and how Twill helps friends locally by providing warmth and inspiration.

When it comes to our interns, we’ve had them help with online marketing campaigns, gathering and analyzing support-based statistics, work with our partners and integrations, post on social media, and oh so much more.

How Many Hours Do They Work and How Much Do They Get Paid?

This really varies.

The two graphic design interns from Company Folders worked forty hours a week for one semester. The internships were unpaid and both interns received college credits towards their degree at FSU.

At Cocoweb, the interns work for three months, are also unpaid and receive college credit.

Twill’s interns work as little as a few hours a week to full days, during a semester or over the summer. In addition to college credit, Twill reimburses its interns for all travel expenses and food when traveling and pays commission on their own personal sales of high volume and commission of event sales they work.

While these companies offer unpaid internships (except in the special circumstances at Twill), there are many paid internships, which offer hourly or stipend compensation.

What Are the Results?

All of the companies were pleased with the performance of their interns.

“The results were amazing,” says Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders. “The two interns built our sample library, which is still helping us showcase our products.”

At Cocoweb, the interns’ efforts increased brand awareness and digital assets, and provided a better customer website user experience.

Twill’s intern activities have resulted in increased sales, social media followers, brand awareness, and corporate partnerships.

Adam Singh, ShipStation’s Online Marketing Manager, has worked extensively with two of our Marketing interns, Mikaela and Zane. Frankly, he couldn’t stop talking about them:

“Our interns have been instrumental in helping us with customer discovery. They perform customer development interviews by calling our current users to learn about their buyer’s process, from how a user initially learned about ShipStation to what motivates users to refer their network to us. This customer discovery has helped us create more effective marketing messages that resonate and convert leads as well as drive customer referrals.”

Final Tips

The companies offered some parting advice to others considering hiring interns.

“If you’re planning to hire an intern, be structured before they arrive,” says Gendelman. “Know what they’re going to work on and have goals in place for them. And don’t forget that the intern isn’t there for you; they’re working to gain experience. To make sure the internship is fair, you’ll need to provide resources that will help them learn and advance their skills.”

Bryan Hernandez, Marketing Manager at Cocoweb, offers the following tips on working with interns:

  • Create a good orientation and training program
  • Assign proper mentors to assist interns
  • Conduct weekly one on ones with interns

With some planning and clear job descriptions, training, and ongoing support, interns can be incredibly helpful to your business, while gaining an amazing learning experience. If you’re not experiencing this win-win, check into hiring an intern today!





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