🌝 What keeps e-commerce marketeers awake at night?

20/11/2022 - Below you will find the write-up from our 43 marketeer interviews. If you wish to dig deeper into the sheet that details all (anonimised) answers, send me an email on peter@revend.ai.

The context 🏡

In the spirit of Running Lean (a great movement I recommend everyone interested in business and marketing look into) we have to make sure that, while building Revend, we are not building what we think marketeers need, but what marketeers tell us they need.

So, while our CTO was hard at work building Revend's first prototypes, I set out to interview as many additional people in our target user group as I could in order to find out what excites, challenges, and puzzles them. This feedback could then be used to loop back into product development, ensuring we build something that e-commerce professionals will actually want to use.

The goal 🎯

The most important goal to achieve was to learn from each conversation. A great discussion is one from which you walk away smarter, so I needed to make sure to avoid leading questions at all costs.

This meant that I needed to encourage storytelling and open dialogue, rather than going for yes/no questions or narrow questions that push the conversation in a predefined direct.

A good way of doing that, is to focus on questions that start with ‘what', ‘how’ and ’imagine'.

The respondents 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

These are the characteristics of the people that were interviewed

  • Group size: 43
  • Region: EU (21) and Brazil (22)
  • Roles: E-commerce manager, Marketing specialist, Co-founder & CEO, Fractional marketeer, Head of marketing, Ad/SEO/SEA expert
  • Seniority: Over half of respondents had 10 years or more of experience in digital marketing.

Warming up: favorite tools and metrics 📊

Before diving into the 5 key questions, we warmed up our marketing muscles by discussing top 3 favorite tools and key metrics were that ruled day-to-day performance.

⚒️ Favorite tools mentioned in the top 3:

  • Google: Ads, Analytics, Data Studio
  • Facebook: Ads
  • Supermetrics
  • Sparktoro (audience research)
  • Shopify Analytics
  • Uptimerobot (IT monitoring)
  • Power BI (often used in combination with GA to monitor store via historical data)
  • Data Box (dashboards)
  • Semrush (keyword research)
  • Hotjar

📈 Key metrics mentioned in the top 3:

  • ROAS - return on ad spend
  • POAS - profit on ad spend —> deducting ad spend to get an even more accurate measure of performance
  • Return visits, clickthrough rate —> Retention and loyalty will be 👑 in the cookie-less future, as branding will be a huge factor in succesful advertising.
  • CLTV - customer lifetime value
  • CPA - cost per action
  • CPL - cost per lead
  • CAC - customer acquisition cost
  • AOV - average order value
  • Classics: revenue, number of visitors, NPS (net promoter score)

Key question 1: What keeps you awake at night? 🌝

The first big open question, at the start of each interview, was a treasure trove of insights, and a glimpse into the soul of passionate and hard-working marketeers.

What challenges are motivating them the most?

In order to give you a useful overview, I distilled a number of common key concepts from the replies, and I will order a selection of answers in categories matching these concepts, so I can share as many interesting insights as possible with you.

The concepts are: Big Tech, Content, Revenue, Personnel, Personal, (Ad) costs, Performance, and Data.

  • Big Tech challenges
    • Keeping up with constant updates from Google, Meta, and Amazon.
    • The power these big platforms hold over your operations, and looking for viable alternatives. Relative powerlessness and dependency in the face of each decision these big platforms make.
  • Content challenges
    • Consistently creating fresh content at scale to compete for the strained attention of my target audience.
    • Ensuring that content will be engaging before dedicating a lot of time and resources into creative efforts.
  • Revenue challenges
    • Making sure revenue grows each quarter.
    • Consitently outperforming my closest competitors.
    • Making up for the great dip in sales that occured after the pandemic ended.
  • Personnel challenges
    • The challenge of finding skilled personnel to join my team.
    • The challenge of finding trustworthy and proactive third parties (e.g. agencies) to support my marketing goals.
  • Personal challenges
    • Maintaining a healthy work-life balance in a line of work that is ‘always-on’.
    • What does the future of my job look like? Which skills will still be relevant in a few years time, when automation might have rendered them obsolete?
  • (Ad) costs challenges
    • The dependency of perfomance on ads, and the lack of control on how these budgets evolve.
    • Meta and Google forcing us to increase ad spend in order to adhere to privacy laws, artificially driving up ad prices, and trying to become a destination for A/B testing (which makes us lose control of the process' data).
    • Having to justify budget spent on campaigns that grossly underperform.
  • Performance challenges
    • Undetected website issues messing up the funnel flow.
    • Justifying performance and best efforts, regardless of set targets.
    • The constant uncertainty of the digital performance space in general. Ideal positioning is a constant struggle, because everything is always in flux. We can never truly ‘fix it’.
    • Keeping product quality on par with customer expecations and reacting to competitor changes.
  • Data challenges
    • Underusing the potential of the data we are capturing.
    • Solving the riddle of better attribution, it is now a real nightmare at times.
    • A lack of insight in the effectiveness of reporting (dirty data, duplication, missing data), resulting in ineffective monitoring.

We did not just discuss challenges. After outlining what keeps them awake, most interviewees also spoke towards their intended solutions to tackle the challenges at hand. Request access to the full interview sheet via peter@revend.ai for a more in-depth look.

Key question 2: What influences your work performance? 🌟

Despite working from home increasing a lot, there are still many ways in which your work can be influenced via external triggers, both positively 😇 and negatively 😡.

We asked everyone what both the best and most difficult influences were.

🏆 The best: Marketing colleagues

No surprises here! In the turbulent times of post-pandemic e-commerce land, the support, energy, and company of likeminded people steering the ship is of vital importance. 😢 The hardest: Collaboration with IT

It is an almost stereotypical statement, ‘IT and marketing don’t get along'. So why does it come up here? Interviewees mentioned unexpected IT maintenance, implementation delays, and slow turnaround on marketing-related technical issues as justification for scoring this influence as causing more headaches than others.

On a brighter note, the overal sentiment was that nearly 100% of the respondents agreed the future of marketing will be best served by IT and marketing working even more closely together, preferably in the same teams or squads. Below: respondents scored each influence between -3 and +3, this is the final score.

Key question 3: How do you tackle revenue-impacting issues? 💸

Imagine, an unidentified issue is causing your e-commerce store to lose money, and your team is tasked to solve it.

I asked each respondent to tell me what aspect from the list below was most and least important to know first in order to tackle this issue.

  1. Root cause: what caused the issue?
  2. Significance: how many users are affected by the issue?
  3. Impact: how much revenue is at risk?
  4. Segmentation: what users, in what part of the buying journey, are affected?

All four are important, of course, so why ask this question?

Aside from getting insight in the thought process of the respondents, I wanted to know how tools like Revend can offer the best support by focusing on what is most important to monitor.

Let's look at the answers:

🏆 Most important to know first: Root cause

This dimension was the clearcut winner. Knowing why something is happening is always the first thing to investigate. Once the cause is identified, it also makes working together and dividing tasks a lot easier.

😢 Least important to know first: Significance

To quote one respondent: “No matter if it affects one or a thousand users today, we will look into the issue all the same. So the significance dimension is not something that takes priority over the others.”.

Below: respondents gave each aspect a score from 1 to 4, this is the final score.

Key question 4: How do you choose new marketing tools? 🧰

A bit cheeky, this one. Since Revend is in the business of supporting marketeers with software tools, I was curious to find out what factors decide the fate of vendors proposing new tools to add to your marketing stack.

🏆 Most important: Integration capabilities and TCO

If the price you offer is worth the value, and the tool integrates neatly into the existing stack, our respondents give your tool the best chances of capturing interest.

😢 Least important: Possibility to Customise

Customisation is cool, but don't lead with it. Or, as one respondent eloquently put it, “How can I get excited about customising something I'm not fully in love with?”. Got it. Lead with love, people 🫶

Below: respondents gave each parameter a score from -3 to +3, this is the final score.

Key question 5: What is your prediction for marketing by 2027? 🔮

Last but not least, I ended each interview with an invitation to predict the future of marketing. What will be the biggest change we'll see in five years' time?

As with the first key question, in order to give you a useful overview, I distilled a number of common key concepts, and will order a selection of answers in categories matching these concepts.

The concepts are: The marketing role, Automation, Attribution, Payments, (Ad) cost, and Data.

  • Marketing role predictions
    • Storytelling will become one of the most vital skills of the future marketeer. This is what makes us ‘human’, and will stand out among a sea of skills becoming increasingly automated.
    • In the same spirit, the degree of trust a brand can earn will become an enormous unique selling, as this is also something no AI will be able to emulate, and depends on good people doing human work.
    • The Cookie Apocalypse, the impending end of the third party cookie, will reshape the marketeer profession as we know it. Marketing will become very binary. Either you are working on the deeply human aspect (storytelling, personalised messaging), or you will be monitoring the plethora of running automations, i.e. ‘the marketing controller’ that bridges IT and business.
    • Skills to master: VR and AR, first party data management, trust-building at scale, marketing AI controlling.
  • Automation predictions
    • AI and algorithms taking over manual tasks like reporting, dashboard monitoring, first draft creation (for text, visual, and video resources), media buying, and target audience building.
    • Further consolidation of offline and online channels into one streamlined experience.
  • Attribution predictions
    • In five years, the holy grail of proper attribution might be within reach.
    • Both negative and positive attribution (knowing what is and what isn't driving results) will become even more important due to the loss of the third party cookie.
    • First party data will be vital to attribution. As a result, customer success and customer support functions will have massive impact on post-hoc attribution.
  • Payments predictions
    • A big rise in buy now pay later schemes is expected to manifest in the coming years.
    • We must always be on the lookout for the possible entry of crypto currencies into mainstream e-commerce, with VR and Metaverse spaces being likely frontrunners.
  • (Ad) cost predictions
    • In the next five years, a respondent predicted will become increasingly difficult for SMEs to advertise online. Assuming only Google, Meta and Tencent will remain dominant, it will also become close to impossible to self-fund a product launch because of rising acquisition costs, if the current trend continues.
    • Ad spend will be best allocated into content with longevity such as video (e.g. Youtube), where the content can also ad to evergreen brand building.
    • Social media will make a push towards live e-commerce which will introduce new cost structures and a chance for stores to define their branding more independently compared to selling via online marketplaces.
  • Data predictions
    • Data analysis, monitoring, consolidation, and reporting tools will become faster, more user friendly, and more ubiquitous. This will allow marketeers to manage a single source of truth and act on data insights more effectively.
    • As data analysis moves away from Excel and into more UX-mindful tools, the bulk of consumer data analysis will move from the plate of analists onto that of marketeers.
    • Real-time reporting quality will become a big(ger) deal, as today there is no bandwidth to focus on the potential issues lurking there. Data quality will cement itself as part of management targets (e.g. OKRs)

In Closing: Final thoughts and more information 📚

Discussing each participants' predictions was a satisfying end to each interview. Although opinions did vary to certain degree, all respondents seemed to agree on a number of things. The one I found most thought-provoking were:

  1. That we are moving towards more automation, not less.
  2. That the ‘full-stack-marketeer’ might soon be a relic from the past. A split is expected between the more technical marketing controller who configures, operates, and interprets all marketing focused AI and automation software, and the more creativity oriented storyteller marketeer who curates content, manages personalisation, and supports attribution and customer success functions.

Do you agree with these predictions? Are there any that you would contest, or any new ones you would add to the list? Feel free to share your thoughts with me via peter@revend.ai, via LinkedIn, or wherever you found the link to this article 😊

If you wish to dig deeper into the sheet that details all (anonimised) answers from the interviews, you can request access by sending me an email on peter@revend.ai. If you are interested in signing up to Revend's waiting list for early access and first-mover discounts at launch, you can do so here.

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a great day.

Peter Wellens

CEO & Co-founder of Revend.ai