White paper: what keeps e-commerce marketeers awake at night?
In this white paper, we summarise insights from 43 interviews (over 22 hours of conversation) with a diverse group of experienced e-commerce marketeers.
In each interview, we asked these e-commerce specialist to give their detailed take on 5 key questions that structured each interview.
- What marketing challenge keeps you up at night?
- Which external factors have the best and worst influence on your work?
- What's most and least important to tackle first when facing revenue-impacting issues?
- What considerations prevail when choosing new tools to add to your marketing stack?
- What is your prediction for the biggest change in marketing by 2027?
A summary of all answers, including some bonus material, are shared below for your reference. If you enjoyed this content, you are welcome to share it with your colleagues or clients. When doing so, please credit Revend by using this link so you support our marketing team for their work in creating this paper. Happy reading!
Why we created this white paper
In the spirit of the Lean Startup movement our team had to make sure that, while building Revend, we were not building what we thought marketeers need, but what marketeers told us they need.
So in order to inspire our product team with real-life insights, our marketing team set out to interview a diverse selection of e-commerce specialists in our target user group and find out what excites, challenges, and puzzles them. Their feedback was actively integrated into our product roadmap to ensure we are building something that people want.
We are happy to share this feedback for all to use, learn from, and get inspired by. If this paper supports you in strengthening our e-commerce community in any way, we have also achieved our goal.
When conducting a large volume of interviews it is imperative to learn from each conversation. To this end, we laid out two simple ground rules.
One: avoid leading questions at all costs. This encourages storytelling and open dialogue, rather than pushing the conversation in a predefined direction. We focused on questions starting with ‘what', ‘how’ and ’imagine'. You can only uncover true problems by applying this rule.
Two: document the same day. Speaks for itself. Avoids important details to get lost due to forgetfulness or insufficient note-taking.
Three: talk to listen, don't listen to talk: Embrace the 80/20 rule. We were privileged to have so many people speak to us, so we aimed to listen for 80% of the scheduled time. It's about them, not us!
These are the key characteristics of the people that were interviewed
- Group size: 43
- Region: EU (21) and South America(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. See figure below.
Warming up: unmissable tools and metrics
Before diving into the 5 key questions, we warmed up our marketing muscles by discussing which marketing tools and key metrics were considered unmissable in our respondents' day-to-day performance.
⚒️ Favorite tools mentioned in the top 3:
- Google: Ads, Analytics, Data Studio
- Facebook: Ads
- Sparktoro, a tool for audience research
- Shopify Analytics
- Uptimerobot, a tool for IT monitoring
- Power BI
- Data Box, to create dashboards
- Semrush, for keyword research
📈 Key metrics mentioned in the top 3:
- ROAS - return on ad spend
- POAS - profit on ad spend, a more narrow metric deducting ad spend to get an even stricter measure of performance
- Return visits, clickthrough rate - Many respondents mentioned retention and loyalty will be paramount in the cookie-less future, where branding will be the precursor to successful advertising.
- CLTV - customer lifetime value
- CPA - cost per action
- CPL - cost per lead
- CAC - customer acquisition cost
- AOV - average order value
- The Classics: revenue, number of visitors, NPS -net promoter score
Question 1: What keeps you awake at night?
The first big open question, at the start of each interview, turned out to be a treasure trove of insights. It offered a glimpse into the soul of passionate and hard-working marketeers.
What challenges motivate them the most?
In order to give you a useful overview, we distilled a number of common common themes from the replies, and curated the answers in categories matching these concepts.
The themes 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.
- Consistently creating fresh content at scale to compete for the strained attention of my target audience.
- Ensuring content is engaging before dedicating a lot of time and resources into creative efforts.
- Making sure revenue grows each quarter.
- Consistently outperforming my closest competitors.
- Making up for the great dip in sales that occurred after the pandemic ended.
- Finding adequately skilled personnel to join my team.
- Finding trustworthy and proactive third parties to support my marketing goals.
- Maintaining a healthy work-life balance in a line of work that is always-on.
- Estimating what the future of my job will look like.
- Deciding which skills will still be relevant in a few years time, when automation might render them obsolete.
Ad costs challenges
- The dependency of performance on ads, and the lack of control over how these budgets evolve.
- Meta and Google forcing increases in 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.
- Undetected website issues messing up the funnel flow and tracking efforts.
- 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 expectations and reacting to competitor changes.
- Underusing the potential of the data we are capturing.
- Solving the riddle of better attribution, it can now be a real nightmare at times.
- A lack of insight in the effectiveness of reporting (dirty data, duplication, missing data) that results in ineffective monitoring and reporting.
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 here for a more in-depth look. (just put 'interview sheet' in the subject line and we'll know what to do :))
Question 2: What influences your performance?
There are many ways in which your work can be influenced via external triggers, both positively 😇 and negatively 😡.
We asked everyone what both the best and worst 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 worst: Collaboration with IT
It is an almost stereotypical statement that ‘IT and marketing don’t get along', but why? 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.
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 needs to solve it, fast.
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.
- Root cause: what caused the issue?
- Significance: how many users are affected by the issue?
- Impact: how much revenue is at risk?
- 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 monitoring tools like Revend can prioritise their analysis and feature flow for optimal usefulness.
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 prefer to 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.
Question 4: How do you select new marketing tools?
Since Revend is in the business of supporting marketeers with software tools, we were curious to find out what factors decide the fate of vendors proposing new tools to add to your marketing stack. An interesting refresher for all our SaaS-colleagues out there.
🏆 Most important: TCO and Integration capabilities
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.
Question 5: What is your 2027 marketing prediction?
Last but not least, we ended each interview with an invitation to predict the future of marketing 🔮. What challenges will we see in five years' time?
As with the first key question, in order to give you a useful overview, we distilled a number of common key themes to structure the answers given below.
The themes 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 point, as this is also something no AI will be able to emulate, and depends on helpful 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 its deeply human aspect (storytelling, personalised messaging), or you will be monitoring the plethora of running automations, i.e. becoming ‘the marketing controller’ that bridges IT and business.
- Future-proof skills to master: VR and AR, first party data management, trust-building at scale, auditing of marketing AI systems.
- AI and algorithms taking over manual tasks like reporting, dashboard monitoring, summarising, 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.
- 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.
- 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 accelerants to more widestream adoption.
(Ad) cost predictions
- In the next five years, a respondent predicted it will become increasingly difficult for SMEs to advertise online. Assuming only Google, Meta and Tencent remain dominant, it will also become close to impossible to self-fund a product launch because if the trend of rising acquisition costs continues.
- Ad spend will be best allocated into content with longevity such as video (e.g. Youtube), since this content will also add 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 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 realm of analysts into that of marketeers.
- Real-time reporting quality will become a big(ger) deal, as today there is little bandwidth to focus on the potential issues lurking there. Data quality will cement itself as part of management targets.
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 we found most thought-provoking were:
- That we are moving towards more automation, not less.
- 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 us via email@example.com, via LinkedIn, or wherever you found the link to this article 😊.
If you wish to dig deeper into the sheet that details all (anonymised) answers from the interviews, you can request access by sending me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in monitoring your funnel with Revend's solutions, you can get started in under 5 minutes here.
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