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2022 Predictions: E-commerce everywhere

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2022 Predictions: E-commerce everywhere

Next year, e-commerce will be a driving force in how marketers engage with customers. E-commerce strategies will penetrate channels like TV, social media and in-store experience, to a greater extent than marketers could have imagined.

Marketers will adapt their e-commerce strategies to be more personalized, simplify their customer data and marketing stack, incorporate shoppable ads and even retrain their in-store associates to better accommodate digital-first shoppers.

Simplified stack

The future of e-commerce will be driven by personalization. To improve accuracy in messaging, as well as ROI, brands will have to simplify data sources and their e-commerce stack, according to Tracey Ryan O’Connor, Group Vice President at personalization technology company Qubit, which was recently acquired by AI-powered experience platform Coveo.

“Overall, brands have achieved a high return on investment in their personalization spend, but the e-commerce and digital marketing stack has grown very complex, which has led to disparate data sources that threaten the effectiveness of delivering personalized experiences,” said O’Connor. “As a result, brands began efforts to simplify the tech stack and cut down on the number of customer data sources from which they create actionable intelligence in 2021. 

She added, “I believe these efforts will accelerate in 2022 with simplification as the driver for further innovation in personalization leading to convergence with product discovery.”

Getting more personal

As we saw in the most recent holiday shopping push, seasonal events are spreading out over a longer period of time. Cyber Monday has become Cyber Month. And Amazon’s Prime Day summer promotions are really more like “Prime Week.”

In 2022, buyer journeys will continue to get more personalized. Marketers who pay attention to these data signals will gain a competitive edge.

“By merging personalization and product discovery, brand marketers and merchandisers will be able to leverage data from these sources, including the combined view of customers, to ensure they are tailoring each visit and experience at every level and every touch point of the shopping journey,” said O’Connor.

AI optimization

“We’ll see AI-powered personalization evolve to deliver more highly customized experiences in 2022,” O’Connor stated. “This entails machine learning models that consider all customer behaviors as well as various data sources that can be fed, ingested, and leveraged to better understand consumers at scale.” 

She added, “We’ve already moved past the one-size-fits-all AI model, to algorithms that meet the demands of individual customers without having to ‘test and learn’ each time. For example, new AI models can be used to power product carousels that are based on your location, or behavior, or even the weather.”

E-commerce merges with in-store

While the product discovery journey will be individualized through personalization, experiences in-store and online will merge. To understand the shape that this trend will take in the coming year, it’s important to note that e-commerce will be the engine that drives this merge.

“As in-store and online shopping merge, ecommerce will explode in 2022,” said O’Connor. “While shoppers are returning to physical stores, we’re not seeing a decrease in online shopping – in fact, we’re seeing continued growth. In 2021, we saw more people starting their shopping journey online, searching for the products they want at the best price and the actual transaction happening in-store. Even when the pandemic dissipates, online shopping will continue to flourish because this behavior is now ingrained and habitual.”

She explained, “In 2022, brands will be faced with determining how to adapt the blended online/in-store shopping experience to match the leaps and bounds that e-commerce has made over the past two years. This will be particularly important for retail sectors where shoppers still prefer an offline component to the experience, such as fashion or beauty, but in the end, we do not anticipate the online performance to decline because stores have reopened.”

Holistic approach to brick-and-mortar

Expect a holistic approach to physical store experiences that incorporates e-commerce and enables digital shoppers to get what they want out of their visit, said Nikki Baird, Vice President of Retail Innovation at retail technology provider Aptos.

“Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on creating experiential store concepts, almost as a way of trying to compete with the online channel,” said Baird. “Fast-forward to 2022 and we’ll see retailers pursue holistic store experiences that are focused on helping shoppers transition between physical and digital interactions with their brand.”

Baird suggested that one tool retailers might adopt more widely is the “virtual closet.” Shoppers would carry with them a digital representation of all the products they own from that retailer. They could reference this as they shop, as could store associates.

Empowered store associates

“Store associates will get a digital upgrade to contribute to the CX,” said Baird. “With all the investments that retailers made in online engagement during the pandemic, as store traffic rebounds, we’re seeing a lot of retailers begin to evaluate how they can offer a similar level of digital engagement in their stores.”

Sure, retailers want to make sure they don’t drop the ball by offering a seamless transition from digital shopping to in-store experience. The successful retailers in 2022 will make sure not to leave associates out of this equation.

“There’s still a significant percentage of shoppers who visit stores to engage with associates,” Baird said. “In 2022, savvy retailers will look to elevate the role of associates in the overall store experience and leverage mobile technologies to support this.”

IT upgrades

As more physical stores open up, a new era of digitally-enabled shopping will require investment for personalization, optimization and experience.

“Retailers’ financial recovery, combined with the fact that omnichannel shopping behaviors pushed legacy IT systems close to the breaking point during the pandemic, is going to drive investments in foundational modern technology systems in 2022,” said Baird. 

Supply chain challenges in the last year, along with raised consumer expectations, require retailers to provide real-time knowledge of what items are available for purchase and when they can be delivered.

“Retailers are at the point where they know they can’t fake it anymore,” said Baird. “They have to get the basics right – and this includes real-time inventory visibility. If retailers can’t provide real-time inventory visibility, they’ve already lost. There’s no way retailers can keep up with the speed of consumers without it.”

Ads will be more shoppable

Personalization and real-time visibility into inventory will also impact advertising, making ads more shoppable.

“Shoppable ad functionality is now playing a bigger role than ever before, especially as work-from-home shopping habits are colliding with supply chain issues,” said Oz Etzioni, CEO of AI-driven dynamic ad-serving and ad personalization platform Clinch. “The benefits of shoppable commerce extend beyond the consumer as well, providing retailers with invaluable insight into consumer preferences for future campaigns and for the brand overall.”

Channels like email and SMS have long used personalized data like recent purchases and abandoned cart items in order to become more relevant to shoppers and to boost sales. However, these personalized elements will be more integrated in display and TV ads in 2022.

“Both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for marketers deploying shoppable campaigns in 2022 will be in shoppable TV,” said Etzioni. “The key will be utilizing all the tools available to them in making those shoppable ads as relevant as possible. This requires layering in first-party data and personalization that reflects a shopper’s environment, including time-of-day, weather, regional promotions and more. From there, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of their consumers and adapt more quickly with relevant CTAs that allow their customers to make purchasing decisions in real time.”

He adds that with continued supply chain issues challenging product availability, marketers should consider some kind of dynamic creative optimization (DCO) to send the most relevant up-to-date messages to customers.

“Now that product scarcity is growing across the board, retailers have had to rebalance focus from mid- to upper-funnel objectives, and they have had to do it quickly,” Etzioni explained. “For example, a car manufacturer with limited inventory wouldn’t want to fade away in the minds of consumers, so they’ve been shifting towards making sure that their customers are still aware of their presence, but not necessarily drive them towards the dealership.”

Social commerce will diversify

Social media platforms have long been sources of valuable word-of-mouth buzz for brands and products. In 2022, these digital communities will be major sources of shoppable revenue. And this means brands will be looking beyond Facebook to diversify and keep ad costs down.

“Diversifying your social shopping to new channels will be key,” said Rob Van Nuenen, CEO of e-commerce solution provider Channable. “Disruptive social channel Tik Tok will likely generate nearly 2 billion users in 2022, while Instagram and Pinterest are delivering relevant social commerce experiences. With that, social commerce revenues are poised to reach nearly $50 billion, so it is important to create a strategy using these channels.”

Marketers will add value to their social spend by incorporating “social proof” (user-generated comments and reviews) into their social presence and promoting special events and other engagement strategies, according to Rosa Hu, Vice President of Product Marketing for e-commerce marketing platform Yotpo.

TikTok’s recent partnership with Shopify — and its in-app purchasing capabilities — will give brands far better return on ad spend vs. competitors in 2022,” Hu said.

Many of these new e-commerce innovations will be driven by ROI. But to earn that return, marketers will have to become more nimble with their personalization data strategy, DCO execution and social media engagement. In doing so, they’ll build a deeper relationship with customers in 2022 while increasing efficiencies in their marketing budgets.

Read next: 2022 Predictions: Customer Experience & Digital Experience

About The Author

2022 Predictions Data strategy and privacy
Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.


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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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