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What you need to know to grow your e-commerce business

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App users visit brick and mortar 41% more often than non-users

E-commerce activity has grown substantially over the past two years. While online shopping was already primed for healthy growth over the next decade, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated any past projections.

Globally, e-commerce sales saw a 27.6% growth rate throughout 2021. With these growth numbers, Insider Intelligence expects that the worldwide e-commerce market will reach $5 trillion in 2022, and $6 trillion will be hit only two years later in 2024. This is largely fuelled by the fact that online sales continue to grow.

Even as stores reopen, the percentage of customers that opt to shop online is getting larger. Many industry leaders assume that these online shopping habits are here to stay, especially given the projected growth in online sales year over year.

The impact of accelerated e-commerce growth on retailers

In our always-on, buy anything anywhere world, customers want their shopping experiences to be personalized, dynamic, and convenient. As a result, many businesses are trying to reinvent themselves, adapt to new business models and technologies, adhere to new consumer expectations and keep pace with their competitors.

Given that retailers have had to pivot their business models to online (if they weren’t there already), the competitive landscape has become even more difficult to navigate. There has also been a notable “death” of brand loyalty amongst consumers due to market fragmentation, and the ease with which consumers can switch and find brand alternatives if they are dissatisfied. As such, retailers are facing a challenge in their efforts to differentiate themselves and stay competitive in a tough market.

Trends and challenges shaping the e-commerce industry in 2022

The growth across e-commerce sectors

As many e-commerce businesses experienced firsthand, COVID-19 caused a boom in online shopping. What was already a high-growth industry was catapulted into hyperspeed as the world adapted to changing regulations, societal norms, and customer needs. While the rapid growth across global e-commerce markets and e-commerce categories is projected to eventually even out to pre-pandemic numbers, that time is still far off. For 2022 and into the next two to three years, we will continue to see large upticks in e-commerce growth worldwide.

1.        The rise in importance of zero- and first-party data:

  • Data is used to make decisions and help companies reach their goals—but how data will be collected in 2022 is drastically different from how it was collected before. The rising importance of zero- and first-party data has changed the way e-commerce businesses will collect information from consumers.
  • With customers becoming aware of how much data they’re giving up to businesses every day, and with the dramatic change to data privacy initiated by the likes of Apple and Facebook, Data collection is becoming more and more challenging.
  • For online businesses, third-party data has been a critical component of marketing data strategy in recent years. Now, marketers will be forced to rely on zero- and first-party data.

Why we care. E-commerce companies will need to prioritize the collection of zero- and first-party data in order to sustain the marketing efforts needed to succeed. It will also require marketers to shift and look at metrics differently than before.

2.      Personalization in a cookieless world:

  • As regulations make data tracking harder, consumers will continue to demand data privacy AND highly personalized brand experiences. E-commerce businesses need to determine how they will continue to collect the necessary consumer data to foster these personalized brand experiences.
  • The most important thing for brands to understand is that the way consumers perceive specific data interactions is heavily dependent on their relationship with the brand. What does that mean? Consumers will be willing to exchange their information with brands if they know it will be used to deliver relevant content and a personalized customer experience. It all comes back to prioritizing customer trust above all else.

Why we care. Brands must be transparent about their data collection efforts and show that there is shared value in the data exchange to stay afloat in the cookieless world.

3.      Social commerce:

  • E-commerce activity is migrating to social media platforms, from brand marketing to customer service to shoppable advertising.
  • After more than a year of working from home, people around the globe are spending even more time scrolling through social feeds. The typical social media user now spends about 15% of their waking life using social platforms.
  • Sales through social media channels around the world are expected to nearly triple by 2025.

Why we care. Social media platforms are presenting new ways for e-commerce businesses to engage with customers and create unique experiences. If they haven’t already, e-commerce businesses need to get a grasp on social commerce and how to integrate this touchpoint into their overall strategy.

4.      Data reporting tools:

  • E-commerce companies are spending a countless amount of time analyzing data. Tracking everything from online store performance to return-on-ad-spend requires various tools to collect and analyze various metrics that matter to an e-commerce company’s business performance.
  • Today, e-commerce businesses have access to a large amount of data reporting tools and software to analyze their digital performance. While having so many options can seem like a positive thing for businesses, the reality is that most tools available only have selective reporting capacities. Without a reporting tool that has the capacity to pull all information into one central space, it is impossible to gain one single source of truth to make accurate conclusions and optimizations.

Why we care. Data reporting software/partners that centralize all metrics from all tools into one place will simplify the data analytics process, yield more accurate insights, and help e-commerce companies make better, more informed decisions.

5.      Delivery expectations

As online shopping activity continues to increase, consumers’ preferences and expectations for delivery have also increased. Free delivery is becoming expected and waiting any longer than two days for delivery can be a deal-breaker for most consumers. Some must-haves for today’s online shipping experience include:

  • Speed.
  • Low-to-no cost returns.
  • Painless returns.
  • Transparency and flexibility in the shipping process.

Why we care. Consumers are evolving right before retailers’ eyes. Understanding their behaviors and expectations and being nimble enough and committed enough to address and delight them in a timely fashion will be the differentiator online retailers need to stand out in the years to come.

As consumer expectations for shipping become more insatiable, shipping and logistics processes for e-commerce businesses become more complex and expensive. As such, selecting the right shipping platforms and partners is more important than ever for e-commerce businesses.


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Summary: Finding success in this rapidly evolving space

The events of the past few years have changed every part of the e-commerce buying journey, from what consumers expect and how they engage and buy online, to the rising complexities. The path to e-commerce growth means pivoting quickly to meet new customer and societal expectations.

For e-commerce businesses, finding success in 2022 revolves around 3 key areas:

  1. Striking the right balance when it comes to consumer data collection and personalization in a cookieless world: figuring out a way to make the exchange of zero- and first-party data more valuable to the consumer and worth their while will result in stronger customer relationships and business success.
  2. Providing a fast, free, seamless, transparent shipping experience sets an e-commerce brand apart from the crowd in the eyes of consumers. Evolving from traditional models, digitizing as many steps as possible, and finding the right delivery ecosystem partners is what companies must focus on.
  3. Adopting the right kinds of emerging technologies can help e-commerce leaders manage the rapidly evolving world of online retail, ensuring they are showing up in the ways that consumers expect them to and facilitating positive buyer journey touchpoints and experiences throughout.

In the race to offer a more exceptional online experience, striking the right balance between marketing, shipping and logistics, and technologies to provide an exceptional customer experience can feel daunting. Those retailers that figure it out will create a competitive advantage and win the mind- and wallet-share of consumers.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Theresa is a Partner and the Chief Strategy Officer at Acart, an independent creative agency that understands the evolving intersection between strategy, media, creative and tech in ways that help transform brands.
Theresa has been a B2C and B2B marketing professional for more than 25 years, honing her craft in the consumer-packaged goods, tech, e-Commerce, and advocacy sectors. She has spent a career crafting strategies and go-to-market initiatives that have driven brand and business growth internationally for start-ups, SMBs and global enterprises. She brings a unique blend of business savvy and strategic thinking to her work. She spent the first 15 years of her career on client side, understanding first-hand the challenges and opportunities that executive-level marketers are up against, and has now spent the last 15 years in the ad industry counseling C-level clients on driving business and brand growth.

As an executive who has sat both on the client-side and agency-side, she has an unfair advantage in that she has catered to many distinct target audiences across many different sectors and industries, and as a result, brings an unparalleled breadth and depth of experience and insight to her engagements.

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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

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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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