From 10M to 100M: The Ecommerce Role That Really Counts
September 3, 2020
September 3, 2020
Big Data. Is your eCommerce business using it properly?
Or more importantly, do you have the tools and resources in place to uncover the profit hiding in your data?
Can your team go beyond the limits of conventional business intelligence and use your data – both structured and unstructured – to predict where your eCommerce business could be in 12 months?
What about two years? Or five years?
Can you use these insights today to make informed business decisions that will help you scale profitably?
Find out – in our 8-question quiz – who is in the cornerstone eCommerce role at the Top 200 Online Stores and whether they’re (not) on your team too.
The difference between 10 million in annual revenue and 100 million is more about how effectively you use big data than the data itself.
According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), there are now major disparities in performance between a small group of technology leaders – such as Amazon, Alibaba and Flipkart – and the average eCommerce business.
“These companies differentiate themselves through their data and analytics assets, processes, and strategies.”
The Age of Analytics: Competing in a Data-Driven World (MGI, 2016)
These data-oriented eCommerce leaders future-proof their business by attracting the best analytics talent and consolidating their competitive advantage.
To compete, mid-market companies must assemble specialized teams that span data science, digital marketing and software engineering while handling the complexities of an SPA (single page application) platform.
But at what cost?
The ability of an eCommerce team to analyze its data and translate the insights gained into profitable action is an ongoing challenge. You need a team with the right balance of cross-functional capabilities.
Data science expertise – for example – is one of the more technical skill sets required to help an eCommerce business scale profitably. But increasing demand for experienced data scientists means finding and retaining them is almost as challenging as the job itself.
But data science is no longer exclusively the domain of eComm titans. The AI revolution has leveled the playing field.
The power of AI and machine learning has enabled us to develop a revolutionary software tool now being used by some of the world’s most innovative brands.
The Tadpull Pond software helps you surface insights from your data to yield opportunities across inventory, campaigns and users.
But even with AI and machine learning on your side, it’s still a team effort.
At Tadpull, we developed this free resource to help you assess the relative strengths and skills gaps in your organization.
From the highly technical – data scientist, SEO and CRO specialists – to the marketing, paid media, social and outreach roles, this template will help you develop your own strategic roadmap for talent allocation in your business.
Use this guide to compare against your own organizational structure, noting critical gaps in your current team and building a case for hiring in-house employees or partnering with an eCommerce specialist agency like Tadpull.
There is one common and foundational element required for every eCommerce team role. Everyone in the team must be comfortable interpreting and using data to drive decision-making – from both a macro standpoint – What markets should we serve? – and a micro standpoint – What ages should I target with this campaign?
While a culture of data-driven performance across the entire team is needed, it’s also vital to incorporate data scientists – specialists who assemble and analyze product and customer data, and campaign information to identify growth opportunities.
A digital marketer armed with a spreadsheet can analyze historical data to guide decisions for A/B tests and campaign creative, for example, but the real power in scaling and obtaining profitable growth lies in predicting and building models from the data – AKA data science.
Data scientists today are tapping the potential of AI to make sense of previously unwieldy data assets. Ideally, they use a software tool that acts as a data warehouse and an AI ninja – surfacing insights across subscriber, customer, website and product data.
While the rest of us might gawk at the sheer volume of data that is generated by just one mid-market eCommerce business, data scientists see opportunity.
The opportunity to turn all that data into action. To see problems others haven’t seen and find solutions that others can use.
Essentially, a good data scientist has a knack for uncovering the profit hiding in your data.
eCommerce isn’t all about marketing. It’s also about making sure you have the right products at the right time, and that those products are priced appropriately and competitively. A data scientist and analyst will provide inventory insights from Oracle NetSuite, using demand loss and price elasticity of demand as well as analytical pricing insights.
In other words, your data scientist should be able to answer questions like:
A data scientist and analyst should also provide deeper insight into marketing optimization, including email, website, content, and social media marketing to identify patterns for best performance using classification techniques from machine learning.
This matters because what works for one business might not work for yours and your customer base – a data scientist can help identify what time of day you should send an email or which Facebook audiences matter most to your bottom line.
These are all questions your data scientist can provide through customer lifetime value modeling, attribution modeling, propensity modeling, and sentiment analysis.
While it’s ultimately the responsibility of your product team to come up with new products, your data scientist makes product recommendations based on customer data and identifies emerging trends in the market and within your operations.
This can be particularly powerful when you’re looking to increase AOV (average order value) through bundles, complementary products, or small give-aways that lead to big increases in customer value perception and conversion.
The principal role of a data scientist is to make use of data from various software apps, including NetSuite, Google Analytics, Bronto and Facebook Ads Manager.
A seasoned data scientist will use a tool like the Tadpull Pond software to save time, bring data into a single data warehouse, simplify the analytics process, and grow top-line revenue and ultimately, profit margins.
Given the high demand for their skills, data scientists are extremely costly hires and most will be hounded by recruiters as long as they’re on your team.
Coupled with the advanced technical nature of the role, this means partnering with a dedicated eCommerce solution provider such as Tadpull is the wiser and more sustainable option.
As with an in-house hire, you work with your partner team by providing access to your data and answering contextual questions as they arise.
Like data scientists, true SEO professionals keep a close eye on your data. However, the SEO role – particularly Technical SEO – is typically more diagnostic in its approach.
While the data scientist might build a model to predict future behavior of organic search users, the SEO specialist is more interested in:
A good Technical SEO professional draws on a combination of skills and experience to build an accurate diagnostic snapshot of your data. An in-depth knowledge of search engine crawler behavior (such as Google’s algorithm), website architecture and code is a prerequisite for every Technical SEO Manager.
A nuanced understanding of SEO within the context of NetSuite is especially advantageous. NetSuite platforms are built on top of an SPA framework, and additional tools and workarounds are needed to render web pages in Google-bot friendly form.
Although potentially complex and costly, winning the fight for top organic listings on listings SERPs is worth the investment:
Your Technical SEO specialist needs to be an expert in on-page SEO, technical optimization, and data analytics.
A Technical SEO specialist uses prerender.io page generator tools in addition to building out and monitoring XML Sitemap and Robots.txt files. These resources guide Google algorithms through the process of indexing, crawling and cataloging your site.
The SEO specialist should account for your users’ needs and use analytics software to identify the right keywords, plan a strategy to rank for those keywords, and identify evergreen content opportunities to build out content onsite and with other channels such as YouTube.
Part of building a successful SEO strategy involves identifying what your competitors are doing well – and what they aren’t doing so well. With the help of advanced competitor analytics software, a good SEO specialist will recognise gaps and help you establish a content framework that unearths opportunities for improved rankings against your competitors.
Your Technical SEO specialist will maintain a close watch on the health of your link profile. This includes clearing toxic links and avoiding any link-based penalties that could affect your rankings.
The best Technical SEO strategists know Google Analytics and Search Console inside and out – they can provide actionable reports and fix issues in real-time to increase organic rankings on a daily basis.
The world of Technical SEO is in a state of almost continual flux as Google works to improve search result relevance with emerging features like voice search and rich snippets. A Technical SEO Manager needs to keep up with every mutation and variation in the algorithms.
Every eCommerce platform has different quirks that affect SEO rankings, and NetSuite is no exception. Your Technical SEO specialist will understand how the NetSuite tech stack behaves and how to best optimize for improved rankings across category, product and blog pages.
Many eCommerce leaders consider Technical SEO to be their most successful strategy, and understand that hiring the right technical SEO expert is worth the wait.
The Technical SEO role is a hybrid of content strategist that’s fluent with code, highly competent in analytics, and effective at managing developers. Rather than waiting for a Technical SEO unicorn with all these requisite skills to materialize, most mid-market eCommerce businesses can avoid losing ground to their competitors by engaging a partner with expertise in their particular eCommerce and ERP platform.
While organic search remains a critical channel, online advertising accounts for about 97% of Google’s total revenue, and paid search ads are in the top three most influential generators of website conversions.
Interestingly, while marketers may know the difference between paid search and organic search listings, 46% of people can’t distinguish between organic paid ads on the SERPs. So your paid search advertising strategy is just as important as your SEO strategy.
Historically, a Paid Media Manager role centered around bidding for keywords and ad space, but today, with the rise of Machine Learning and advanced AI-enhanced platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the need for a highly technical and creative paid media role has emerged.
To achieve scale and a healthy blended Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), the paid media manager works with SEO specialist/s to monitor keyword shifts and identify opportunity gaps within the paid search landscape. But just as importantly. they also need to collaborate closely with the data scientists – putting high Customer LifeTime Value (CLTV) segments to work, building lookalike audiences, and relentlessly testing creative across ad sets.
Your Paid Media Manager must perform across multiple platforms to scale and capture new markets.
Your Paid Media Manager works closely with the leadership team to establish key growth goals, mapping results back to individual platform targets for ROAS, CAC and purchase conversions. This includes applying strategic frameworks for broad prospect, remarketing, and re-engagement campaigns to keep spend in alignment with quarterly targets.
This includes using past purchaser data from high CLTV segments, email subscriber data, and predictive customer behavior (remember our data scientists!) to build lookalike audiences, guiding the Facebook and Google algorithms to find highest value prospects/customers.
The Facebook Pixel behaves differently than the Google Analytics (GA) tracking tag – your Paid Media Manager will audit the tech stack, troubleshoot issues, build out additional tracking and work closely with developers through tag management tools including Google Tag Manager and/or hard coding solutions.
The Paid Media Manager typically coordinates with the CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) role. Finding qualified leads (those highly likely to convert) means testing hundreds of versions of ad types, creative, and targeting while ensuring landing pages effectively move users through the purchasing funnel.
In-demand Paid Media Managers are adept at all ad platforms across paid search and paid social media, including Google Ads and Publisher, Facebook Ads Manager (including Instagram), Amazon Seller Central, and third-party campaign management tools.
It’s a massive hill to climb to compete with established eCommerce brands like Amazon, but it’s a challenge a good Paid Media Manager will relish.
While this role can be hired in-house, there are a few notable considerations:
While the Paid Media Manager plays a crucial role in running segmented campaigns to drive high-value traffic at the top of the funnel, the CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) and UX (User eXperience) Specialist has an equally important job: moving prospects to the next phase of the conversion funnel – subscribe to the email list, add to cart, complete purchase, and so on.
Of all the ways we can influence online revenue, there are four main levers we can use to achieve higher revenue goals:
The CRO/UX Specialist concentrates on the last three levers used to influence online revenue – by testing and scaling onsite copy, imagery, features and value propositions to boost conversion rates and transaction sizes.
Based on your users’ behavioral data, CRO/UX experts should be able to identify gaps in the experience that potentially lead to lost revenue, identify why this is happening (from the customer POV) and prioritize appropriate testing solutions.
As with other roles, improving website conversions demands a deep dive into your analytics to identify improvement opportunities throughout each phase of the purchasing funnel. Your CRO/UX specialist expertly wields Google Analytics and works with your data science team to leverage customer behavioral trends as a reference point for experimentation.
Beyond analyzing quantitative data, a CRO/UX specialist relies on other research methods to determine why your website is underperforming – this entails gathering direct feedback from users and customers. CRO specialists regularly capture qualitative data by conducting user tests, analyzing visitor recordings and scroll/heat maps, and interviewing customers and customer support teams to identify friction spots in the shopping experience.
An expert CRO/UX Specialist:
Their ability to understand statistical thresholds and logarithmic scale is a foundational skill for effective experimentation.
Top CRO/UX Specialists are rare considering they must be masters of code as well as web design and content development, including copywriting. They must also work closely with content managers to pinpoint high performance messaging and adapt assets and copy to align with your brand’s voice and tone.
Optimizing your website for better conversions can yield stellar results, so securing the right person to help you execute on these initiatives is crucial to achieving higher revenue.
Whether you opt for an in-house CRO team or turn to an outside partner, there are three key considerations:
Whichever route you choose, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of your current website traffic, as this will influence the specialist’s ability to run tests. If you’re still in an early phase with relatively low traffic and lower overall conversions, consider keeping CRO activities inhouse until you attract enough traffic to give an outside partner a viable data set they can use to really scale up.
While CRO focuses on conversion rate, the Content Marketing & Email Specialist is typically busy behind the scenes, often writing, designing, and managing email marketing at scale. Without this content engine, the CRO would have very few variables to test effectively.
Investing in content marketing clearly pays off. Content and email marketing are among the most effective marketing channels in terms of ROI and work best when combined with technical SEO.
Owned media, including email and content, isn’t just a lucrative way to capture quick sales. Many eCommerce companies are finding that their email subscriber and customer volumes even impact their valuations. A sizable, quality list can closely correlate with ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue), making the content marketer’s role immensely valuable to your business.
Your Content Marketing & Email Specialist:
The modern Content Marketer brings a crucial combination of cross-functional skillsets straddling both the creative and analytical.
Your Content Marketing & Email Specialist is a skilled copywriter and adept at producing engaging content. But the role also needs to understand the data and insights provided by the data science and CRO/UX roles.
Once again, alignment with the data science team is needed to capture critical customer data and build highly-segmented audiences based on browsing and buyer behavior. If your email marketing specialist is sending out the same message to all customers rather than segmenting high-CLTV vs. low-CLTV, frequent purchaser vs. infrequent purchaser, your eCommerce brand is likely missing out on significant conversion opportunities.
Less experienced marketers might roll the dice and just add a pop-up on the website but sophisticated teams work to build quality leads (and more importantly, datasets) at the top of the funnel. This can involve interactive quizzes, segmented forms and A/B testing promotions for list capture and conversion opportunities, from subscriber to first-time customer.
This requires working knowledge of top ESPs (Email Service Providers) and tracking code, list health and segmentation, email copywriting, promotional strategy, triggering, automation and drip campaigns, dynamic content, and data analytics. This role is becoming increasingly technical due to the dynamic nature of eCommerce campaigns (building in API calls to the ERP platform for current inventory quantities, customer browsing behavior, add to cart data, etc.)
An experienced content marketer knows that content costs much less (up to 62% less) than traditional marketing, but generates nearly three times the leads. The paid media buyer can get a high-quality lead through the door but the content marketer has to “walk them through the house” and convince them to purchase. This role can involve copywriting but it also requires a technical eye for cart and checkout changes, design updates for engagement improvements and working with the CRO to run A/B tests at scale on high-value pages.
While some eCommerce brands prefer to keep email marketing roles in-house, there are a few factors to consider.
If a company sale or acquisition is the long-term goal, a trusted partner can work with you to establish methods for raising the value of your subscriber and customer lists, positively impacting the valuation – you could hire strategic support, leaving the campaign management to your in-house team.
Some marketers might feel organic social is a losing game but online consumers still spend almost 2.5 hours on social networks and social messaging every day.
This presents brands with a significant opportunity to connect with new prospects but performance is highly-reliant on leveraging others’ audiences and using effective media and post types (Instagram Stories, for example) to reach your users.
With Facebook significantly reducing your organic views, the need for a data-savvy and strategic social manager is becoming increasingly important in 2020’s scroll on culture.
While a talented Content Marketer can put the building blocks in place, a Social Media Manager & Outreach Specialist surveys the landscape for high-value influencers and content partners that can drive high-quality traffic to the target page.
To achieve organic lift, your social and outreach hire or partner must perform across a spectrum of skill sets.
Use customer data and audience insights tools to drive UGC (User-Generated Content) and referral engagement across social platforms. Depending on your audience and your customer segments, your social and outreach role might test/promote contests, giveaways, and reward shares. Remember, shares from a brand itself are low-reach, shares from organic friends and followers are high-reach and good in terms of advocacy and social proof.
Conduct extensive research on complementary partners and influencers to vett partnership and co-branding opportunities. This includes in-depth analytics vetting to avoid wasted sponsorship spend and the ability to craft a win-win pitch with a high-return rate. It can also involve building out and managing an affiliate network to tap into content niches not available in the typical PR landscape.
Work with the Technical SEO Manager and Content Marketing Specialist to craft an expansive backlink strategy, filling in keyword gaps and using long-form content plays to build authority around seeded topics. The outreach role should maintain a shared responsibility for reaching quarterly organic growth goals given gaining backlinks from a high-quality domain is a critical piece of the strategy.
Implement key promotions and pushes, manage negative comments, and handle customer support requests through Messenger. Involves leveraging a suite of tools for video creation, brand mentions, post scheduling, etc.
While outsourcing social management and outreach is an option, there are a few important considerations.
Fundamental business principles remain the same despite the changing digital landscape:
While these principles remain, the methods and roles needed to achieve them are where the real shift is rapidly taking place.
Providing a great brand and product experience means leveraging machine learning and AI to provide highly personalized organic and paid content.
Key Resources: Data Scientist & Analyst, Technical SEO Manager, Paid Media Manager
Building a loyal customer base means relying on customer data for demand planning and content/product creation strategy, along with code changes for streamlined shopping/fast shipping.
Key Resources: CRO & UX Specialist, Content Marketing & Email Specialist
Establishing growth targets means having a strategic framework and dynamic reporting structure that spans all of the digital channels, with concrete targets and capable managers behind them.
Key Resources: Leverage the power of Tadpull Pond software, a unique tool built for NetSuite that transforms how you manage your reporting and big data challenges.
Deciding which roles to fill in-house and what to outsource to a partner such as Tadpull can seem overwhelming, so we’ve tried to make the task less daunting by summarizing the relative importance of outsourcing each role based on their specific contribution to your typical mid-market eCommerce business.
Find out – with this 8 question quiz – who is in the cornerstone eCommerce role at Taobao, Rakuten, Etsy and Walmart, their role description and whether they’re (not) on your team too.