Having worked in ecommerce agencies and brands as an engineer I have come to realise the magic of when marketing and technology converge. Marketing, in charge of bringing in the traffic to the site, in other words the “life blood” for a store, and then converting them to sales. However, every aspect of the journey from traffic to sale is run by technology; paid ads (FB/Google), ecommerce platform, payment gateways, google analytics and CRM systems are just few of the technology systems involved.
Observing on how intertwined both are, you can’t do “marketing” without dealing with technology. You would come to the conclusion both departments should work very closely, but surprisingly most ecommerce brands still run both teams as separate functions working to achieve their goals sometimes at odds with each other.
I believe in todays rapidly growing ecommerce landscape brands will either embrace both teams as a unified force with the goal of serving your customers or be overtaken by those that do. While also admitting, when marketing and technology do come together there can be some fireworks but the benefits still far outweigh the cons..
Building for the customer
From your customers point of view your technology and your brand are one and the same when they are browsing your site or reading an email you’ve sent, so in the end what matters is we build for the customer at the core.
Over the course of the year there will be many new features added to your website, many will have no impact on the customer and will result in a waste of time and spend. Many of these features will be built purely from gut feeling and copying other brands but not data.
Development teams can avoid spending countless hours on a feature that will have no impact on the customer by simply collaborating with marketing to understand the “why” behind a feature and then breakdown a large feature into a smaller initial version of the feature that still achieves your why, this can then be measured via A/B testing to see if it achieves the desired impact.
I will be adding real world examples of this in future articles where a complex feature was built out in a quarter of the time to test the impact on the customer and only after data concluding success of the test that further time was invested into building out the feature.
This methodology can be attributed to the LEAN manufacturing framework.
Faster reaction to customer feedback
The rise of social channels and customers commenting on posts means the feedback loop between the customer and the brand has been reduced, customers may be reporting bad experiences or even suggesting a better experience on your social media account, this is valuable feedback that does not make it to the technology team. This data should be aggregated by marketing and shared with the technology team, this will help prioritise features and bug fixes to be worked on that actually matter to the customer.
The same customer insight that has helped marketing convince customers into the store could be applied to the website customer journey to help convert them better.
Faster delivery of value to your customer
When heads of marketing and technology work together they can put the customer at the centre of their roadmap, valuable information about the customer can be shared by marketing, while estimates and obstacles of building a feature can be shared by technology. Combining both bits of information, the items in the roadmap can be prioritized using the ICE Methodology to make sure the quickest, easiest and most valuable features for your customer can be built first. ICE is a prioritisation strategy popular in the “Growth Hacking” circles.
Obstacles of working together
Most problems happen due to lack of understanding what and how the other team carry out their tasks.
I believe the obstacles stem from a non-digital era of commerce, the brick&mortars and mail order catalogue era. Each team had its own set of objectives and goals, technology rarely had a direct impact on the consumer. Very quickly we are at a phase now where technology impacts the consumer at all stages of the buying journey, from in-store digital screens to mobile apps and emails.
Engineers focused on building flawless code for features which are seen as just a “ticket” in a list. So much is lost in this process, the engineer loses the connection of who the feature is for (the customer) and most importantly why. The “why” is important as it will help the engineer use his/her ingenuity to come up with alternative ways of solving the problem other than the one passed down by marketing, resulting in a win-win situation.
Although marketers today are skilled to use “digital” marketing tactics to communicate with their customer, usually these are top of the funnel activities to get the customer into the store, the rest of the process is not understood and left to the technology team and designers. The same customer insight that has helped marketing convince customers into the store could be applied to the website customer journey to help convert them better.