Zack Werner buoyantly asks a rapt crowd of retailers how many of their board members know what an abandoned cart is. The CEO and founder of The Maze Group continues, asking, “What about conversion rate? What about UTM parameters?” He pauses and smiles a little. “These are the terms that people like us tend to have to use every day to accomplish our jobs.”
And he’s right: These are commonplace phrases and ideas that, to a group of people in retail or ecommerce, are easy to understand. Speaking in this ecommerce vernacular is second nature to a lot of retailers.
But for many, these buzzwords aren’t always so accessible. The non-technical class of business owners, C-suite executives, and board members are simply not ecommerce operators. “It's their job to understand the fundamental financial backbone of the company and keep it running on that side of things, not be fluent in today's ecommerce vernacular,” Werner says.
And while these are fundamentally different perspectives to manage, ultimately, both are important to have as part of any conversation.
It’s Werner’s job to make sure everyone understands each other.
How to measure ROI in marketing yourself
Werner’s The Maze Group—a digital consultancy—is a bit like an educational resource, a tutor of digital and ecommerce fundamentals with practical, real-time applications. Werner sees both himself and his team as a conduit between established executives, boards, and investors and the new, tech-savvy ecommerce crowd. “Most of the time these people don't speak the same language [that the marketers creating the value do], and they just end up frustrated with each other, stifling the growth of the company.”
But Werner believes both sides have the same goal: growth. “This mishmash in communication can create a lot of tension and it's just really frustrating.” But solving it is like solving a puzzle. “Ecommerce is a really great and direct feedback loop if you're solving the data puzzle properly,” he says. Businesses need to understand their customers, and often they are turning to platforms like Shopify to help them sell and better serve their market, but they also need the financiers to see the benefits of this path. Werner and The Maze Group step in to piece together an appropriate solution for their clients.
“We fundamentally believe that there is a message and there's delivery. We are delivery boys,” Werner says.
These days, consumers want to trust a brand, trust in the technology that brand uses, and trust in the experiences a brand provides, from activations to the act of purchasing. Everything adds up. Feelings or experiences around buying can be explained numerically up to a point, and the very simple act of having a good purchasing experience can lead to repeat purchases.
Both the tech-savvy marketers and the bottom line-driven CEO want buyers to buy—and more often. The ecommerce experts behind those delightful purchasing experiences may be advocating for a SaaS solution to deliver better product recommendations, but asking for costly investment in SaaS without sharing its forecasted ROI is perhaps where the barrier begins. It’s a marketing chicken and the egg situation: Which will come first? Convincing decision-makers to invest in new software without concrete numbers is difficult but not impossible.
For example, serving personalized product recommendations means that:
- The items are more relevant to your shoppers
- This encourages shoppers to buy more, which increases conversion rate, and
- Gets shoppers to add more to their carts, which lifts average order value (AOV)
You can’t predict everything, but attributing some numbers, some cost, in the beginning, is an easier sell than abstract concepts of what could happen. The board and CEO are occupied with contextualizing this information for their own world, like whether an investment is an OPEX or a one-time CAPEX cost, and how it will ultimately add to their total enterprise value—so it’s important for CMOs to address those goals and pain points.
Think of adding software to your technology stack, like Shopify, and what the cost will be for an investment to provide a return. Marketers can measure this by creating their own financial models and looking at different parts of an ecommerce operation to help figure out what the impact to the bottom line will be.
How to measure ROI in marketing with a third party
Knocking on the Maze Group’s door is also another way of tackling this. Having a third-party, or a go-between, tackle what the marketers need and how to communicate this need to the board can help bridge the gap. The Maze Group provides a very detailed financial model of their own creation to help a board understand the steps their technically-focused employees need to take to grow. “What we've done is just flesh it out to include pretty much every part of an ecommerce operation from conversion rate by channel, including different campaigns on the email side of things, even really, just think of it, you name it, it's probably somewhere inside of this model. This helps us figure out what the uplift will be,” Werner says.
Werner breaks down buzzwords like “omnichannel” and “conversion rate” because those words, to non-technical members of teams, don’t really mean anything at all if you can’t understand their purpose.
“At the end of the day, these buzzwords and technical terms have a real impact on the mathematical output of our business, so the goal of this model isn't just a forecast our revenue or forecast our growth, it's to actually figure out what the uplift will be as a result of the software integrations.”
Werner optimistically ended on the thought, “My hope, generally speaking, is that we as practitioners can continue to bridge that divide by speaking a language that crosses the table, and that's lost in translation.”