With 2021 just around the corner, it’s time for my annual ecommerce recruiting forecast, when I take my crystal ball off the shelf, peer through its smooth, round glassy dome and see what’s ahead for marketers, and more specifically, marketers who are thinking about making a move. While the overall volume of hiring in the field of digital commerce was down sharply in 2020, there was no slowdown in certain specialties that I believe will continue to be in very strong demand in the near year. Marketers who can apply these skills strategically as well as tactically will find an abundance of new opportunities with businesses in practically every industry category, brand-side or agency-side, public or private, small or large. Pretty much every client I worked with this past year with Manager, Director or VP-level positions to fill wanted what I call “hybrid” candidates, that is, candidates who can develop strategy as well as do the work.
The Importance of Being Hands On
The days of just telling others what to do are gone. To use a restaurant analogy, employers want marketers who can develop the menu and also serve the food. The good news for most candidates is that this is nothing new. As organizations became flatter following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the need to be more “hands-on” among mid-level and senior-level marketing leaders became an integral part of the job description. In many of these roles, campaign execution, data analysis, writing content and other “on the ground activities” now account for as much as 25% of their average day. Never underestimate how much you’ll score points with an employer during an interview when you tell him or her that you enjoy getting your fingernails dirty, and wouldn’t want to do it any other way.
Content is King
Employers are also looking for good writing skills. By writing skills, I don’t mean white papers or literary writing. Here, I’m referring to content. We all know the importance of good content, but what a lot of candidates don’t really think about is that content writing has taken its place right near the top of the most sought after skills in digital marketing. Talented copywriters are among the most sought after specialists in the entire digital commerce ecosystem. Just look at any job description for a digital marketer, and I can guarantee that somewhere you’ll find the word “content.” Content strategists who know how to engage with website visitors and drive new leads are not far behind. My ecommerce recruiting forecast says expect more of the same in 2021.
Product Marketing is in Full Stride
I do a lot of B2B recruiting, and one trend I definitely noticed during 2020 was the resurgence of product marketing. That’s also been the case on the B2C side. Why product marketers? Because a good product marketer has a holistic view of what is required to successfully roll out new products or improve existing ones, and having that broader overall view is considered one of the most powerful marketing strategies to build core brand value. The best product marketers essentially are like mini-CMO’s with budgets, staffs and performance metrics. And did I say collaborative? I’ve written entire articles on this topic because it simply cannot be emphasized enough. Product marketers will be in a sweet spot for many employers in 2021.
Data and Analytics
You can’t have an ecommerce recruiting forecast on red hot marketing skills without talking about data and analytics. Marketing is a quantitative beast with tons of metrics to track. It is critcal for any business in digital commerce to have a clear understanding of their audience and their behavior on your website so you know what’s working and what isn’t, and where you should be focusing your time and resources. Collecting and analyzing data not only can help with your marketing strategy, it can also help with your overall business. One of the biggest challenges I see with clients is taking this data and making sense of it all. You want that data to paint a clear and easy to understand picture of your website’s performance and a strategy for what you should do next. These roles have really come into their own during the past 5 or ten years as sources of data have greatly proliferated. There are now a dizzying number of metrics to pay attention to such as time on page, unique versus returning visitors, conversion of visitors to paying customers, shopping cart abandonment, balance rates, click through rates, traffic growth rates, average order value, the list goes on and on. It’s enough to make the average person’s head spin. But marketing analysts are not your average person. They turn confusing and hard to grasp metrics into action items that business leaders and owners can act on. There will be no shortage of opportunties with candidates who have this skill in 2021.
The Rise of Growth Marketing
Finally, there one other expertise in my ecommerce recruiting forecast that comes with its own unique title- Growth Marketing. One thing that I hear a lot about from clients is that they’re experiencing a lot of challenges with growth. Their growth is plateauing and they’re becoming stagnant. Why? In a word, competition. It has never been easier to start an online business, and the ease of entry can be shown by the fact that many of my own candidates have side hustles doing exactly that. So companies are looking for growth marketers who can help identify gaps in the company, working with all departments in looking for ways to increase ROI. Growth marketers are data driven pros who sniff out innovative ways to drive user acquisition, keep customers engaged, and ultimately turn them into brand champions. Growth marketers play a unique role because their success is not judged by just how the marketing team is growing the business. They also work with sales, engineering, product marketing, customer service and other departments all in an effort to generate more ROI across the entire business. Brand storytelling, digital marketing and data analytics, executional skills and marketing automation are your ticket to this job that pays an annual salary, on average, of a whopping $96,000.
Marketing automation has become something of a buzzword in recent years, and you’ll be hearing a lot more of that “buzz” in 2021. To put it simply, marketing automation, or “martech” as many call it, is a tool that allows your business to track individual engagements, leverage that data to drive personal customer journeys, and have full visibility of marketing’s impact on the bottom line. Marketing has been changing at the speed of light as core marketing functions such as launching products, building brands, finding customers, creating campaigns and measuring results have evolved. Martech takes these core functions and layers technology on top. It measures everything and provides for smooth data and process flow. It has a customer-centric orientation and a bottom line focus. What’s a CEO not to like?! This is not just the stuff of large enterprises- I have many smaller clients whose businesses have benefitted greatly from the tons of different martech tools that are available, particularly when it comes to account based marketing which a position that was practically made possible by evolution of martech. Meanwhilw, the demand for these marketing technology specialists is off the charts. The best of them understand that the goal of marketing is to generate sales and profit; they’re not just funnel fillers or demand gen jockeys. They understand how to leverage measurement to create lower-funnel opportunities, integrating customer-focused journeys with tools of the trade. Client often ask: Should candidates be experts in the same tools used by the employer, sort of a perfectly round peg in a perfectly round hole? They don’t. But they DO need to have experience with some aspect of marketing technology to prove they have the demonstrated ability to LEARN whatever tools you possess.
Here is another reason why requiring specific tool knowledge is a bad idea. The snapshot below is a graphic by chiefmartec.com showing the sheer number of products that are out there, and this is only the top 5,000!
Is your head spinning yet?
Remember, you are looking for more than just a “tool jockey.” They must be able to demonstrate bottom-line impacts of campaigns they have put together or tech they have helped to implement. And it is absolutely imperative they understand the customer journey. When interviewing these candidates, make sure they can easily articulate what technology can do for the organization in terms of both improving process and generating revenue. They also need to show that they can translate fluently and flawlessly between the tech and non-tech parts of your organization. The marketing technologists YOU want on your team are those who can articulate from a 10,000 foot level what their impact is on the business. Be aware of their tech capability but don’t get hung up on it; skills ARE transferable – you’re looking for the aptitude, not just experience with the actual tool you’re using. Finally,don’t be too skittish about a lot of job movement, especially for the individual contributor and manager roles These candidates can and do move a LOT.
Ecommerce Recruiting Forecast