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12 Statistics Every E-Commerce CMO and CEO Should Know About Their Role in 2021

Learn how other e-commerce CMOs and CEOs are empowering their organizations to be leaders into the future.

The role of an e-commerce marketing executive continues to evolve. They are stewards of the business, champions for the customer, and mentors to their teams. CMOs and CEOs need to be able to deliver growth through times of uncertainty.

Sidecar’s 2021 E-Commerce Marketer Survey studies exactly this. Sidecar surveyed marketing professionals in the e-commerce and retail industry who are based in North America.

Respondents reported job titles including associate, manager, director, VP, chief marketing officer (CMO), and chief executive officer (CEO). They also reported company revenue, which we grouped into three buckets: <$10 million (referred to as “small” retailers), $10 million to <$50 million (referred to as “mid-sized” retailers), and $50 million+ (referred to as “enterprise” retailers).

Here’s a look at what C-level respondents told us about challenges, goals, and how they’re leading their teams, no matter what comes next.

41% of CMOs and CEOs report that lack of in-house skills and expertise is one of their team’s primary challenges.

The C-level perceives this challenge more so than marketers at other levels. By contrast, other marketers find that limited time and budget are their biggest challenges. (More on this in a moment.) It’s possible C-level marketers find skills and expertise of their marketing teams lacking because they are anticipating changes in the retail landscape that will require new skill sets that can be added through training, talent acquisition, and external partners.


Limited time and budget are the top 2 challenges for e-commerce marketing teams overall.

No matter company size, these challenges ring true as e-commerce marketing teams strive to contribute to the bottom line.


The #1 goal of e-commerce marketing teams is to acquire new customers.

Studying teams as a whole even further, we found that the top goal is to acquire customers, followed by driving profitability. These goals carry different weight for differently sized retailers. For instance, marketers from enterprise businesses chose profitability slightly less than marketers from smaller businesses. This may be due to enterprise retailers’ stronger ability to experiment with budget across more channels, making profitability less of a priority.


71% of e-commerce CMOs and CEOs feel they have the training and skills to succeed in their role over the next 12-24 months.

Meanwhile, marketers at other job levels are feeling more confident in their skills. Because the C-level is tasked with looking ahead and anticipating trends, these pros are more aware than most of the slew of emerging technologies and trends they need to master to remain up-to-date.


SEO is the #1 skill that C-level e-commerce marketers believe will advance their careers.

Across all job levels, our survey found that marketers are interested in developing their knowledge of skills like SEO, data analytics, social media, and performance marketing to advance their careers. But CEOs and CMOs in particular also told us they want to learn how to balance digital marketing spending with great content, and how to implement artificial intelligence marketing solutions.


53% of e-commerce CMOs and CEOs wish they could personally devote more time to brand building.

This finding aligns with the industry-wide trend of building the top of the funnel as low-funnel, direct response advertising becomes more competitive.


Social media marketing is the top hire that e-commerce marketing teams are adding over the next 12 months.

Social media marketing was also the #1 hire over the past 12 months. Marketers in the retail industry see social media as a critical channel for their goals.


Social media marketing is the #1 type of vendor that mid-sized retailers are planning to add in the next 12 months.

Taken together, marketers’ internal and external hiring plans point to a growing industry-wide realization that double-digit e-commerce growth will not come to their business simply by maintaining their marketing status quo and passively letting consumer demand take over. Driving growth requires marketers to think differently about how to engage their audience in 2021. Thinking differently has important implications for marketers in terms of hiring and how they spend their time.


65% of C-level e-commerce marketers want to spend more time on Google paid search.

When asked about what ad platform they want to spend more time on, the majority of CMOs and CEOs chose Google paid search. This may be because marketers can rely on this established channel to contribute a certain amount to revenue goals. Ultimately, 2021 will be about maintaining a healthy portfolio that incorporates platforms which form marketers’ foundation and platforms that are the sources of experimentation and growth.


Data-driven decisions are a key success factor for e-commerce marketing teams.

Our survey found that marketing teams most often make their decisions based 50% on data and 50% on instinct. Yet all-sized organizations exhibit room to continue building out their data-driven decision making capabilities — and in fact, they believe data-driven decision making is a key success factor. 


While 82% of e-commerce CMOs and CEOs want to automate bid adjustments for keywords and products, only 18% want to automate cross-channel strategy.

When it comes to digital ad platforms, CMOs and CEOs have a particular awareness of the role of automation. The C-level is keen to automate time-consuming and data-heavy tasks, like bid adjustments (82%), keyword analysis (65%), and ad testing (59%). However they are not keen to automate strategic tasks that require human experience and oversight, like cross-channel strategy (18%) and tracking channel updates (6%).


E-commerce marketers said they have very little time for cross-channel strategy. 

The following chart shows some of the most time-consuming tasks to drive positive advertising performance. Yet just because they are time-consuming does not mean marketers want to ignore them. Rather, marketers conveyed the importance of these tasks in other areas of our survey, indicating that if they could find a way to do them, they would.


Seizing the right opportunities and understanding how to reassign resources and develop your team is key to staying ahead of the competition and ensuring your career trajectory is on track. 

The 2021 E-commerce Marketer Survey has 50 pages of stats and findings, well beyond what we could fit in this article. Download it now for more insights into how marketing leaders across retail and e-commerce need to think about structuring their teams, resources, and goals.

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