MarTech Interview with Roli Saxena, President at AdRoll (a Division of NextRoll)

What will drive growth and newer trends in eCommerce through 2022? Roli Saxena, President at AdRoll shares a few thoughts in this catch-up with MarTech Series:


Hi Roli, it’s good to catch up with you! Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, we’d love to know more about you and your journey through the tech and B2B marketplace over the years.

My years of SaaS experience in high-growth companies have really helped prepare me for my current role. I’ve been privileged to work with companies like LinkedIn, Brex, and more, which have built a strong understanding of transformation platforms from single to multi-products solutions, as well as the D2C ecommerce market. These experiences help me better lead Adroll through product innovation and partnerships with key players in the market. 

With our unified media and SaaS marketing platform, we are uniquely positioned to help our D2C ecommerce customers identify and engage with their prospective customers as early as possible in their buying journey and convert to a business outcome. At our scale, we see billions of shoppers and understand their behaviors, preferences, and intent. Our data and machine learning unify everything we know about the shoppers with what our customers know to help them make better marketing decisions. 

Take us through AdRoll’s latest innovations and what 2021 has been like for the team?

In 2021, our focus was on creating connected, better-together strategies for our customers. We launched a series of marketing initiatives that combined the power of our features tied to specific activities, from recovering abandoned carts to creating enhanced cross-channel measurement and insights for our customers within the platform. We also expanded our capabilities outside of the AdRoll world, partnering with Shopify as their first ads platform for Shopify Plus customers. This not only enriched the integration we had with Shopify already but opened up the door for merchants beyond SMB to experience the average 15x return on ad spend (ROAS) that Shopify store customers do currently.

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In what ways are you seeing eCommerce marketing platforms (from around the world!) drive end-user needs and how will this niche evolve in the near future? A few highlights from some of the most innovative features/global technologies that you see changing the game here?

Square is a great example of the trajectory I see ourselves and other platforms following. Square, as a company and platform, has built an operating system for small businesses that is really powerful. They started off focusing on one specific area for business—being a credit-card solution—and really honed in on the payments system. Over time they’ve added more capabilities to their roster and have become a truly powerful operating system for small business owners giving them all the financial tools they need. I envision more eCommerce companies following suit here in not just being one thing, or trying to be everything, but being a connector for specific areas of business.

In your view, what are some of the biggest challenges DtC brand marketers still struggle with and what best practices would you share? 

One of the biggest challenges for eCommerce brands is to get the attention of the Shopper to make that first purchase and then build long-term loyalty. 98% of the shoppers don’t even make the first purchase and the ones who do 3 out of 4 never make their second purchase. So, what that means is your cost of customer acquisition is high.

My advice for eCommerce marketers is that even before you spend a single dollar on marketing, really get clear on 3 things:

  • Who is the target audience or persona for your product? The more granular and specific you are, the higher the chances of you being successful. For example, if you are a health food company, it is not just important that your audience is women between 25-35 but—next level, women between 25-35 who are interested in healthy living and are signaled by what content they are consuming and things they are buying.
  • What is the unique selling point (USP) for your product? Why would your target audience want to buy your product versus some other product or service? In the previous example, it would be great to articulate why your granola bar is better than other offerings in the market—made from fresh ingredients, gluten-free, sustainable production, or convenience of delivery?  Why should they choose your product? You have to have that differentiating factor to set yourself apart from the competition.
  • Finally, is the product a one-time use, infrequent use OR a repeat buy? That changes how you’re going to build your marketing strategy. For example, mattresses or furniture have a different strategy than something that needs to be constantly replenished month over month, like beauty products. 

Once you know the answer to those questions, you can design your marketing strategy and be thoughtful about which audience to target with your marketing, what messaging will resonate with them, and which channels that they will most likely engage on.

What we have seen is that companies that build a multi-channel marketing strategy tend to outperform.  Those that combine ads (social and open) with email are more likely to succeed, as they deliver twice the amount of results and conversions at twice the speed. SMS is another channel that is gaining popularity, especially in younger generations. 

As eCommerce becomes more prominent as an industry, how do you feel platform innovators in the industry need to keep up with changing user needs? 

It’s going to be a balance between the rising demand for personalization and data privacy. We are going to see a continued focus on building genuine and authentic relationships with the users with content and community. I believe there is a massive opportunity around leveraging AI and especially conversational AI to build genuine engagement with users at scale and influence user purchases.

Meeting consumers where they are in consuming content and buying will also be key. For example, many consumers are consuming content and buying via their mobile devices so SMS is becoming a key channel to reach out to them. We’re seeing a growing trend in brands using SMS to run promotions via texts to encourage purchases and expect that platform to continue to grow and evolve in 2022 as a key channel.

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Can you share a few thoughts on the growing impact of machine learning and AI in this market?

Automation and AI have been and will continue to be key for our market. Time is of the essence for a marketer, so the more they can trust and leverage technology to make the right decisions at the right time, the better their campaigns will be. That’s not to say you should just trust any AI. Marketers need to do their due diligence to understand how the data is being collected, used, and applied across channels. This is incredibly important as we move to a more privacy-first world in the coming years as well. 

Some last thoughts and marketing / martech takeaways and predictions for 2022 before we wrap up?

The companies that will continue to survive and thrive in 2022 and beyond will be the ones that function as operating software for their customers, powering the tools, channels, and insights they need to run effective ads and email campaigns. If I were to predict, a company that enables eCommerce brands to orchestrate campaigns across ads, email, and SMS in one place, they will be the winner in terms of creating predictable revenue for brands.

Also, with third-party cookie deprecation on the horizon, contextual targeting will become even more valuable. Fortunately, contextual targeting has come a long way with infinitely more types of content on which advertisers can place ads. Hundreds of hours of new videos are uploaded every minute. The advances in AI and natural language processing have made it possible to categorize the content of any video with laser precision, and they make contextual targeting even more valuable than ever before. One of my predictions is that we will spend more on contextual advertising than in the years past.

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NextRoll - HomeAdRoll is an e-commerce marketing platform that gives growing D2C brands the power to connect with customers wherever they are. AdRoll is a division of NextRoll, a marketing technology company delivering products ambitious companies rely on to grow their businesses.

Roli Saxena is President at AdRoll 

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