Himanshu spent 3.5 years working at Amazon India within the newly formed advertising team. He's since been leading our Amazon Advertising team, supporting brands across the globe with their ppc strategies.
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[0:00:01] George Reid: Welcome to us always Day One. My name is George Reid, a former Amazonian turned amazon consultant. Each week on the podcast you're going to hear industry experts, brand owners and amazon employees share their answers to the basic yet fundamental questions you should be asking yourself bang your amazon business now, let's jump in. Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of It's always Day One. Today I've got my colleague Himanshu joining me on the podcast for the first time ever. As we approached a year mark, I thought it was finally time to get someone from inside the team on the Manchu leads our amazon advertising team. So today we will be looking a little bit about his background at amazon as well as some of the amazon advertising strategies that are working well right now, man, she welcome to the show, makes you wanna give us a brief background and to kind of how you got involved in this world of amazon.
[0:00:55] Himanshu Verma: Uh Yes, show George and thanks for the introduction. So, my overall career spans about six years so far, and it has always revolved around amazon Because I joined Amazon back in 2015. Now, my coming into the Amazon advertising world is quite arbitrary because initially I joined for the language support because I can speak three languages. My studies were in french, so that's how I got the country into the amazon world and I was more focused on the content side initially. But then there was this uh internal opening for a different team, which was amazon advertising and I interviewed for that and I got selected. So that's how my journey with amazon advertising started and it was just after a year. So overall, I think it's been around four years now so far that I've been into the space. So yeah, that's been quite my journey.
[0:01:49] George Reid: And so you begin your journey amazon and you entered a content person with the theory to what help people with their french um, content translations or managing their french accounts. Kind of, What was that initial role is that of interest?
[0:02:08] Himanshu Verma: Yeah, So that initial role was majorly focused on the amazon France marketplace. So at amazon there are various different teams. That's what I got to know as I first came to amazon. So uh, this team was immediately about the compliance side. So amazon it ranks or you can say classes, the different products based on the Hazaras categories. So we had to look at the different products, content and see if there were any missing pieces or analyze the content to see what information was there. And then we had to kind of wait it based on the Hazmat category. And then for a while I was also enrolled in looking at the contents thing, if it was right and and those kind of things, If there was anything missing like images or the bullet points for a few, maybe there could be more details like if it is a battery product, whether it was stated there like the kind of actually being used, it's there or not. So we used to raise tickets for that. So that was majorly my role. But yeah, it was all about looking at the content and the information
[0:03:13] George Reid: and I imagine that's probably become a lot more automated now. But back then it was spending a lot of time kind of going through listings, understanding where improvements could be made and then raising tickets to get that communication shared with the seller was that kind of the process?
[0:03:30] Himanshu Verma: Uh Yes. Yes, I think it's it's much more automated now because it had already started when I had moved to another team and I was part of it for a while as well, so it was more rule based, more automated, but they still have some manual intervention because it can get amazon and to see these problems if they haven't really classified the products that so and and there are information that are missing sometimes or sometimes the information are not right. So uh those kind of details can only be analysed manually. So they have some manual intervention, but for most products now they have the automation in place which is backed by machine learning and all that stuff. Okay.
[0:04:09] George Reid: And when you then first shifted into the amazon advertising role, um what what was the kind of team structure, like, what was kind of that role described as? Was it a pure sales role? Like what I was in to get people on board doing advertising or was it more account management?
[0:04:30] Himanshu Verma: Yeah, it was more of onboarding initially because amazon advertising had just started like, it was at a very nascent stage and it was all about educating the sellers that there exists this amazon advertising that can really help grow their amazon business. And we were involved in initially, like, it was more upsetting of campaigns. So we used to set up like initially they used to be very few campaign types, like sponsored products only that we were involved in. So, uh we used to set up campaigns for the clients who would then enable them from there and after a cold with us and then that's how they're Uh like introduction to the Amazon advertising world would start and the team wise, I think I have seen the team grow tremendously. It used to be a very small team of about like 30 or 40 people and now it has grown to more than 100 people when I left Amazon in 2018. So that's the level of growth that has happened there.
[0:05:28] George Reid: Um at this time, that role you described there, was it quite KPI driven? And what did some of those KPI s look like, just that people can get a good understanding of how the teams are structured and what they're, what they're driving force from the indian side of things.
[0:05:47] Himanshu Verma: Yeah, right, so uh we were based out of India but we were managing clients from all over the world, amazon, europe amazon India. So we were managing all locals, so it was no longer restricted to just one marketplace like french. So it was restrict, it was like expanded to all and I was at some point managing all the different locals but my role or in terms of the structuring overall, there were two main teams, one was beyond boarding side and the other one was optimization side. So the onboarding side was more involved in kind of uh educating the sellers who would then manage the advertising on their own and we will have to reach out to them because like through their emails through their phones, we will educate them on the advertising and sometimes even tell them how it can be beneficial and get them to start advertising with amazon. And then there was the optimization team that would be more in depth, but that would be some external support for the clients. So in terms of the KPI s uh Major KPI for us was uh it used to change, but initially it was to get more and more sellers onto the platform so that they try the amazon advertising. Uh, so like at this point as well, amazon continues to provide some some free credits to begin with when somebody has not really launched their first advertising campaign. So like in amazon, if you're starting out in amazon UK, for instance, for the first amazon would provide в‚¬25 it might have changed. Now. It used to be the case. So, So we used to kind of prepare campaigns for the advertisers. We would provide 60 days on voting, where we would hand hold them, we would have some codes and then we would get them to activate those campaigns. So that was one of the KPI is to get the advertisers to try the amazon advertising and activate. And the the year later it would change to retention that we would have to get the, get the advertisers, the seller's slash sellers, sometimes agencies to continue with the advertising. So yeah,
[0:07:50] George Reid: so it was kind of a get them on board. So I remember doing that as well, reaching out the sellers and honestly having no idea what I was pitching. They were kind of, we had a because the amazon for those who obviously under where you have your core role and then you have project work and if you ever want to get anywhere in your career at amazon, you obviously need to take on those of project work alongside your core role. Yes, often even a bit of a joke because for many people, the core role is what people do is that 9-5 job and then somehow you find an ability to do it better more efficiently and then find a project. Remember one of these projects was right, we're launching sponsored products and we were just asking people Amos to like get this going, but we had no real idea about what we were asking to do, what the benefits of it has changed so much now. Um, but then when you were, you were on board in the flat, 60 day period and you've got them signed up, you've got them spending, Would it then be a case of All right, goodbye. You're spending? Thanks a lot. Nice to meet you. I'm probably not gonna respond to your emails again because I've hit my KPI and you've activated, was that a common thought process or was it now?
[0:09:04] Himanshu Verma: Well, to be honest, and quite unfortunately, to a great extent, yes, that was the case. So like we would get so one major risk with advertisers who have no information, no idea about what advertising is. And they are very new to a platform That opens up. When you go to like a certain section of the seller central, they may not even come back to that and after activating their campaigns that we are not coming back to them, which usually used to be the case at least after 60 days. We will not come back to them and they would have no idea unless they would be careful about the invoices. So uh they would leave the advertising going on. So it was a risk not just to the amazon as the advertising experience but also to the client. That was one of the concerns I had because with amazon, like if they are providing something for free to try and test and if they are not giving their best service and it's come somewhere making the seller conclude that amazon advertising is useless, it's it's not worth the time and effort or money and from the advertiser and if they would not pay much attention, they would end up maybe having some have two bills because they haven't really gone back and and kind of pose the campaigns if it wasn't managed enough and it was just spending. So that was a major risk that we sold that In terms of the engagement, we had the 60 day program where we would have to kind of reach to them. Uh let's say once in a week we would schedule the next call with them. This would happen, may not happen, but the idea of was mainly to kind of educate them so that they can manage things on their own well enough and uh later on, like when productivity becomes one of the major goal, you tend to miss out on these eight years and that's what I felt was being done uh pretty much everywhere, especially when you have some goals you are chasing as an individual employee. So yeah, so that was a major challenges and risk
[0:11:02] George Reid: and remember us having that discussion before like that used to be kind of a personal challenge for you going, I don't like just leaving leaving the sellers in the lurch knowing that they started a campaign and that's going to be spending every single day. Um and they're not as aware as perhaps they could be initially because it's new and people have got caught out with this with many different advertising types on facebook on google and then you get those bills through. Um It must be quite difficult for the old moral compass. Tara,
[0:11:38] Himanshu Verma: Yes, absolutely. Like when I was talking to sellers I would understand and somewhere at some point before, I think the reason why I loved advertising a lot and I really got interested in that at some point. I have tried selling on amazon though, I was too young for that. So I but that was a good learning. I faced some operation challenges. That's a different story anyways. But yes during this time I think one mistake that I was doing was I was managing everything on my own and when learning from that I got that learning didn't get the state like I spent some time in advertising so I understood the brands as a whole and somewhere I would really not be very happy about sellers or or like clients not getting the information they required to manage their acts properly and also not getting to see the benefit of the advertising really provides. So that kind of made me more interested in optimizing their accounts rather than just convincing them to try the amazon advertising. because I think for amazon as well, the long term goal would be the client success, the customer obsession as they say. So that was the like major area I was focused on and that's why I wanted to do more of account optimization. Then I left amazon for a while because I wanted to take a break and I joined you like I think one or two months after that itself now. Since then I think it's been a good learning curve because I've been working directly with the trains and at the same time it's the KPI s are more aligned or rather I would say the KPs are actually the advertisers of the seller's KPI is that we are working on. So that account that level of account optimization teaches you a lot and and that's what has happened with me. I
[0:13:22] George Reid: like that are changing kind of who sets that KPI Because previously you're looking at it from amazon's perspective and then you're on the other side of the fence going my KPI s, how many products are getting advertised, how much we're spending. It's more down to that particular client which may be a costs, it may be brand awareness, it may be customer acquisition etcetera. Yeah.
[0:13:45] Himanshu Verma: And what were
[0:13:46] George Reid: you I guess. What are the things I've noticed him working with you certainly dragged a lot of amazon leadership principles with you. Are there any kind of particular ones you kind of hold dear? I don't really talk about the principles too much. But the more time I spend away from amazon I find myself subconsciously using them. There any that you find yourself on a daily weekly basis going. Yeah. I mean this is me being customer obsessed right now. This is me diving deep, this is me insisting on the highest standards or anything like that. You always see yourself drawing on from that time at amazon.
[0:14:22] Himanshu Verma: Yes, absolutely. I think if you work at amazon and you do it for a significant duration of at least a year, I think those principles are ingrained in you because amazon talks about it everywhere and and they do make sense because I like, like you very well pointed out that we are using that today itself. Like deep dive is one of them. I think we know that amazon data, like there's a lot of information in there and once you deep dive you get to know that we, there's a saying that the devil is in the detail and that's what we get to know actually with that. So deep dive is one of the key principles that I really love customer obsession is another one. Like we know that our client retention for the last year has been really good. So the customer obsession helps us really put ourselves in the customer shoes and understand their goals and work backwards from there. So I think that customer obsession has has really some Israeli, something that I have got it forward and I really like that and then invent and simplify is another one. I think if you can really simplify your work, like automation is one of the amazon amazon does that a lot. So if you can simplify part of your work which really doesn't require your effort, repetitive effort, I think that's that's really useful. So the the the small bits of macros that we do or little automation that we do to simplify are both. It really helps us focus more or reinvest our time more on what's more essential that strategies and and the next steps for the client's accounts
[0:15:53] George Reid: about a lot. Yeah. The thought process of can I automate that? And I think it was Jeff Wilke had said previously doesn't scale because it automates is one of his kind of key principles and you obviously do that quite well. Hence why I asked you to do most of my Excel challenges when I get struggled with any small formula. Um, pivoting slightly. Then to look at amazon advertising specifically, we've obviously introduced in the last month or so is our team's grown the idea of our weekly winds and weekly learnings. And obviously I sent out that Wednesday email every week of what I learned about amazon this week and we're looking to introduce for the listeners who are listening. Um, and amazon advertising one every month of what us as a team are learning. It would be great for you to touch on a few points that we've discovered over the last couple of weeks that you find, you know, this is a big learning for you and across all of the accounts, you're seeing some of these strategies, working wealth, anything that's kind of ringing any bells right now.
[0:16:58] Himanshu Verma: Uh, yes, definitely. So I think there are a couple of them. The first one is the different ad types. And specifically there, I think the launch of the video campaigns or the video ads, I think it's a major win because we see a much increased click through rate on the video ads. And over the like, we had an example of one client where some of their products were adult products and they were not being allowed to sponsor products or sponsored brands. So we only had few options including sponsor displaying sponsored video. And that video ad drove a huge success for them. Like it increased their Uh, like sales by about 70% or 80%. So I think that's that's really interesting. And the videos are a great way to talk about your product specifications and all of that. So I think this is something really good and the fact that Amazon is expanding it to the product detail pages and other placements. It's really good. So I think video ads, they are also at a very initial stage. There are not many competitors doing that at the moment, so it's not as expensive either. So I think video ads are one of the win. Another one that we have is dynamic bidding. What second
[0:18:09] George Reid: let's just touch upon on that little bit before we go into dynamic bidding. Yeah. So I love this example when when you shared it the other day with arguably adult products, whether or not they are is questionable anyway. But I think the challenge here was that they were blocked with a number of different types, but the video was still available. Well, I'm intrigued by because I've actually seen that ad, that video ad, would you say it is, you know, the most phenomenal, but the creative you've ever witnessed, or is it quite a rudimentary ad? It's not been through some monstrous advertising agency who has created the perfect bit of content. Is it quite a simple ad which a novice could maybe mock up or is it it was it not?
[0:18:57] Himanshu Verma: Yeah, it's quite a simple ad and yeah, like you're saying it right, so it wasn't really an adult product was being deemed as an adult product and that's why it was not being allowed, like they now got permissions for sponsored brands and the store page basically. So. Yeah and uh yeah I think a simple video that's able to grab attention and that calls out the key features of a product. I think it's enough to get customers. And maybe some personal human element. Like I was I was looking at one of the video ads the other day on amazon where they were like it was about kids toys some some board game and there were kids as well enjoying the game in the video. So that personal element is really good because like and and likewise in a another product video ad which was more of a grocery stuff and they showed it in a nice way that you would want to actually eat that so those kind of elements add onto a video. So I think a simple video is good to grab more attention to drive your C. T. R. S. Up and a better video. Ad is maybe good for further conversion levels.
[0:20:00] George Reid: Yeah I think what we're touching on there is that kind of the lifestyle videos which obviously what what comes with that is an additional cost if you need to get models involved. But again these days with the power of how good the iphones are you can mock some of these things up yourself if push comes to shove across and a range of different categories. But I really like this. Ad was a a simple one And it wasn't a massive budget but it's still drove a 70% increase in sales despite not having a lot of those major types available. Um that's in a competitive market in the us as well right? So what we look at in the UK. in these developing markets when cost per clicks are lower across the board it's still a monster opportunity and you know everyone in our audience is reinforcing that you were going on to dynamic bidding before I cut you off. So I think you finished that.
[0:20:59] Himanshu Verma: Yeah that's another thing that I have started using. It's been a while. Initially I tried and tested it like for a couple of weeks I would track basically if I was increasing the dynamic bits what was the impact? Was it still good option? So overall learning is that it really works. It's driven by ai and ml algorithms which change your beds in real time. So if your ad is more likely to convert amazon would increase your bet by a certain percentage based on what you have defined as a percentage. And it would also lower down and talking about dynamic it's up and down here. So it would also lower down your bed if your ad is less likely and totally based on the ad history, the engagement and and the conversion. Of course that amazon is constantly tracking. So I I personally like the up and down option then when the profit is not the only area to focus on, if the profit is only area then I would focus on maybe down only. But I think up and down can be fitting in those situations as well. So one example is I saw one um campaign where there was a product and that product was selling more on the top of the search results. So if I was bidding, let's say 50 pence then most of the conversion was actually happening, happening on the top of the page with about 20% a cause and on the rest of the product page it was about 70% it costs. So that was huge. And if you are running a campaign, let's say automatic camp and you define a bed or even the manual campaign, you define a bed for a certain keyword, for a certain product, for a certain group. And and that applies to all the placements. So if you have, if you see your overall echoes rising because 20 if you, if you take an average of 20 and 70 it goes higher. So if you're looking at a high cost percentage, you would have that tendency to lower down the bits. But what I do additionally is I lower down the bits that's for sure so that it doesn't stay so competitive on the product page, but I increase the dynamic up percentage on the, on the placement of the top of the search. So that ways I'm still able to get more conversion on the top of the page, the sales are not traded off much and still the course is driven down and that if that is coupled with negative targeting, that does really good.
[0:23:16] George Reid: And how do you because I guess your challenge unlike perhaps many listeners um When you're working for an agency like ours as you're managing this across a large array of products in some cases that then a large array of brands. So I think your PQ had around about 14 or something brands before we we kindly helped you out a little bit of recruitment. Um
[0:23:42] Himanshu Verma: how do
[0:23:43] George Reid: you manage that challenge looking across? Okay. I've got multiple products, I've got multiple brands. Does it come down to that previous piece of inventing in the simplifying, in putting those automation is in place, you can read data more effectively. What are you doing? So you can identify these things on a wider range of accounts.
[0:24:07] Himanshu Verma: Yeah, that's a that's a great question. So yes, again, it ties back to the principle of invent and simplify. I have like settlement place and macro some automation so that I'm spending the least amount of time on things that are repetitive that don't require you to be creative on. So I kind of do that and then on top of that I think the planning also works like if you plan what strategies you are going to put in place but implementation we're gonna do this week but you're gonna do next week. That's another area that really or exercise that really helps on top of that. I think I take full advantage of the amazon ceo. I like they have filters in place, they have all those nice reporting and all that stuff. So I kind of use that as well. So a combination of all of that really helps. And I also kind of name my campaigns in a, in a good way so that I can easily filter them. I use portfolios to structure them nicely. So all this saves me a lot of time and I can, I
[0:25:07] George Reid: can use that. I think that's touching on one area there that well named campaigns, that portfolio, that structure the organization. I mean more often not if I'm correct, you're jumping into new accounts and you're going, it's hard work because it can be a bit of a mess arguably to begin with, particularly when when you've had a machine some way running your ads or the client's adds beforehand. I know sometimes you said you've got in, it's been like hundreds of campaigns have a small selection and it's just like an absolute nosebleed example where you go we have on Earth. Can anyone process this? Are you personally finding those accounts very challenging to begin with? Where they've had some um some machine in place, the force and software in place?
[0:26:01] Himanshu Verma: Yes, I do. I think because uh I have seen some accounts where there were thousands of campaigns, like hundreds of campaigns, 600 campaigns. I kind of like this idea of having multiple campaigns for a product because they can be different strategies. But those campaign structure I think was more like one campaign, one ad group and one product which still makes sense. But again, like so many campaigns were more looking like a duplication than uh some strategy. Some new strategy like how I would set up multiple campaigns. Is that outside of one campaign which is slightly broadly targeting that's for harvesting new keywords, researching new keywords or maybe that's targeting the top of our final that we try to set up which is brand awareness. There will be another campaign which would be a bit more specific with more exact kind of keywords and all of that. There would be another campaign which is more automatic targeted another one for in market and then the different campaign types different targeting it's all of that and the naming wise most automation tools they put the A. C. Number in the name and when you are taking on an account and they have like 20 or 30 nations 2038 cents and you don't know them personally because those are numbers to remember. So it makes your job really hard and that's when you spend a lot of time initially to kind of rename those campaigns get rid of some extra bits which are which are not good. Like they haven't got any sales at all in the last six months, three months And some of them have having like more than 100% a cost because it's technically not easy manually to manage 700 or 800 campaigns and make sure that each one has a lower
[0:27:43] George Reid: cost. So I guess a lot of the time in that software side you're seeing this overview and the figures may look okay, but when you're grim term to use, but when you're double clicking ends for a little bit more and you can see there's just so many holes in that bucket or so many missed opportunities, which again it must, it must be so challenging. When you open up that account, there's a couple of 1000 campaigns and then you kind of go where do you start? I think it makes software very sticky for for brands because they look at it and as soon as they go into their own account it's a real headache. Um And they just go actually it's easier to go into this nice software and work with that in my opinion though. And I don't know, I've asked you this year before in my opinion the software is getting better and I think in four or five years time when ai machine learnings even more impressive than what it is now. Perhaps there will be a place where it could replace humans like ourselves doing some of this work. But for now I firmly believe that you still need someone who's communicating with the client, understanding those client goals, understanding what the macro strategy of whether it's we're gonna lose money for a year because we want brand awareness and acquisition or we're running it tight on margin for the next three months because of this this this a machine in my opinion isn't going to be able to interpret that for quite a long time. What do you think with the conversations you've had and how that's an influence your decision making?
[0:29:28] Himanshu Verma: Um Yeah, in terms of the tools, right.
[0:29:31] George Reid: Yeah.
[0:29:33] Himanshu Verma: So I think in my opinion, I agree with you on that that we can't really tell the machines about the goals that we have in mind like this week or this month. Our goal is to get X number of sales and we don't mind going to letting the echoes go over 100% for this duration. So I think that is something we can't really convey to a tool Or maybe in future if that that level of smartness is there, then that's a different thing. Another area is that sometimes these tools, like they won't understand a certain keyword. Sometimes I have seen that there are certain keyword that is only spending for the last, let's say 20 days or 30 days. It hasn't got you any sex. But if you look at last 65 days has got your saints and also this particular keyboard is still relevant to the product you are selling. So it may not really be a good idea to be immediately putting that in the negative keyboard. Maybe we can we can reduce the peron that maybe we can we can deep dive into the product and see why there's no conversion on this. Keep all of that. I think those level of decision making, it's something that the tool cannot easily make. So yeah, from that point of view and I have seen most tools are very late in adopting new things that are launched, like if there's amazon video ads, it took some time to them. Uh the dynamic bidding is not well managed in some of the tools that I've seen like from the accounts basically, which were robbed on by the tools previously. So those those are some some mrs basically there
[0:31:09] George Reid: with regard to one of the things the tools I find do quite well is reporting.
[0:31:15] Himanshu Verma: Yeah, often
[0:31:17] George Reid: you can't get the report you want specifically or displayed in a way that you want and you end up going, oh you are, I just want it back in Excel. Excel has done the job for long enough and it will continue to do the job for quite a long time. Um uh the feedback you've got from clients, how do you find that reporting helps them with their decision making because a lot of time you're on those cause, and I'm not as much. How do you find when you go, okay his his ex wife is a bit of information. Do you do you sense really positive feedback coming from that going? It's really insightful to understand what my repeat purchase behavior is to get insight into that or or not so much. Like what what sort of feedback are you getting from that reporting piece?
[0:32:01] Himanshu Verma: Yeah I think it's a it's a good feedback. I mean it is it has been an overall good figure. Everybody likes those extra bits of details and yes that's a that's a valid point that tools are really good at reporting. So when I wanted to like few months back I wanted to start analyzing the impact the advertising has on the overall account performance, organic sales especially. So that's when I started sharing the repeat purchases support as well. And that had a good feedback because at an overall level, what happens generally with amazon advertising over the seller's point of view is that um they look at advertising as a separate platform as a separate engine. And that, that makes sense because Amazon's advertising's impact on organic is not straightforward. So for instance, like you have a certain campaign running at over 50% a cost that looks bad. But if you look at new to brand customers and how many repeat purchases you have got, it actually may look good because your ads got you some new customers who are now becoming repeat customers And the cu
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