Mike heads up marketing at Profitero, which explains why he made me look a fool as a podcast host. I often found myself having not much else to add because he covered the bases so well.
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In this episode we discuss:
[0:00:01] George Reid: Welcome to It's Always Day One. My name is George Reid, a former Amazonian turned Amazon consultant. Each week on the podcast, you're going to hit industry experts, brand owners on Amazon employees share their answers to the basic yet fundamental questions you should be asking yourself about your Amazon business. Now let's jump in. Hi, Mike. Good morning or good afternoon. Good evening. I'm not quite sure looking at your background, Probably evening. Thank you so much for joining me on. It's always day one. You want to give the crowd a bit of a 32nd background into yourself and how you got into this world of Amazon that we both circle in? Yeah,
[0:00:38] Mike Black: absolutely. So I'm Mike Black, head of marketing for profit hero. And we are e Commerce data Analytics and Insights platform that helps brands optimize all of their sales and marketing levers across Amazon and 600 retailers. My background has been marketing and analytics company, so actually most directly come from Nielsen, which, you might know is ah, big measurement data company in the U. S. And you know how I got into profiteering? E commerce was purely That's where the passion is that's where the growth is, obviously, and it's been something that I've always wanted to be part of and and be be learning in this space and and educating in this space, which I have a chance to do a profiteer
[0:01:22] George Reid: and thank you very much for the intro first performance. He's talked a little bit about learning on Bond. It's kind of dictates the the way of my podcast Go, which is just triggered a point. I asked recently where a lot of people go to do their learning and we're connected on LinkedIn, which is how we're at this point here. And there's so many other people in our industry that are as well. Where do you find you? Go at the moment to a lot of your learning in the e commerce space, Amazon space, our
[0:01:52] Mike Black: customers is probably the first spot you know we've done. Our customers are like living and breathing this in great depth in ways that you know that I just can't. I also get some great resource is on LinkedIn. But for me, the biggest challenge is actually walking a mile in the shoes of an e commerce manager and Amazon manager and understanding, like the mechanics, all the way down to the level of detail that you have. Thio get to operate effectively in Amazon with all the levers, right? So for me, it's a journey of understanding that that whole, that whole flywheel and how you optimize it and and and being in the data business especially, I'm always curious to know. Okay, So if you get this data from us, what do you do next? What do you do then? What action is that? Trigger? And you can only really get that by talking directly to customers. So we we actually launched the program about a couple of months ago, called think like a customer and it's every twice a month. We get a customer of ours on internal Onley sort of webinar, and they purely talk about their job and they talk about what they do. And you know what the goals of the company are, how they're measured in e commerce and how they use data. And that has been the best learning that I have gotten is really getting it in the shoes of our customers.
[0:03:11] George Reid: That's I love that idea off. I love the idea of getting them in and just going its internal. We're gonna fire questions that you're gonna find your pain points. But a lot of what you do starts with you asking a lot of questions. Your customers, Right? So one of the things I picked up on while doing a little bit of research, um, into profit era was some of the data you shared recently. I think I liked it weeks ago anyway. But it was about the impact off reviews on. Aside from the obvious increased conversion rate, increased sales, what else should kind of intensified brands push for reviews? Because at the moment I've got 92% is the average sales lift when you shift from that kind of sub four star of you to above four star of you big, big sales lift. But what other reasons, other than the offer us, Are you getting back from customers or from your own insights and experiences? Why we need to be pushing reviews?
[0:04:08] Mike Black: Yeah, I mean, I think the obvious when you pointed out, is it's going to if it's going to affect your conversion rate. There's a great amount of authority and trust that's put in peer, you know, peer reviews. And and rightly so. I think the other surprising thing that we we also found is and not only impacts conversion. Um, but it actually packs your traffic rates to so just purely from a visible visibility if you want to get clicks. What? We found that, on average, when When you have at least when you add at least one review to your product page, you get a traffic lift of 188%. What happens is reviews is one of those metrics that you know it's on. It's in the search results. It is your consumer and you're searching and I always do this. You're always looking for ways to curate get to the you know, I cut out the noise, especially on a place like Amazon, which is just really frilly showing you a bunch of stuff. And so I use reviews as a consumer to get all right. If this point has more reviews versus this product, I'm going there first, right? So I think it helps the consumer experience and therefore helps you as a brannigan traffic e. Think the other thing and this is the next level opportunity reviews as actually using it, mining it as a way for toe. Understand consumer sentiment. I just talked about voice of consumer customer. From my perspective as a marketer, um, Amazon is like the best market research tool you could have. I mean, the amount of traffic that they get. Basically, you're just getting reviews at a high velocity volume. And we saw reviews. Really, the number of use really spike just over the last year, with all the new traffic coming online suddenly got all these new data points. And what we see Advanced brands doing is actually using the voice of the customer language and translating that back into copy on the page, really massaging their benefit statements. Um, that's amore simpler one. The other one we know is ah, lot of customers have built up processes around reviews S so we have a customer and three appliances industry that actually make humidifiers. And one of the things that they're customer relations team does is they mind reviews and review the sort of negative sentiments with their marketing and R and D team to uncover things that could be like education issues. So they often find. Maybe, uh, consumer leaves a negative review because they don't understand something about the product and so they can educate them. They could add that education to the packaging or they actually identify a product issue eso in this example there was they launched this new humidifier that had this blue light and the blue light would just keep people up at night. And so they got the feedback and they were able to say, All right, in our next version of this, let's tweet the light. So I think it goes everywhere from using the copy and your product page copy toe, actually informing innovation bets or R and D or packaging. And so that's like the next level of how you could really get value out of reviews.
[0:07:04] George Reid: Yeah, I think I was hoping to slide in with some comments on my own there, but you managed to take all the boxes. That's always Mistress Miss this. I'm gonna come in and look great here. E mining reviews for negatives that damn e particularly like the customer language one. I probably thought about a few months back, and I was like, It makes so much sense of looking. What are those frequently used terms? Amazon are pushing them to the top anyway, those regular terms that they're using incorporating the and the copy because it's just what triggers that your your target audience, right? And again, that educational piece, Perhaps it could be they just didn't understand your product, and it wasn't right for them on that. You're seeing that pattern little bit, so you're much better to explain that in your in your information, rather than hiding it to prevent those negative reviews in the future. But again, the kind of how you're going to develop your product further with that blue like one is is another another massive piece, which I which I particularly like eso one of the things I really want to drill into and reviews play into this certainly. But as a whole. What do you think brands conduce this year to create sustainable success on Amazon? Wow. Um, so yeah, this is great. I mean, go. We could go in
[0:08:31] Mike Black: many directions here. I mean, e think that, you know, there's the basic fundamentals and we have had this conversation a lot with folks is like, you know, the basic fundamentals of what we see Dr Success Sustainable success is obviously, um, is just, you know, getting getting your products in stock. And I think there's, Ah, there's still a lot of work to be done on, you know, fine tuning that, like, model that predicts demand and making sure that you know, when you're running promotions, your accounting for that so you don't run out of stock. And there's, like, all these mechanics that I think still have to be happened. And we're seeing brands start starting Thio get a little bit smarter and how they can fine tune forecasting. And I think, you know, we did research on this to, like, just looking at out of stock, right? You know, it's like if you're out of stock, um, you know, for a day your sales go down by 42% you found right. I think the more significant thing we've seen is like you're out of stock for a few days. You're you're actually losing something like 6 to 7 spots organically in your search, right? So we know the whole industry right now is really focused on search winning search share search, but it's like if you don't take care of those fundamentals like Okay, well, for trying to win search and we're buying ads. But we're out of stock consistently. That's just gonna come back. And it's really gonna really going to get you. So I think there's, like, the fundamental stuff of availability. I also think, you know, this is something we're preaching to is I think, sustainable When you say sustainable. I think that's that's a really interesting idea because I think we are moving in this world of sustainable growth versus growth at all costs. Right when you first get into the get into Amazon, it's like, All right, I'm gonna fire this like search engine. I'm just get And then quickly you realize how quickly you run on a budget. You know, it's like Andi. I think what we're looking at is we're seeing brands is trying to find new ways to get that edge of getting efficient growth things such as, um, looking at what? We're looking at things incrementally a little bit. So using data toe help, you understand? Well, you know, we're trying. We're trying to boost visibility for this product. We're going to spend at ad dollars on it. But guess what? We're already winning this organically. So let me reallocate that or Hey, we're going to spend dollars on this product but were consistently out of stock. So let's reallocate. So what we're finding is outside of just your ad metrics for performance starting toe widen your view to say All right, let me just look at this product in general. Look, which of my products air got high conversion rates. Which ones really need this band? Which ones are not profitable? Like, let's just get a little smarter with how we segment our portfolio and makes them smarter bets to try to get efficiency. So I think fixing the fundamentals and actually finding new data sets to pull into your ad buying decisions will be, I think, a tactic for growth in this year's. We look to get to sustain sustainability, um, those air to in addition to just trying to solve the profitability dynamics and really trying to get that, you know, as a brand, really trying to find that those skews, they're gonna be wins for you and wins for Amazon. That will be long term products versus those one. Once these single item products. They're probably not going to be that successful.
[0:11:53] George Reid: I think you you touched a good point there when it comes to reallocating, where if you're already performing very, very well, you organically rank very highly. Um, could you look to reallocate that budget towards building up those other skews? Andi, I mean, treat to know your mindset around something. A lot of reading on this around the benefit of building out a range andi ensuring that range all fees into one target customer knowing then that your sustainable success comes from cross selling largely on repeat purchasing rather than, you know, if you continue to double down and put your foot down on one skew absolutely right, your your revenue will certainly go up. Your margins may take a hit is you're being very aggressive, but are you ignoring that opportunity? Six months, 12 months down the line, where you've lifted up the whole portfolio on do your your brand the way it sits in the mind of the customer sits a lot higher that they're aware of some of the other products in your range they're saving up for those other products are waiting for a deal for those other products, and you're getting a higher share of that customer's wallet Onda that I feel only comes from thinking a little bit bigger. Thio coin the Amazon leadership principle on death, thinking a little bit further down the line rather than short term. We can make a lot more money here by doubling down
[0:13:20] Mike Black: on our
[0:13:21] George Reid: big seller. What's your take on that? I appreciate it's not exact question.
[0:13:25] Mike Black: Yeah, no, I think there's a couple days. I mean, I think the fundamental discipline and I see really good brands do this well and its portfolio strategy, you know, it z defining every year within this portfolio I have. And for many brands, it could be thousands of products. Not every product can be a hero, right? You have your heroes, and you got your sort of These are the These are the big bets. And they may be the ones, um, that are are really in growth categories. All right, so these air in high growth categories, there's not a lot of private label competition. We're gonna go. We're going to double down on these things. These air growth track, right? And then you have your maintenance and these are the ones where you know. All right, we got to do some some things here. We gotta like, maybe tweak the price pack equation, the price value and those you know what kind of growth you're getting out of that. And then you have part of your portfolio, which is perhaps, Hey, we're not We're not gonna We're gonna defund these. Maybe we're gonna do a cleanup where we were going to cut our portfolio down because it's maybe it's not. It's interfering with the customer experience. They're not really understanding what we're doing. And so what I find is like some of the more successful brands take that, take that view every year, and they get really good alignment across the organization in terms of what those bets are. And then they're able to look at their metric their marketing funnel based on that. So they have a playbook that says, All right, we'll, for our big bets, we go all in. We dio top of funnel social media advertising. We might even do like so instagram all the way down our maintenance ones. We do this and therefore the way that they measure at performance is going to be relative to the strategy off that portfolio set so I might actually look at All right, Well, for big Bet ones, I really wanna look at category shit growth. You know, I want this product to grow the category where I want this to grow market share versus other. So I think the, you know, I think the learning here is every What I'm hearing is it starts with having a really clean, very segmented strategy to report folio and then understanding that will be different tools and different investments. And you you can't just have a generic metric like, let's say a cost. You really need to look, you have to have segment and strapped strips, strategically specific metrics for success. So that's something that I see Ah, lot of brands like really doing and having that discipline is is something that's gonna get you in a much more sustainable track for growth in the long term.
[0:15:57] George Reid: You make some brilliant points and I agree with everything you're saying. But make no mistake, this is not an easy task to achieve. It requires a strong handle on the data that's available. It requires you to be able to interpret and visualized that data as well as the accurate data in the first place. Which brings me who? I was gonna throw this in the speed ramp. I'm gonna chocolate in now instead, how do you see data then leveling or widening the playing field and Amazon?
[0:16:25] Mike Black: Yeah, I think eso there's a couple of data sets One when it comes to the very first thing, um, that levels the playing view is the view of the competitive set, the view of the category the truest way. So if you are used to working with, like, a Nielsen in a retailer environment, you know you're getting POS data and you understand at any given store, what's our market share? And you know, what's our competitive set? You can look across categories and say, Well, this category is growing, so maybe we should you need that. You need that view. And I think you know, Amazon gives you a certain type of data that helps you understand your performance. Well, what we do a profiteer and and there are others like us. But we're actually going to be filling in those gaps with algorithms and estimation models that will tell you Hey, here's what your your competitors selling. Here's their growth versus yours. Here's the market share. Um, here's thes categories that are growing versus thes when you start toe, widen that view now you could make portfolio decisions. You could say All right, well, given this landscape, these are the types of products we should go after because our competitors have this and they're growing. So let's do that. And they're also able to say, Well, if the category is growing by this this much, we're gonna have to stay in. Our competitors are going. We're gonna have to spend X. We need a bigger marketing budget. So a lot of it just comes from funding, right. You need the funding and you need the data to go go into an executive meeting. Could say, Here's why we need the data. And I think that's if you only have a live. If you only know your performance immediately, your executive team is gonna ask you well, how does that compare to others? And that's you need to have that ammunition. You have to have this competitive benchmarks. I think, to truly unlock that and that gets you that gets you going right? That gets you your investment, your bets on day to day. Once you're managing the business, you have to look at all those those drivers like you have to be able to say, Alright, my sales are going down and I can say it's because search or I could say it's about out of stock. I know there's an action I could take or hey, this products going up and we just we just, you know, enhance the content. So why don't we do this on all these other parts you need that data toe actually optimize, but that competitive data this just that benchmark data helps you just set the funding set the vision set the get the investment you need to do all those other things.
[0:18:46] George Reid: I think that that data is becoming more widely available with Amazon creating mawr functionality within Seller Central on Vendor Central without a vendor, central is pretty shit. But Seller Central, let's just say is, is creating mawr opportunities for you to dive a little bit into it. But if we remove those large big players in the marketplace who are doing 100 plus K a month on Amazon, and you look below that. It's much more difficult to get hold of this data. What you can get hold of it to a certain capacity or even with things like Jungle Scout helium 10. You can have an idea, which means it's leveling, but to really quickly make decisions based on the data and have it on an ongoing basis on Have a dashboard, etcetera. That sort of thing doesn't necessarily so is no easily available or readily available that a fair, fair, a good price or a low price for your average seller, which represents a larger part of the market. So coming back to my question then is the way, Well, data is that leveling or widening the playing field across the whole playing field?
[0:20:00] Mike Black: Yeah, across the whole playing field, you know, I will say, Speak. My experience is much more on the vendor side, and then, and vendors do run the gamut like we, you know, there we work with many brands, I would say are they are maybe the, um, you know, the top five, you know, maybe below even the top five in the category, but they're they're set up his vendors and and they're getting They're getting a view of their their next competitors down. Uh, in fact, like one of the things that we can do in our models, we can actually model out. Um, you know, if you are a vendor and you're selling one p where you can actually model out what your what your three p competitors competitors of potentially doing too, So you can actually get that view that can be an equalizer. Like if I'm you know, the way that we see brands doing is if if I'm a a small brand, I can see like, Okay, who's next above me? I know the big guys, but who's that Next brand? Because that's the one I need to take and target todo. And then I can also look down and say, Who's the brand coming up like Who's right behind me? And, like, What are they doing? What are they launching? So I do believe that there is data and certainly data we offer that can't be an equalizer. I think what you know where I don't have great visibly is Yeah, that the vast seller world is like, if I'm a seller How do I get that data? That's a little bit more complicated? Um, it's something everybody's trying to figure out. But from what I see from a better perspective, uh, it is equalizing the playing field quite a bit on DNA. Not just the sales data, I think. Search data. You know, I think everybody. There's a high correlation between winning Sheriff Search and seeing the outcome off sales and market check growth. And I think that data in particular could be really, really powerful.
[0:21:48] George Reid: Yeah, I completely agree. I want to switch slightly and start looking at customer experience, where data certainly does come into it, given the conversation we had about reviews already. But how do you think brands can differentiate with their customer experiences? What can they do this year and ongoing, too? Create better experiences that all of those touchpoints have got available to them? Any suggestions would be fine.
[0:22:13] Mike Black: Yeah, that's great. Well, you know, we've had a couple conversations like this with with customers, and I think the yeah, I think content still remains to be really powerful. I I see new brands doing some different things with content. One thing I think I've seen. One thing I see brands do really well is when I think about experience. 11 of the hardest things is some products. You know that they live in a portfolio. Let's take, for example, like pet if you ever bought like pet carpet cleaner. There's like different funk. There's different cleaners for different jobs, and there's like a set, like a regiment of different things you get. If you search is a consumer and you're just certain for pet on Amazon, you might just see one a sin, but you don't see it in the context of the whole portfolio. And I see I see brands doing a lot more with setting up a brand store and even in their A plus content, actually kind of telling the narrative off the portfolio and not just like here's a single product. But here's the range like here's the here's what you you know all of the things you need. And here's the trade offs between that and that. And I think helping consumers make knowledgeable trade offs is really, really good, and I'm also seeing that get pushed up into top of faux marketing. So I am a pet owner and noticed. I've been getting a lot of ads on Instagram around Pet and one of the ads I'm costly getting is, you know, it's for pet food, but they're not just selling individual products are actually sort of defining, like it's almost like a ah framework for right? Like what? What? What's the core needs off your cat by different age, right? And then I click through it. It's like, Well, if you have a cat this age, you need this and you need that and that's great because it's educational content. Whereas I feel like there was there's, like, this version of content. Um, where like if you if you click on Instagram sometimes you just see it AdWords just for product and you're like, all right, you're just going straight up the gut, Lower funnel. Just get me by. But I think the opportunities that actually start to tell a story and bring, you know, true content marketing into that top formal experience. Then when I get to the Amazon page, actually helping me make smart decisions helped me think about the range of products that you might have to solve the same problem and what those tradeoffs are. And if you could do that, you you know you really are educating me and making me more loyal, more informed. And I think there's all I think there's ah ah, lot of brands that figure it out. But I still think there's some other brands that that have opportunity there.
[0:24:44] George Reid: I think, Ah, lot of people are missing this trip a little bit, given the content that I'm seeing at the moment. So a great example of what you just said there with the cat stuff is company called Power about how I called out recently. They had obviously got a range of different products for your different fitness needs and based on the outcomes you wanted based on the Exide, you're doing what I think they did very, very well with their storefront, and people feel free to go have a look. Is there breaking down the different types of trainer? So, for instance, cycling running Jim on then with cycling one, they were breaking down the different components of your three hour piece of exercise to go when you may consume each of their products. So I think that play of being mawr educational does build loyalty like you, said Mike. But also just incorporating MAWR of your products into their life is only gonna help you with that previous discussion of how to build sustainable success. Um, and it's just different. You're creating a different experience than what other brands are doing right now, like there's some beautiful storefronts out there. How many of them are educational or a lot of them just pay pretty and, secondly, pleasing. How many of them are going here is how you could incorporate our food in your diet differently. If you've got these issues like your glucose intolerance or whatever the case may be, I think that's where it gets a lot more interesting and exciting and fun. A za Brando
[0:26:11] Mike Black: nor a marketer Yeah, 11 Build on Now just say is the other thing is, sometimes you have to do that because of the site you're selling on. So one thing I've noticed is really different from Amazon versus Let's Say, a retailers like Wal Mart in the US, and even best buy is you know, when you're when you're breaking mortar retailer, you have a vendor manager at Walmart or Best Buy that thinks about the category all the time and when you sometimes go, if you were searching exercise bike on Walmart, sometimes you'll actually still say, Hey, what types of exercise bikes you wanna look where is like the foldable ones that air travel like they already give you those category definitions? So you're like, Oh, well, I want these kinds. I think with Amazon it's not always like that. It's so much more just like search result in filter versus structure. And I think you know Amazon. The Amazon doesn't always have that merchandizing background. So you, as the content creator, have to think through the lens of the consumer and think a little bit like a merchandiser. Think a little bit about All right. Well, you know this person's coming here. They might not yet decided what type of exercise bike they need. So how do I start there and then kind of help them navigate to the right decision? And I think that's that's just, you know, the nature of Amazon, and you have tow you have tow, prepare a little bit differently for that,
[0:27:30] George Reid: completely agree. I've got four questions in the speed round will wrap it up. I feel like we've got a little bit over than my 20 minute time cap that I like to keep on dirt. Conversation is flowing. What could one did? Question number one. What's the biggest threat to an Amazon business or a business selling on Amazon?
[0:27:48] Mike Black: Well, I actually think it is, um, other other retailers, because I think fundamentally, if I'm a business on Amazon, I have a very, very I have to have tight. There's a very limited, um uh, margin of error for being unprofitable and getting sort of like this more of a vendor thing, right? And so what happens is if I'm not aware of other pricing dynamics that are happening on a Wal Mart or target. If I don't have visibility, I could easily get sort of almost sudden see my pricing drop on Amazon and vice versa. So I think it's an ecosystem and every other retailers ecosystem effects Amazon and it's ah, promotion could be running on target, your salespersons running a promotion need to know about, and all of a sudden, boom your prices down on Amazon. So I think not being aware of the ecosystem around Amazon is a major rest for brands
[0:28:44] George Reid: noted, if you had 10-K, would you start on Amazon business?
[0:28:49] Mike Black: Okay, Yes. And that's mostly mostly still I could learn it from the inside out. I would really love when we talked about this on my team. We've been kicking around some ideas of you know what if we became a three piece seller and our seller on Amazon, like, how much more would we actually get toe Learn about the ecosystem. And so, yeah, we would. We've talked about it. I know I want to disclose the products because there's some really interesting. Once we think we could dominate, Uh,
[0:29:20] George Reid: note it, I'm sure. I'm sure it's gonna be a higher investment of 10-K. But it's good to know if you had 10-K, you would you would feel confident if you were running an amazin business on your own. No one else involved. Who would you hire first? Not a person more of a skill set.
[0:29:39] Mike Black: Oh, wow. Oh, I think Wow, that is a great question. Um, so I think I would hire someone to do the do the sort of data day, um, monitoring off data and performance like I think what I think it, you know, running Amazon business. If I can focus more on the marketing and the brand and the content stuff me personally, that's where I come from. I need someone to be really operational. And I think you have to be a operationally different person. And you need someone that is got their hands on the keyboard all day long, looking at every lever, like able to go deep and say, Hey, why is this happening here? And if you can hire like something that has an optimum optimization mindset and that operational mindset and in team them up with someone who knows how to do the value, prop the content, fact, that's that's a very, very deadly combination.
[0:30:42] George Reid: Strong. I like it. Farm question in today's market. Where would you launch Amazon or your website first?
[0:30:51] Mike Black: Yeah, you know, I think I'd have toe this is this is a really great one. Um, e think I have toe e Think I would launch on my own website first, and the reason why is because I I think that there's there's some additional data and insight that you we would be able to get more directly to hone the value proposition. Like, you know, I think there is great day you could get on Amazon it, But I do feel like there's a there. There is a competitive advantage to owning your own data in that full way to be able to test and learn and tweak. And I think once you sort of get that good, then then maybe Amazon could be more of a launching platform for you. Three Onley reason Why might think otherwise is if I actually had a product that was perfectly in a white space of a category, that that I could count on some traffic coming to it. Maybe it's a niche, you know. It hasn't been exploited, and I know I can start to get volumes of traffic on that on A
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