eCommerce forms a critical part of any brand’s go-to-market strategy, but fundamental questions remain for many, such as how to define success and where to focus resource.
In this Q&A, Sabir Semerkant, SVP of eCommerce at digital agency VaynerMedia, provides his point of view. Check out the podcast for the full interview.
Keith Anderson: It would be beneficial to hear about how you define eCommerce.
Sabir Semerkant: You should define your eCommerce ecosystem in 5 parts. First, let’s start with Amazon. We’ve come across quite a few brands that look at Amazon as a sales channel, but Amazon is so much more than a sales channel. We look at Amazon as a silo by itself, and you need to optimize the Amazon presence and platform. The second bucket is pure-plays. If you’re in the CPG business, pure-plays would be the likes of Boxed.com and Jet.com. The third bucket would be what I call retailer dot-com. Don’t treat Walmart.com like Walmart. Walmart stores are very different than walmart.com. There’s a ton of learning you could borrow from the Amazon optimization, but there are also specific things you need to do that are special to that retailer, like an in-store pickup, for example. Then the final bucket is what I call D2C (direct to consumer).
From a holistic standpoint, you should be looking at all of these channels as your eCommerce ecosystem. Fifty-five percent of product searches start on Amazon. It doesn’t matter where you’re buying that product, but most consumers are going to Amazon to look for information. Imagine being a brand and you’re not optimized on Amazon? When you’re not leveraging the platform well, you’re losing sales across the board. Reviews on Amazon play a massive role in building that fresh product perspective that the consumer is looking for, whether it’s negative or positive.
Keith Anderson: What’s your approach to optimizing your presence and commercial performance with a platform like Amazon?
Sabir Semerkant: Amazon shares tons of data. As a consumer, when I go to a product detail page, I see a tremendous amount of data that’s available to me when I’m reviewing a product detail page. For instance, I know about product pricing across sellers of a product. I know what the consumer purchase sentiment is for a product and my competitive products by looking at the reviews. There’s also sales rank when you look at product information. It tells me the sales rank within the top category, and it shows me even broken down to the specific product category that this product belongs.
That’s before I even sign in to Vendor Central, or Vendor Express, or Seller Central, which gives me even more information. When I get into retail premium or retail basic, it’s giving me a gold mine of information. With the brands we’ve been working with, we’ve seen a growth of a minimum of 3X or 4X, all of the way up to 15X, 20X growth on Amazon sales rank.
Keith Anderson: How do you see companies organizing to execute around all of this abundant data and some of this analytics?
Sabir Semerkant: You have to understand too much data is a problem as well. You need the right level of information, and to understand what your KPIs are. Reverse engineer what success looks like on a platform like Amazon or Walmart.
What is working for your competition that you’re not doing? If your competition puts up video, and they’re explaining their product so well that people understand how to use it, how to maintain it, how to clean it. They’re telling their story. You’re not. If you wonder why they’re in the top 20 in that product category, and you’re not, how about you create a product video that explains your product better?
Keith Anderson: Among the paid platforms, which do you think are most essential?
Sabir Semerkant: When it comes to Return on Advertising Spend (RoAS) with Amazon, there’s a tremendous amount of organic search and organic traffic you should be leveraging. If you’re not leveraging it, then you’re overspending on your media. You should be optimized as much as possible, and you should be able to drive specific baseline and sales rank for your product on Amazon. Once you do that, then start spending money on top of it.
Among all of the paid platforms that exist out there, Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is hugely underpriced. Given its return on advertising spend, more brands need to be utilizing it.
About Sabir Semerkant
Sabir Semerkant is a data-obsessed, transformative and entrepreneurial Senior Marketing Executive in E-commerce and Digital Marketing offering progressive global experience at growth-oriented companies in the consumer goods and e-commerce sector. Currently, he is working alongside Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) at Vaynermedia, a digital and social marketing agency, as the SVP eCommerce. He can be reached via Twitter, LinkedIn or via Vaynermedia.