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To Sell Or Not To Sell (On Amazon)

SMB Retail by Angela Diffly
amazon2 imageWhat To Do?

Should Gap sell on Amazon? That’s the question posed to RetailWire’s BrainTrust panel this week, and it’s also the question keeping numerous retail executives up at night. Gap Inc.’s CEO Art Peck made big headlines last month when he told shareholders the company is open to selling on the behemoth marketplace. “Not to be considering Amazon and others would be in my view delusional,” he commented in response to an investor’s question.

It seems to sell or not to sell on Amazon is a growing concern for retailers everywhere. But what if you knew with certainty how your competitors were doing on Amazon? What if you could find out what percentage of your loyal customers were buying on Amazon, what they’re buying and how often? It may make the decision to sell (or not) on the controversial marketplace much more black and white.

Seeing The Big Picture

We recently interviewed Randy Antin, VP of marketing at analytics company Jumpshot and former senior marketing manager for global search and affiliates at Gap Inc. We wanted to find out what about Jumpshot convinced him to leave the major retail prestige of Gap and move to the dark side (aka the vendor side) of retail, and what he sees the company solving from a retailer’s perspective. “I saw an opportunity in the data Jumpshot collects. It’s solving the problem that used to make me hit my head against the wall as a retailer,” said Antin. The problem is that most retailers know what’s happening on their own ecommerce sites, but they don’t know what’s happening the other 99 percent of time their customers are somewhere else, browsing and buying on other sites.

“Retailers have always been a bit wary of ‘Frenemy’ Amazon,” Antin told us. “Do we play with you when your game plan is to have everyone buy through you? Who owns the customer? Are we willing to give up control to utilize this giant distribution channel?” Whereas Antin could only see revenues and transactions on his own ecommerce site while at Gap, he pointed out he didn’t have a view into the entire ecommerce path-to-purchase ecosystem to understand if what he was spending money on was driving growth, especially compared to his competition. Maybe the value was larger than the risk, but he couldn’t be sure. “We spent a ton of time trying to understand what channels were adding to the bottom line, but we had to take into account different attribution models by channel, awareness vs. direct response, customer retention vs. new customer acquisition and cross-channel impact. There was so much guesswork, and I saw that we (at Jumpshot) could take some of that away to help companies make more strategic decisions.”

Homepage-Web-GraphicRetail Headaches

Antin also ran into roadblocks at Gap after Google encrypted natural search keywords, which meant retailers no longer had visibility into the organic keywords driving traffic and conversions to their sites. “With me, it was a big problem to figure out what keywords customers searched to get to the landing pages through organic search results. By capturing people’s clickstream activity, Jumpshot is able to see the keyword terms a user searches and where they land after clicking on a search result, thus capturing the keyword itself. So we were able to inject that back into the marketplace.” If retailers are interested in organic keywords, Jumpshot can work with them to tie big numbers into back-end analytics, providing enhanced visibility into what they lost when Google changed. “Since we’re not tied to someone’s AdWords or Facebook account, we can access anyone’s keyword traffic. That competitive intelligence is something that didn’t previously exist. That was very interesting to me,” he told us.

Google Analytics For The Internet

“At a very high level, we think of ourselves as the Google Analytics for the entire Internet,” Antin said. “We can see site search keywords, what product they’re viewing, where they are, age, gender, shopping cart abandonment, etc. If you take that and flip it on its side, we define any type of behavioral cohort and see what that behavior is across domains.” The company analyzes 100 million users’ browsing activity across 188 countries – that’s 160 billion clicks monthly – every single click, and the order in which they click, all the way back to January 2014 and as recent as yesterday. This data allows them to hone in on browsing and shopping activity – but they also have a clear big-picture view of the ecommerce crown jewel: transaction activity.

“We can see the entire path to purchase, from initially researching a product on a variety of sties to where they actually purchase it.” For example, let’s say you’re looking for a good deal on a new laptop. You go to Apple.com to see the newest MacBook Air. Then you hop over to eBay to see if it’s there, or if a similar model is selling for a good price. Still not completely convinced you’re getting a good deal, you compare Best Buy and Amazon. Amazon has the best price, and the best delivery time (at no cost, since you’re Prime), so it wins out. Jumpshot sees the whole thing, every click, and reports back to retailers, which allows them to pivot ecommerce strategies based on buying behavior.

“We see 160 billion clicks a month, and our team is constantly developing algorithms and pattern-identifiers to unravel the URL clickstream to understand what everyone is doing in an aggregated and anonymized way,” explained Antin. As a practical example, Jumpshot can look at Amazon, eBay or Best Buy and see market share in various categories. By sharing that information with retailers, they can see how their competitors are using distribution channels. For example, if you’re a small retailer and you know that four of your five big competitors aren’t using Amazon, it’s either not working for them and it would be a waste of time and money to sell there, or if they’re not there and you’re small, it may be a chance to grow without having to compete directly against them.

I asked Antin if Jumpshot can tell if ‘buy online, pick up in store’ is working for retailers, since so many seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach with it or looking to the big guys to lead the way. As long as there is a definite distinction in the URL stream, the company can capture it. So that answer could apply to basically anything a retailer wants to know. “Inventory optimization is also interesting. Consider a car manufacturer in Europe – Jumpshot could help see how many times someone searched for a certain car in a certain market and found it was out of stock. Did their car fleet lineup on the back end where they saw the most demand? If they see where demand is high, and the out-of-stock message is high, it helps them make strategic decisions on where to ship more cars. They’re just not optimizing in the right way. For retail, I can see things working the same way.”

What Big Data Can Do For Any-Size Retailer

Wouldn’t you like to know where your sales are coming from, who’s losing interest on your site, who your most (and least) loyal customers are and how they behave, who’s selling (and who’s buying) on Amazon, and which of your campaigns were most and least successful? You can’t know any of this by looking at your own analytics based on your own mobile and desktop sites. But you can when you look at the whole picture.

  • Where Are Sales Coming From? Let’s say an SMB retailer uses Amazon as a distribution channel, as well as selling in their own stores. Jumpshot data can help them see whether a display campaign led to transactions on their own sites or on another marketplace site.
  • Who’s Losing Interest? You can trace the path to purchase to find out how many times a group of people clicked on a page and purchased something or dropped off or abandoned a shopping cart. You can see that information not only on your site, but on other sites, as well.
  • Who’s Most Loyal? You can see the difference between loyal customers versus people who haven’t bought in six moths, versus people who have never bought at all. Jumpshot finds out how these customer segments behave online by looking at statistics from YouTube video views, Amazon purchases and Google searches. With these statistics in your arsenal, you can learn how to better engage with your best customers, or turn potential customers into those that look like your best customers. By looking at this data for your store, and for competitive stores, you gain a real advantage. How do your competitors’ best customers act, for example, and how can you engage them and win them over?
  • Who’s Doing What On Amazon? “We have a ridiculous amount of data on Amazon,” Antin told us. The company can use that information to determine wallet share, what are people buying, if there’s a difference between Prime and non-Prime shoppers, what they buy and how they buy it. It can help retailers determine if they should sell on Amazon in the first place (hello, Gap!) or if their competition is doing a good job on Amazon, it can help them up their game when it comes to Amazon strategy.
  • Which Campaigns Are Working? By taking Jumpshot data and matching it up with an internal CRM, retailers can see how customers are interacting, past history and what they’ve been doing for the past couple of years. “This can give them a very full view of their customers set,” Antin explained. “Retailers tend to look at the customer journey from one side, if they’re using mobile or in-store for example. But they’re forgetting to look outside that bubble, to the other 99 percent of the time.” That other 99 percent is when customers are somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else. That should be of intense interest to any retailer looking to gain market share. “We’re filling in the rest of the circle,” said Antin.
Onto Something Big

“We’re a startup. We’ve only been around since January 2015. It’s an evolution for us, but we’re excited about the product, and we’re still learning on a daily basis,” Antin confessed. “We’re all a bunch of data geeks and marketers at heart, so it’s very interesting for all of us.” As the company grows, it’s adding talent from places like Macys.com, Travelocity and comScore. “We’re really onto something that people understand is relevant to their previous roles,” said Antin. That’s a familiar feeling for him. If Jumpshot can solve the biggest pain points for big (and small) retailers, it’s definitely onto something. Something bigger than even big data, it seems.

randyantinRandy Antin, VP of Marketing

Randy is the VP Marketing at Jumpshot. He has engrossed himself in Digital Marketing for 14 years primarily in the Retail and Travel verticals, most recently at Gap Inc., where he was the Senior Marketing Manager for Global Search and Affiliates. Previously, Randy spent more than 10 years in online travel with a couple startups, including as VP Marketing at Perfect Escapes, and more established industry leaders, such as Global Search Manager at Travelocity. He received a Bachelors Degree in English from the University of Michigan and in his spare time, he tries to keep up with his ex-racing greyhound on the beaches of San Francisco.