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Decoding the Evolving Ecommerce Landscape

20 May 2024

Key takeaways from Excellence in Ecommerce: Amazon Edition

By Michella Chiu, Mars United Commerce

Earlier this month, Mars United’s Ecommerce team participated in Excellence in Ecommerce: Amazon Edition, an event in Seattle hosted by retail search experts Analytic Index and sponsored by solution providers Quartile and Channel Bakers. The event brought together industry experts to shed light on the ever-evolving ecommerce landscape in general and the Amazon ecosystem in particular.

Here’s a breakdown of key takeaways from the event that can help brands navigate this dynamic environment.

Rethinking the Customer Journey

In the first panel discussion of the day, Jeff Cohen, Tech Evangelist at Amazon Ads, and Nathan Rigby, Chief Revenue Officer at Mars United Commerce, challenged attendees to rethink the traditional customer journey, which is still too often visualized as a linear funnel but now takes a lot of detours. A central theme at the event was the crucial need to understand how shoppers actually make purchase decisions, using customer behavior analysis to optimize how brands reach and convert their target audiences.

In this regard, identifying the right metrics, or KPIs (key performance indicators), is paramount for effectively measuring the success of any ecommerce strategy, to track performance and optimize campaigns — particularly within the Amazon ecosystem.

While data-driven decisions are key to maximizing the ad spend, practitioners also need to take a scientific approach and allocate dedicated budgets to testing, Cohen reminded the audience.  Advertising through demand-side platforms (DSPs), for example, offers highly targeted audiences, but effectiveness hinges on budget size. Brands with smaller budgets (think $20,000 per month), should therefore explore alternative channels. But for those with larger budgets ($200,000+ per month), DSPs are a powerful tool for reaching the right audience at scale. By strategically combining testing and budget allocation, brands can optimize campaigns for maximum impact.

Optimizing Ad Placement

The power of DSPs as an ad placement tool was discussed throughout the day with Oceanwing Chief Commercial Officer Ben Winters stressing the importance of understanding when and how to integrate DSPs into an Amazon marketing strategy, a viewpoint elaborated on during a Q&A with Martin Zerrudo, Director of Enterprise Brand Development at Quartile, and Michella Chiu, Director of eCommerce Strategy at Mars United Commerce.

All three industry thought leaders reminded marketers that, even when team members are fluent in marketing tactics and software, there can still be a gap in market-trend understanding between the U.S. and international groups. To address this, cultural understanding should be addressed in team management.

Both Winters and Zerrudo underscored the reality that long-term strategy is far more crucial than the “whack-a-mole” dreams of quickly eliminating the competition. Instead, focus on understanding your competitors. Who are they? What are they doing that resonates with your target audience? By learning from their successes, you can develop a sustainable competitive advantage.

Reaching Younger Generations

Another key topic at the event was the need to venture beyond traditional channels to capture the attention of younger demographics. Now a major workforce in its own right — with 43% graduated! — Gen Z prioritizes value, according to Josh Kreitzer, CEO of Channel Bakers.  Among other tips from Kreitzer:

  • Remember the hilarious slide on generational emoji use (at right)? It perfectly illustrated the need for audience-specific messaging.
  • As cookie-based tracking crumbles, connected TV (streaming) supported by robust shopper data from retail media will become even more essential.
  • The future is video, which already is being embraced by leading brands because of the powerful engagement it delivers.
  • Your website is prime real estate for educating consumers, most of whom will ultimately head to Amazon and TikTok for their information.
  • Embrace Amazon DSP Link Out and leverage Amazon Attribution to better maximize campaign reach and track success as the landscape continues to evolve.

Embracing non-endemic brands that are not traditionally associated with the platform on which they’re advertised is another key to connecting with Gen Z. Brands need agility because quick experimentation and data-driven decision-making are needed for success. Innovation is key to staying ahead in the ecommerce race as well.

Another possible avenue is Twitch, Amazon’s streaming platform, which is popular with younger audiences and indicative of the growing importance of compelling brand video ads. Twitch can be a blue ocean for brands seeking white space opportunities for product development.

The Future of Ecommerce

The future of ecommerce might involve casting a wider net with partners. While Amazon and Shopify are often viewed as rival, mutually exclusive platforms, they can be leveraged together to create a winning strategy. By understanding how each platform can best serve their needs, brands can create a more comprehensive and successful ecommerce strategy.

Speakers at the event cautioned against getting caught up in the latest ecommerce fads, however. When adopting new technologies, it’s first important to ensure they align with the company’s culture, and then to invest in educating the team to ensure successful implementation.

By staying informed about these trends and adapting their approach accordingly, brands can stay ahead of the curve in the ever-changing world of ecommerce.

Mars United’s Ecommerce team knows that succeeding in online marketplaces — Amazon especially — takes more than just winning the algorithm. Powered by the agency’s proprietary data analytics platform, our experts take clients to a new level by providing end-to-end Amazon management, including business operations, advertising, and digital shelf optimization. Our Digital Shelf Studio uses this proprietary data to create, enhance and optimize client activity across the landscape to align retailer-specific requirements, be discoverable along the shopper journey, win against the competition, align to brand priorities and initiatives, and convert shoppers. For more information, contact Danielle Hurwitz at [email protected].

About the Author
Michella Chiu is Director of Ecommerce Strategy at Mars United Commerce, where she uses her background in marketing and academic research to lead global ecommerce strategy, activation, and program management for clients such as LEGO, Delicato and Johnson & Johnson. Her core functions include catalog support, operations, content development & optimization, and analytics. She can be reached at [email protected].

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