14 January 2020
By Drew Smith
Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Upp and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.
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In many regards, an ecommerce business is just like any other business… Its strategic actions are driven by data. While there will often be creative or economic factors which influence campaigns and product launches, online retailers can rarely make a strategic move without interrogating vast sets of data to gauge its viability.
Customer data is absolutely critical for success in ecommerce. The more you know about your customers (and prospective customers), the better able you are to create marketing materials and advertising copy that will resonate with them. Customer data helps to create listings that grab the customer’s attention and product pages that optimise conversion rates. Customer data is arguably the key to developing a strong brand.
However, collecting that data can be a challenging process, especially in a commercial environment dominated by multichannel ecommerce. While insights may be easy to collect, analyse and interpret when they come from your own website, collecting data from customer interactions on third-party marketplaces like Amazon is markedly more challenging.
Still, multichannel ecommerce isn’t going anywhere, and it's essential that ecommerce brands are able to retain customer insights. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges that this represents and how ecommerce platforms like Upp can make it a little easier…
Nascent ecommerce teams may well ask if it’s really necessary to invest the time and effort needed to drag customer data across from third party channels. They may even question the importance of establishing a presence in the first place. After all, they’ve invested heavily in the design and UX of their websites… Shouldn’t that be where they direct their attention?
The truth is, however, that a channel-agnostic approach to ecommerce is becoming increasingly essential in today’s market. A presence on other channels allows you to piggyback on the trust that consumers place in channels like eBay, Amazon, Google Shopping and Instagram Shopping. These are platforms which are familiar to consumers and so they feel safe and secure using them. In fact, 48% of online product searches start in a marketplace like eBay, Etsy or Amazon. And it’s not hard to see why. These titans of ecommerce own a colossal proportion of the market share — Amazon alone accounts for 13.7% of it. What’s more, in an age where convenience is king, consumers are increasingly unlikely to venture outside their comfort zones.
Multi-channel shoppers are important demographics to target. Especially since they statistically spend 3 times more than single-channel shoppers. What’s more, if your brand isn’t meeting your customers on the platforms they’re using the most, there’s a good chance that your competitors are. And you could find yourself losing valuable opportunities to them.
Amazon is not just an important channel to display your listings through. It’s also a veritable goldmine of invaluable customer data. Yet, mining that data can be troublesome. There are manual workarounds to get your data from the ecommerce giant (which we’ll look at shortly), but these can be time consuming and restrictive.
Curiously, while Google Shopping is notoriously fiddly when it comes to product listings, it is fairly forthcoming with sharing customer insights and redirecting customers to your own website… At least, for now.
It’s important to note, however, that while it’s essential to pull data from multiple channels to influence strategic decision making, an omnichannel presence can disaggregate your data, making it important to centralise for clear insights. Don’t worry, though, we’ll get to that!
Amazon is an excellent channel that provides valuable customer data which many brands choose to ignore. But getting access to that data can be tricky without an ecommerce platform that does the heavy lifting for you.
Amazon won’t let you market to their customers. They won’t share customer data or link to your website. Nonetheless, there are manual workarounds. Let’s take a look at how you can glean some much-needed transparency from Amazon:
Yes, it is an incredibly labour-intensive process… But one that can provide valuable qualitative insights. Check to see if customers who bought your products on Amazon left a review. Not only can this tell you what they thought of your product, a look at their profile can let you know what demographics they’re in and what else they’re buying.
What sparse information Amazon does provide you (buyer names, recipient names and postal addresses) is enough to create custom audiences and gather audience insights via Facebook ads. Now, this can give you useful insights but not enough to be really meaningful… However, Facebook ads actually extrapolate the data from your custom audiences to “Lookalike Audiences” in similar demographic ranges who could well be the customers you’re looking for. For obvious reasons, Facebook won’t tell you who these people are… But they will let you market to them!
Amazon’s native “Sponsored Product” ads may require some overhead costs but they can also provide you useful insights. Their (albeit limited) reporting features allow you to see which search terms were used to trigger purchases. This can be invaluable in helping create product listings with better conversion rates.
After a little wrangling across multiple platforms, you finally have the raw data you need. But in its current disaggregated state, it’s not terribly useful to you. In this regard, multi-channel data can be something of a double-edged sword. Even after you’ve gone to great lengths to mine it from less-than cooperative platforms it needs to be centralised to produce valuable insights that maintain consistency across your entire ecommerce campaign.
Doing this manually can be time and resource-intensive, which is why the right tools for the job are so essential. Standard Product Information Management (PIM) systems can be helpful here. But when pulling data from multiple channels, it’s important to invest in resources which will give you comprehensive and actionable insights.
In a world where software solutions move at breakneck speed to match the rapidly changing needs of ecommerce retailers, standard PIM solutions are already becoming somewhat old hat. Ecommerce platforms combine the functionalities of PIM solutions with a suite of more sophisticated features.
What could be more valuable than customer data across a wide range of channels? How about insights gleaned from across the internet and centralised in an easy-to-access repository. How about using a platform that leverages artificial intelligence to deliver clear and actionable insights that gives you the big picture rather than a tiny snapshot?
Ecommerce platforms are invaluable to ecommerce brands because they augment valuable customer data with wider insights pulled from all over the internet. This makes the whole world a source of your customer data, and augments any data loss suffered through using less cooperative third party channels.
A channel-agnostic approach is, without question, the future of ecommerce. If you’re to gain the trust of consumers who are growing increasingly fickle despite big brand spending, you need to approach them on channels they are familiar with.
The right ecommerce platforms can give you the insight you need to help your brand make a powerful impression on the customer… Even if they’re buying your products through a third party.
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