Seller Performance Solutions
Building Your Brand Off of Amazon with Drew Himel
November 4, 2021
Marketing your brand off of Amazon, not only grows your brand, it can also grow your Amazon account. We talk to Drew Himel from Consult PCR about best practices for communicating with your customers and building your brand's base.
[00:00:07] Leah: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Seller Performance Solutions podcast. I am here today with Chris McCabe as per usual, and also Drew Himel from Consult PCR. So we just came off of a conference, which we're sort of known for the Amazon space, but our focus this year was really expanding your brand, both on and off of Amazon. So we were really looking forward to talking to you today because you really specialize in the branded website and communication direct to consumer side of things.

[00:00:46] Drew: Yeah, we have a lot of familiarity with obviously Shopify and selling directly online. And then a lot of our clients have a pretty large presence on Amazon and they're trying to figure out what does it even mean to set up a Shopify site and pros, cons, things like that. And then other clients that start on Shopify and then they add Amazon stuff. I think more and more having an omni-channel strategy seems to make a ton of sense.

[00:01:10] Leah:
Yeah. I think if the last year and a half has taught Amazon sellers anything is that you need to have more than one plan going forward. I think a lot of them have started exploring a little bit more their options off of Amazon. Particularly if you have a brand, there is no better way to control your brand presence than on your own website and through your own direct communication.

[00:01:29] Drew: Yeah, absolutely. And then you throw in Facebook and Instagram going down and I think mitigate the risk and have the brand in as many places as you possibly can manage makes a ton of sense too.

[00:01:41] Chris:
Do you talk to people who are afraid of starting on Amazon, becoming dependent on Amazon and then neglecting some of these other channels?

[00:01:49] Drew: I think what starts to come into play is pricing strategy. So. If you're going to be running big discounts on black Friday, anything like that, you just have to make sure that it's not undercutting or competing with Amazon.

So that's usually a pretty big factor when they're starting out or trying to figure out that strategy, but especially with a lot of the Facebook updates that are being impacted because of apple cost for acquisition is just getting higher and higher. And so they come to us and say, what can we do, with our website, what can we do with email?

When it's still a primary channel of revenue growth a nd so a lot of times we can audit, come back with our recommendations on quick wins and things that they could have put in place so that conversion goes up cost per acquisition, goes down, things like that.

[00:02:35] Chris: It's Q4. Right? So it's, it's quick win season. Do they tend to come to you more now? Like we need the quick wins and then you have a longer tail conversation about the year ahead after December?

[00:02:46] Drew: some of it's triggered by an event where their Facebook cost per acquisition, it's just gone through the roof o r it will be seasonal like right now is one of our busiest times because they need to get everything in place before the holidays and the big push.

[00:03:02] Leah: It's been interesting in our space because I think for a while, particularly at Amazon specific conferences, people would be talking about, well, how do I get Amazon customers to then come to my site and then come to my email list.

And now, we're seeing sort of the reverse of that. I think even back then the most exciting examples of this was when people were actually using their website to leverage Amazon and now that Amazon is getting a little bit more aggressive about paying them when they bring traffic to Amazon, we're starting to see that shift back in our area of oh, maybe we should have a website first or email list first strategy rather than the other way around.

[00:03:36] Drew:
a really dear friend of mine has a supplement company that sells on Amazon and I always thought his strategy was really, really smart, where he would really cost effectively acquire emails.

And then when he would do product launches, he would phase that out as part of the launch where he would send email pushes so that it would really help make the supplements more prominent on Amazon. So he was leveraging email to be able to sell there. So that's a strategy that we see a lot and knowing, the more traffic, the more revenue, the more product that's moving, Amazon does reward you.

So I think they can go. Really hand-in-hand and we see that with a lot of the Walmarts or Targets of the world, they want to make sure that they're hitting minimums and thresholds so that they're having some of those co-marketing opportunities success and email is just an incredible channel to be able to drive that.

[00:04:26] Leah:
Yeah. And something I've been seeing a lot more of as well, just as a consumer is a text message marketing. I mean, we're all sort of drowning in email at this point. So it makes sense to start switching to another platform that everybody is always checking.

[00:04:41] Drew:
Yeah I say SMS had a couple big factors that have made us as users more comfortable with getting text messages from brands, which was normally reserved for friends and the funny gif from your mom to be more comfortable with the brand using it where I think shipping and delivery notifications, I subscribed to ButcherBox and I get my frozen meat delivered once a month, I live in Florida. It's very hot and so it can only be outside for so long.

And to be able to get a text message versus all the other emails that I get is my preference, so that I can quickly go outside bring it into the freezer so that the product doesn't get ruined. And that I think was an easy way for a value add to be able to receive text messages.

And now you're seeing it with alot of brands running into inventory issues where things are out of stock a nd if you want an immediate alert when new inventory becomes available or it's back online to do that quickly with the text where you might not be constantly checking your email they're still showing 91% of all your texts are getting read by users. With email, you're hoping to get 15, 20%. So I think now brands are doing a lot of experimentation with not just shipping delivery notifications, not just out of stock, but exclusive incentives and deals, that you could be able to leverage.

And normally SMS was like, you got to buy a shortcode for $2,000 now you can add it for like 40 bucks a month to be able to start texting your customers and your subscribers.

[00:06:12] Chris:
Especially i n a time of scarcity, people do want an alert that something's available before somebody else buys it. Right? So they might check a text faster than an email, just because they assume it's going to be more personal, more important at least, for people that don't equate emails with texts.

[00:06:28] Drew: Yeah and I think that obviously before even just a few years ago, I would always, if I wanted to buy something, I'd buy it on my desktop or my laptop.

Now we're seeing traffic 60, 70% get a quick text, Shopify has made it really easier. Obviously Amazon's made it incredibly easy just to be able to buy through an app or through the mobile experience too. So I think all those factors are really helping SMS become more and more prominent.

[00:06:57] Leah: Have you guys played at all with the really deep segmentation and that almost conversational text messaging that I've been seeing some of the apps able to do now?

[00:07:06] Drew: Yeah. We have a client, Mud Water, which is like a coffee alternative. That's got a big subscription base and we went in and really we're helping them with retention and things like that.

And when we looked at like one of the main cancellation reasons, and it was just I have too much of the product. And so we started doing some advanced segmentation where we'll send them an alert when their order's about to be fulfilled, if they would like to change it. And with a quick text, they can pause or delay by a week, by a month. Maybe skip that shipment or be able to gift it to somebody else. And so instead of normally getting an email that your order's on the way, and you're like, oh, I don't want this. They can get a quick text that can say, you know, press two, if you want to pause it.

What we found is that really helps increase the lifetime value by really like 20, 30% just by giving them that flexibility where they're not locked in and they're gonna have s ix months worth of product that they're not using. Then we do a lot with VIP customers as the segment, new versus returning, users or purchasers.

Anything that you send as an email now you can just add split tests and say 50% people get an email, the other 50% get a text, let's see what the differences are. So there's some cool experimentation you can do to see how effective it is and if it drives revenue without having to take on a lot of costs or a lot of resources to be able to do that.

[00:08:24] Leah: Yeah, definitely. And even just like the longer term strategy, I think that it feels more personal. You know, you have this, it's almost like a friend or a concierge texting you to ask what you want.

It definitely I think would drive more customer loyalty going forward, particularly if your competitors aren't doing that. I mean, I assume at some point there will be the saturation where kind of like email, like I don't have notifications turned on for email on my phone. I'm sure at some point I will turn off notifications for text messages, but right now it's really interesting because it is new and not everybody's doing it. And it does really make a more personal, interesting experience with brands.

[00:09:02] Drew:
Yeah. And to your point too, because even just a year ago, it was like a wild, wild west with SMS. Yappo is like a big reviews platform, they're like we now do SMS and everybody was adding it as a feature.

So there's starting to be some consolidation and then what's really cool for the brands is there's like a deeper integration. Gorgeous is a great customer service tool. They integrate with Klaviyo. And so if you get an email you can also have the ability to text back and forth with your customer service team and be able to have more of that two way conversation where before it was you're texting with a bot, it wasn't personalized. It wasn't conversational. I think that's a big thing with brands. Don't just be like, okay, we're sending out five emails a week, let's send five of the same exact text. Very quickly you can turn a positive experience into a really negative one where they're like leave me alone. I don't want to ever hear from you again.

[00:09:56] Chris: With Amazon, we deal with a lot of Amazon brands. T he big conversation is that Amazon owns the customer. They're not your customer, they're Amazon's customer.

When you're doing these tips, tools, strategies, you're controlling that interaction a lot more and you don't have to worry so much about Amazon looking over your shoulder. They are your customer. So customer retention is I'm sure something you focus on quite a bit.

[00:10:19] Drew: Yeah. I mean, I think it's incredibly important.

I'm very long on email and SMS, you're not renting the audience. I think Amazon does such an incredible job of driving the audience already to your brand so you can't neglect it. 25% of all transactions online are happening on Amazon. So you can't ignore it. But with SMS and email, it's still a two way communication. You own that data. You're able to leverage it, however you want, even if you want to collect it and then drive them to Amazon, you're able to do that. It goes into a little bit of a black box where you're not exactly sure. You can see the lift from the Amazon reports, but I think the longterm retention, where if you even had a strategy where amazon handles the discovery and then maybe they want to add more products or things like that they can go over to your Shopify or your brand, and start to develop that relationship. A lot of our brands are seeing as high as 30, 40, 50% of their total revenue online coming from email.

And so it's still a really valuable communication tool. I just think, to your point, Leah, we get inundated with all these emails and everything else. You just have to make it a value. You have to make it relevant. Even the most exciting, cool brands, like as a user, you don't want to hear every single update or every promo.

So you gotta figure that out and what is the balance there? You know, kind of ultimately, but I think it's a retention tool, at least setting it up and maybe if you don't even want to use it, collecting those emails, collecting those phone numbers can be really valuable as you want to maybe start to add more platforms and do more omni-channel above and beyond just selling exclusively on Amazon.

[00:11:56] Chris:
Is there a risk that if there's a dip in sales, for whatever reason, it could be seasonal, it could be competition, that people who have acquired some of these skills and learn some of these tools start overdoing it. We have to remind everyone we're still here. We have to remind people, we're making new products. We have to remind people about the discounts and then they're kind of used to that approach then they overdo it?

[00:12:17] Drew:
A hundred percent. There's a funny cartoon cartoon where it's like, you mean, every time we send an email we make revenue? Why are we not sending an email every hour? But you have to look at your overall engagement. What is your unsubscribe? What is balance? What is open rate, click through rate. Tracking more click through rate or revenue off of those emails is more and more important.

The sweet spot that we find is two to three emails a week, depending on how big the company is you can bump that up to like four or five, but without negatively impacting the list health of what's going on. But yeah we definitely get it from CEO's of like, let's just say email, send an email, seeing the email and we're like, hold on. There's a couple other factors in place that we really want to think about too.

[00:13:00] Chris: Right. That's not a strategy.

[00:13:01] Drew: I try and keep it to what are we trying to communicate? Maybe one, two calls to action. Let's be really thoughtful with what we're sending out. But it's a lot. I get it. Some brands just don't have the bandwidth to think about content strategy and updates above and beyond just like promotions and new products coming online. So it is a balance and I get it.

You only have so much time and there's plenty of other things to focus on. So we consult and help with a lot of our clients to figure out that happy medium, where it can be a great lever to pull on, but not something that is going to negatively impact the brand too.

[00:13:35] Leah:
Yeah. I think the best ones I've seen are the ones that are service focused, like what you were saying with mud water. I posted about this on LinkedIn the other day, cause I was very impressed by it. I ordered from a service called Umami Cart, which is asian groceries. And they saw that the order wasn't arriving when it was supposed to arrive.

So they sent me an email saying Hey, we can see that this hasn't been marked as delivered. We will resend it if it actually hasn't arrived tomorrow. Or if you've already got it, just ignore this. And I was super impressed because why isn't every grocery delivery service sending that email? E very grocery service could do that.

They can all track your shipping, but no one's actually doing that. I didn't have to contact them at any point. They had already seen it and fixed it. And I just thought that was the best email marketing that I had seen in a really long time, because it's not even really marketing, but it is.

[00:14:27] Drew: This is why Amazon does so well. I mean, you think about their next day shipping, same day now, the return policy, no questions asked, they really were putting the customer first. And I think from a brand perspective it's difficult to one have the right technology two, to have the resources to be able to devote and three, compete with users that are used to Amazon experience. And they've invested hundreds of millions of dollars and a million plus employees figuring this out. If you're a small five-person team it's pretty challenging to be able to do that, but there are elements where I think, especially this quarter, it's going to be really interesting.

Don't introduce friction or try and hide. If an inventory, if that items that have stock get ahead of it, let them know right away. If there's going to be shipping delays, get ahead of it. You know, even I saw Nike was doing that with their shopping cart abandonment of like, Hey, you didn't purchase this, but oh, by the way, it's going to be an extra two to four weeks, which is negatively impacting conversion.

Right, but I think it's creating a positive brand experience. So that increases the lifetime value and things of that nature. So don't hide behind it. Get ahead of it. Okay. I think users know with COVID with all this inventory, supply issues. It's just going to be a really challenging time for brands.

So all you can do is be really transparent with your communication and stay on top of it as much as possible,

[00:15:53] Leah:
Yeah I'm a big fan of under promising and over delivering rather than the other way around.

[00:15:58] Chris: Is it easier to do that? Leah, you brought up food and beverage, but from one category to another, like if it's fashion, or apparel, you can send a message like, Hey, does that thing fit that you bought from us?

[00:16:11] Drew: Right.

[00:16:11] Leah: I've seen it with perfume as well, where they were sending, you know, a bunch of different samples, like your first purchase was choosing the one that you want. And they had this whole series of how to try it. And they would touch base a couple of hours later and be like, how do you like it now? Because the sense develops over time. There's some really interesting ones across different categories, for sure.

[00:16:32] Drew:
Yeah. And we mainly deal with like four industries and it is fashion apparel, food, beverage, beauty, cosmetics, and then health wellness, like telemedicine and things like that.

And each one the users a little bit different. I think fashion apparel, yeah. Making sure they really understand size and fit. We're experimenting with some 3d modeling and being able to like put it in your size and be able to see which one actually fits best. Telemedicine, y ou really want to make the segmentation and communication really contextual. This is normally an experience you have in a doctor's office to replicate that online, how do you recreate that experience? Food and beverage is tough because you can go into the grocery store and try one.

You know, a lot of times you're buying a 12 pack and this day and age, it's like $30, $40 for the 12 pack, but that's a pretty expensive purchase if you don't even know if you like the taste. So experimenting with sampler packs that are maybe like a four-pack and you can have one of each and things like that.

So each one we really put ourselves in the mind of the consumer, what are the possible friction points and how do we overcome that through email, through the website. So it makes a much more positive a brand experience for the customer.

[00:17:40] Leah: Yeah. I think a lot of people are afraid of marketing following them around, but I think it makes it really interesting and it makes for a really interesting personalized experience.

[00:17:48] Drew: Yeah. Well, again, going back to Amazon because I think they absolutely know what they're doing. Amazon can probably have all my data and I don't know if I'd really care that much because it's like, oh, you read this book, but would you also like this book here, I'm like, you know what I would I would love that book! You just press this one button and it's at your house tomorrow. I'm like, this is great. Back in the day my girlfriend tried to unsubscribe me from Amazon. Cause I kept just getting boxes and boxes of stuff delivered because they're so good at making it very contextual and relevant to me.

[00:18:19] Leah: I guess that's where it gets dangerous when you start buying too much.

[00:18:24] Chris: Just for our listeners. How can people get in touch with you to discuss all these wonderful things and get your help if they need it.

[00:18:30] Drew:
Yeah. is the site. I do a weekly newsletter where it's kind of like Tim Ferriss is five bullet Friday. I t takes less than two minutes to read. And we talk about maybe an experiment we're running or something that we've seen be really successful for another client, brands that we're highlighting, tools, software that we find really valuable in our day to day. Or even just like a book or an article that's relevant.

So it's just quick hit, easy to read. We've gotten a really positive response from that. And the other place is probably on LinkedIn, just search Drew Himel and I'll pop up and usually try and post different relevant updates and things like that. So those are the two easiest ways to kind of connect and learn a little bit more.

[00:19:11] Chris:
And we can share that. We're big LinkedIn fans over here, so we can include that as well. Have a great Q4. I'm sure we're going to be getting some questions from this content and we'll forward those along to you as well, . It's going to be a crazy peak holiday this year.

[00:19:28] Drew: Yeah. Maybe we start like a therapy group.

[00:19:30] Leah: We had this guest who said that we need to start doing sleep meditation for Amazon sellers because none of them sleep well.

[00:19:38] Drew: I don't even know what's going to happen. I mean, it's just been a crazy two years and again I don't see it changing. So amazon or any of this is not for the faint of heart these days.

[00:19:47] Chris:
It's definitely not just a Q4 issue. This'll be well into 2022, I think.

[00:19:51] Drew: Yeah. I 100% percent agree.

[00:19:53] Leah:
Awesome, Thanks Drew. 

[00:19:55] Drew: Yeah, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.