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Videos, Gen Z, and Amazon’s new services: Highlights from the IRCE e-commerce conference

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The Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition (IRCE) was held in Chicago between June 5th and 8th, 2018. The event included over 130 e-commerce related sessions and an Exhibit Hall with almost 600 e-commerce companies such as Amazon, Shopify, Mailchimp, and Oracle NetSuite, among others. Below is a summary of the key insights from the conference:

Video equals shopping

During the panel Connecting with the Z Generation, speaker Rachel Tipograph, Founder & CEO of MikMak, focused her discussion on the importance of video and highlighted that “Swipe up is the new store front”. She believes that shopping is becoming synonymous with video. Her presentation showed that 85% of internet traffic will come from video viewing by 2019, 73% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video, and 45% of US retail e-commerce will come from mobile by 2020.

Then she pointed out the struggles many companies are confronting today: 1) Most firms do not have the right video 2) Most consumers bounce after getting to the company website, i.e.: a person leaves a website from the landing page without browsing any further, and 3) Companies do not understand the shopper’s journey beyond consumer’s last click on their platforms. Her firm, MikMak, an official partner of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, works on solving these problems.

Rachel also shared a case study and showed how companies can now get the data to analyze conversion differences among influencers. With this data companies can better reallocate budget toward influencers based on real ROI.

If a company can make a Gen Z user look good, it wins

Tiffany Zhong, the 21 year old CEO of Zebra Intelligence, kind of a Survey Monkey for teens, talked about Gen Z from her own Gen Z perspective. Some key points included:

  • The notion of self-identity is more like a notion of selfie identity which is very tied to social validation, ie, how many likes one gets, how many views, etc.
  • Gen Z can recognize an online ad from miles away and they don’t want it unless it flows natively with their online experience.
  • When designing a product or service for Gen Z, it has to be aesthetic first. This generation chooses where to travel by checking cool trendy places on Instagram. If they see their friends posting amazing pics on Instagram in a particular location, they want to go there. The same applies for any product or service.
  • Tiffany believes that if a company can make the Gen Z look good on social media, they will win.

Beyond Tiffany’s insights, it’s also important to consider that Gen Z wants products that are fully transparent, and when it comes to supplements this also means they prefer a brand that is good at social engagement and has clean labels.

Tips to build your business and drive sales to Amazon

The Amazon session with Melissa Burdick, e-commerce Strategy Advisor who worked for Amazon for 10 years, and Chris Perry, current Sr. Director of e-commerce at Kellogg Company, was split in two sections: 1) how to build a presence on Amazon and 2) how to drive sales on Amazon. Some key points from their presentation included the following:

To build a presence on Amazon:

  • Right assortment, essential for profitability and differentiation. This could mean that a firm needs to create a different portfolio for each platform, eg, Add-on item, Subscribe & Save, Amazon Dash, Prime Pantry, Amazon Fresh, Prime Now, Amazon Business.
  • In-stock availability: obvious but critical for success, especially in preparation for Amazon Prime Day on July 10th, which is bigger than Black Friday.
  • Content SEO: crucial to use words the consumer is already using, firms need to speak the consumer’s language and include those terms in the SEO. It is also crucial to test, learn, and track changes over time. In 2012-2013 they found out if you added the words “dish washer detergent” at the beginning of a product’s title and finished with “dish washer detergent” you tripled sales.
  • Enhanced Content: companies need two types of enhanced content on Amazon, above the fold to improve SEO, and below the fold content to drive conversion.
  • Consumer reviews: this is essential and Chris highlighted how to improve them by brand community engagement, product variations, proper responses to negative reviews, and responses to Q&As, among others. A tip he gave was that firms can link different variations of a product to show all reviews together. Chris also recommended the Amazon Vine Program to get reviews from trusted reviewers on Amazon.

To drive sales to Amazon:

  • Promotions: such as sample capabilities to drive a trial for instance. Melissa explained that Amazon Prime now offers sample boxes. Customers can now purchase samples and in return they get an equal credit back to the Amazon account for a future purchase. Some brands that are already leveraging this Sample Program within sports nutrition include Hydroxycut, Vega, Optimum Nutrition, Quest, and Amazing Grass, among others.
  • Videos to drive m-commerce: Melissa emphasized the importance of m-commerce and how Amazon is creating videos to improve the Amazon mobile experience. This is a new mobile ad format (and metric) that Amazon is offering. In short, Amazon is making a big effort to create a “Facebook like” advertising style for brands within the Amazon mobile platform.
  • Deal sites: Melissa recommended having a presence on deal sites because they help to drive traffic to Amazon.
  • Paid ads: There are three types of paid ads: sponsored products ads, headline search ads, and product display ads (PDA) by interest-targeting or by Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN)-targeting.

Melissa went on to discuss how to achieve a high ROI on product display ads (PDA). The key tip she gave was to locate the ad next to ASINs that are higher in pricing and that have worse reviews.

Finally, other key insights that were common throughout the sessions included:

  • Share of Voice: A common topic was the discussion on how important it is to pay attention to Share of Voice. In short, Share of Voice (SOV) is the online market share a brand has over a specific time as compared to its competitors.
  • Amazon Stores: Amazon launched stores and they come with Amazon store insights to track sales. Now companies can see if traffic is converting to the Amazon page.
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