EP 13: Understanding Advertising Off Amazon with Navah Hopkins- PART 1

Narrator: (00:01)
Welcome to the Process to e-com profit podcast, where we know top line sales just isn’t enough to have the business of your dreams learn to run a profitable business online. That doesn’t run you.

Robyn: (00:15)
Have you ever had a conversation that was so good? It was hard to say goodbye. We just wanted to give you a quick heads up before this episode started, that this conversation is so wonderful that we’ve split it into two episodes. So enjoy today, and then the next episode will air next week.

Robyn: (00:31)
Welcome to the Process to Econ Profits podcast. Today we have somebody brilliant on the show, one of the smartest be people in the paid search space. And so we’re really, really excited to have Nav Hopkins on. she is amazing. She writes regularly for Search Engine Journal. If you go to any conference that talks about off Amazon ppc, she’s either there or she’s probably not there because they couldn’t get her. So you want to make sure that you listen to her. She’s amazing. You know, follow her on Twitter afterwards. that you wanna make sure that you’re really listening in because one of the things that we hear a lot from people who are doing really well on Amazon or maybe had been doing really well on Amazon, but maybe starting to struggle a little bit, is, Man, I just wish I could go off Amazon because then I wouldn’t be beholden to anybody.

Robyn: (01:18)
I could just do my own thing. And so  is here to share a little bit about what you need to expect KPI wise, what you need to do brand building wise, some of the considerations you need to really think about before you try to decided to take your product off Amazon and market directly off Amazon. And this can be true even if you’re only in brick and mortar and you haven’t even done Amazon and you’re looking to sell in a more D toy way. So Nava, thank you. Can you give us a little bit more about kind of like how you got started in the space?

Navah: (01:48)
Well, first off, Robin, Cindy, I am so excited to be here. You guys are some of my favorite perspectives and whatever. We’re at conferences, I always make a point to go to your sessions. They are so actionable and everyone should listen to everything that you guys say. so just a little bit of context about me. I’ve been in the digital marketing space since 2008, in the SAS or, software as a service space, since 2010. and I have worked with brands all across the globe, in every vertical you can imagine, from pets to lawyers, to clothing, what have you. So, I’ve, I’ve gotten to have, that nitty gritty experience. I’ve also had, the pleasure of serving on the Paint Search Association board alongside members of Facebook, Google, Microsoft. So getting to have that, kind of seat at the table, conversations with what, where the, the channel’s thinking next.

Navah: (02:44)
and then of course, as Robin mentioned, I write quite a bit. I’ve, I’ve taught several courses, so I, I’ve, I’ve had the, the, the gift of being able to experience kind of the forest and the trees, seeing those trends and, and share those lessons learned. So, one of the biggest takeaways, that I hope you take from, from this session is that it’s not about getting off Amazon. It’s about thinking how can channels be, symbiotic in, in, in your marketing. So, yes, there will be cases where you get off Amazon and life is great. There’ll be cases where you’re striving to get on Amazon to boost, your, your other channels. There are times when you want both working in concert because, to be frank, there are a number of changes that have happened in the digital marketing space. and I’m gonna break down a couple of the key ones during the course of this podcast. but, definitely, definitely we wanna make sure that we’re going in eyes wide open

Cindy: (03:41)
And, and I’m here to be the one to ask the questions from the financial side of things.  what does this do to margins and, and not having an advertising background like Robin and Nav have? What are we even talking about? So if, if you’re kind of new to e-commerce and, and new to the, advertising side of things, I’ve got you covered. I’m gonna say, what are we even talking about? So, Nova, I’m, I’m, I’m gonna be the newbie asking you questions.

Navah: (04:09)
Love it. Perfect.

Robyn: (04:12)
So, I think the first thing that we should discuss is if somebody’s, you know, maybe they already established there’s a demand for their product. Cause I think that’s, you know, we wanna make sure that you have a product that is in demand before we start to market it and buy inventory. Maybe they already have had sales either in brick and mortar or Amazon. What are the, the main pillars that they’re going to need before they can expand into, paid search off Amazon?

Navah: (04:37)
so when we think about pillars, are we thinking about, the infrastructure internally? Are we thinking about, creative, just so that I, I answer the right question cuz that we, you could need a million things. I just wanna make sure I address the right, the right point.

Robyn: (04:53)
Well, I think that sometimes I, you know, I’m talking, I think I’m talking more like about the, like, overall things that they’re gonna need in their company. So I think a lot of times people think that if they just put a build a Shopify store, Got it. That’s all they need to do. And I think that there’s, there’s a couple more steps than that.

Navah: (05:07)
Y yes. so first and foremost, you wanna make sure that you have that internal infrastructure to take orders, service orders applied to your customers. one of the saddest things, and this is actually a real story that happened to me. I was trying to buy a gift card, not even a product, like no inventory required a gift card for my friend, as she was buying her, her new home, and I wanted to get her a housewarming present. I could not, for the life of me find the way to buy a gift card, on the site. So I found their contact information, I replied to them, They happened to be in Australia, but for Australia, my time to reach out and, and figure this out to, to buying, that gift card was less than one business day for them. Which is incredible because I, being on the east coast and them being in Australia, that is a huge timezone difference.

Navah: (05:58)
So they were on point, amazing brand, super responsive, and it makes you feel really good about that, that customer experience and continuing to be that customer. Cause one of the greatest values of being on Amazon is that you have that ability to pick up that customer and then own them. So long as you’re responsive, so long as you have that great customer experience. If you don’t have that kind of team, if you don’t have that kind of resource, you wanna be very careful about the volume of sales that you bring in because you might not be able to respond to them in an efficient manner. And then you create a whole big, negative response online, which is, which is bad. Speaking of negative response, you wanna make sure that you’ve claimed your local listings, ie. Those profiles that when someone searches for you, you, you can see it there and you see the reviews.

Navah: (06:46)
there, there are more than just reviews on Amazon, there reviews on Google, on Microsoft, or b Yelps on so forth. so you wanna make sure that you’ve, you’ve claimed all those, and, and, but that you have that, that responsive, customer relation. You also wanna make sure that you have what’s called a feed or all of those different product items, the images, the descriptions, the shipping information to all that tax information. and I’ll send along kind of a template, that Google uses for this, but we wanna make sure that you have that feed set up. And the reason why you wanna have that set up is that your feed, is how every other campaign type, including organic, or search engine optimized, listings serve. So if you don’t have your feed set up correctly, not only are you going to have a slow start, you’ll have a non-start because you might serve for searches that are not quite right.

Navah: (07:41)
You might have your ads just end up being disapproved cuz they’re sending, people to, pages where, where there’s no product and if you get too many disapprovals, you actually get suspensions. So you wanna make sure that your feet is set correctly. So our first pillar is customer, responsiveness, and retention. the second pillar is your feed. The third pillar, quite honestly, is an understanding of which products you make enough money on that the auction price of whatever ad channel you’re gonna pursue or whatever channel you’re gonna pursue will make sense. Different verticals have different auction prices. So when I’m looking at, buying a sweater for my dogs, I have two adorable rescue pups I and hk, my little boxer pit lab mix. Not little, he’s like 50 pounds, but he is my little boy, even though he’s a big boy.

Navah: (08:33)
but he, he loves his sweaters. So when I buy a sweater for him, that auction price is gonna be very, very different than when, I’m buying, say for example, a vacuum or I’m buying, a refrigerator, or I’m buying, really expensive skincare. there’s just, there’s different auction prices that go with different products and services, and they do correlate not just to supply and demand, but they also, will dive a little bit and, and feel free Cindy, to, to interject and say, tell me if I’m getting too jargony. but on the variance of how people search, and there are certain ways people search and think, that, that can kind of make certain ways more expensive and certain ways less expensive. One of my favorite ways to check this, is actually something called Google Trends. it lets you see, the heat map of how people are searching in different ways and will actually bubble up for you some of those auction prices. So if you’re curious, like, Hey, is this gonna be expensive? Is this not? is, are the people in this area going to want my products and services? Are they not? very powerful way, to get that information. I realize that was a lot. So I’m gonna take a break, and see if there were any like qualifying questions there.

Cindy: (09:55)
Well, I’d like to follow up on the last thing. so it assumes that, you understand your profitability on your products to be able to understand whether or not what, what your pricing parameters are. I correct. Okay. So, so we wanna make sure people know that they need to look at gross margin, understand what kind of gross margin they’re making, and if it’s really skinny, like 10 or 15%, even 20%, they may not even be making enough to start to play in this game of paid search, I would assume. Well,

Navah: (10:30)
So here’s the fun fact. there are a number of channels, in a number of settings that you can choose, to get those kind of skinny margin plays that you, you still wanna give them some love, like you don’t want them to be neglected children. as, as Robin would, would point out like the little orphans like, or, or, or little orphan products. We don’t want them, to be orphan and lost in the feeds. so there’s a couple of, of options available to you. One is actually to use something called, extensions or ad extensions. The auction price for an extension click is the exact same as the headline click. Now what that means is that you can have a series of your products that you wanna test to see, or is there any interest? Can I, can I pull people in, say with a price extension?

Navah: (11:16)
serve that with, say, your branded campaign, i e bidding on your own branded term, which will have a significantly cheaper auction price and have that serve there person goes to that product page, they get that really cheap. You get that really cheap click and you might still be able, to justify having that product being served. The other really powerful way to do this is actually with something, Well, there’s two, one is dynamic search ads, which is where, Google or Microsoft will crawl your site and serve up the products, that it thinks make sense, based off of the user query and your landing page. This requires that you have good SEO or search engine optimization of that page. However, if you do, very easy way to stick in a couple of extra products. The other way though, and this is actually something that’s really interesting in the digital marketing space right now, is something called Performance Max.

Navah: (12:13)
now p or P-Max is, it’s abbreviated. What this does is it actually takes your Google search, your display or the image ads, YouTube local shopping, and video it, it all rolls it all up into a single campaign and you bid on, your target segment and you would just upload assets. Now, what’s really interesting about this and why it’s, it’s generating a lot of interest, but it’s also kind of scary for some of us, because we, we love control, is that we have zero control once we upload our assets and we do our targeting. But sometimes the auction prices and the conversion rates are actually better with those PAX campaigns than they are with traditional shopping campaign, traditional search campaigns. So, if you have really skinny margins, if you have, products that just are not gonna get a lot of love, don’t despair, there are options available to you. And also, I will give a shameless plug out to Microsoft ads. Microsoft has significantly cheaper option prices. So if you can’t afford Google, Microsoft is an option for you. but definitely don’t despair. Focus your budget on your hero products, focus your budget where you really make good margins, and then include those extensions, experiment, experiment, dynamic search ads, and maybe even performance max, for those lower ones.

Cindy: (13:36)
Okay. And, and on the operational side of things, is there a, well, how do you manage that relationship between the inventory and the stock and that you have on hand with what you’re doing in your promotional side of things when you’re, off Amazon? how does that work?

Navah: (13:57)
Well, they, they have to be in concert. you, you have to have that inventory management in place. so traditionally, what ends up happening is you have, Shopify, WooCommerce, some, some sort of a vendor in that capacity that will actually be able to be kind of an all in one. so you’re, you’re sending your traffic to, to that sort of experience. I mean, you can do any website you like, but those tend to be really good for that inventory management as well. Cause it, those features tend to be baked in. I also strongly, strongly recommend, not running, a big campaign, a big, budgeted campaign until you do your inventory checks, for, for a quarter out. so a lot of people will think, Oh, I can turn on my ads and in a day, I will have traffic.

Navah: (14:50)
most ad platforms have what’s called a learning period. So you need to budget in at least five days, ideally 14 in order for your campaign to get ramped up. so if you are, doing that inventory checks, if you, if you’re, you’re going through all those different operational pieces, you really wanna make sure that you’ve given yourself enough time for your campaign to get set up. So if you’re expecting, or you’re getting ready for the holiday season, most of us typically will start in the summer because we make sure our feeds are set. We do all our calls in for inventory, we make sure that our shipping’s are all set, like we do all of our checks in the summer, we get all of our campaigns built so that any last minute things, that’s fine. We’re not building, in October. We’re not building in September. I mean, some people are, but they’re, they’re typically very, very stressed out .

Cindy: (15:44)
But there’s problems with, stockouts on Amazon that all needs to really get fixed.

Navah: (15:50)
Correct? Like, you’re not gonna solve that by running it on ads on Google or, or doing seo. Like you’re, if, if you have a business problem with, with your stock, if you have a business problem with your customer, support that’s not gonna magically get solved by a different channel. you wanna think about Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft Tech Talk, Snap, Instagram, any marketing communication channel as a means to convey your value to your perspective customers and your means to help them buy from you if you don’t have the product or if you don’t have the means to take the, the, their money. Like your, SSL certificate, is, is out of a date and you no longer are able to say that you’re, you are secure. Like, that’s, that’s a problem. Like you, there’s certain operational things that have to be in place.

Cindy: (16:49)
Yeah. And, and if you jump into that world, you’re basically throwing money at down the drain because,

Navah: (17:00)
Well if you jump

Cindy: (17:00)
And it’s more than just the waste of that money, you, you can kind of, damage your brand if you’re not able to support what you’re putting out there in

Navah: (17:09)
Correct. But that’s true of Amazon too. Umhmm is a, it’s a, it’s, again, this is not to say you should not advertise on Google. Obviously, I wouldn’t have built my career if, if you could, if, if Google and Microsoft and, and Facebook and all of these advertising channels are off Amazon channels weren’t useful. the big thing to remember is that if you’re solving a, a marketing communications friend than a business operations one. So if you were not able to fulfill the orders on Amazon, you need to solve that before you start looking at different channels to, to sell.

Robyn: (17:49)
One of the things that I wanted to, to ask too was, you know, when people are looking at Google and or, you know, and Microsoft trying to look at off Amazon ads, they, you know, we used to be that we had a little translation issue cuz Amazon uses a cost and then, you know, true as and Roaz are more used on the off Amazon. But now Amazon does provide some roaz information. But one thing I’d like to remind people is, is that part of, even if your roaz is the same on Google and on Amazon, you’re paying additional fees in those Amazon fees. So it’s not really an apples to apples comparison. You’re gonna have overhead too for, you know, your Shopify store and your SEO people and all of that, but just, you know, you need to think about that depending on the scale that you’re at. and how much of that gets kind of whittled down the, the fixed costs get whittled down by your volume. You need to really consider that when you’re comparing returns. and, you know, if somebody wanted to see how expensive it’s going to be, you know, on a class per click basis off Amazon, where should they get started with that

Navah: (18:56)
Places? the first is, interestingly enough, Google Ads has something called the Keyword Planner. So they’ll just tell you what auction prices are, are gonna be. another really great tool, is something called Keywords Everywhere. It’s a fantastic plugin, a $10, credit will. So you can just see the auction prices and the competitiveness, and, and ideas, for, for those different ideas. So you can just get a sense of how much those clicks are gonna cost. I also strongly, strongly recommend taking a look at tools, se rankings, Sun Rush, they all have, auction price kind of insights forecast. You don’t wanna take this as hard numbers, because like they’re, they’re, they’re doing the best that they can. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a guesstimate. but it’s, it’s, it’ll give you some, some sense. I definitely recommend, taking a look though at your, conversion ratios.

Navah: (20:06)
because there are certain channels, where if you can’t get at least say a hundred clicks in your day, you’re going to, not be able to make enough money because you need to be able to get enough clicks in your day. traditionally you’ll see shopping conversion rates, i e the person click the ad, went to the page, and then bought something. So an actual sale, is somewhere between one and 5%. That’s about where you should expect to see those conversion rates. So if you need a hundred people to yield you one sale, sometimes that means auction prices will be 35 cents. Sometimes it’ll be $7. Like, it just, it depends on what you’re selling. It depends on, how much you’re layering in certain targeting. so with, off Amazon, you don’t just target keyword concepts, you don’t just use your feed.

Navah: (21:03)
You also can target buckets of people or audiences based off of previous behavior, based off of how they’ve interacted with you, based off of what they’ve displayed as being in market for. so for example, I, I talked about my dogs earlier. I always giggle quite a bit, when people serve me cat ads, because it’s like you just did pet owner or interested in pets, Like there’s no possible way. Like, actually this is really funny. Chewy has an ad that they’ve been serving nonstop to me about a cat ordering cat litter. And the issue is, I mean, I had a cat two years ago, he passed away. I need dog things like having have a version that’s a dog. So, one of the things that, that you do wanna be mindful of with, off Amazon is that people are sensitive to how much you’re speaking to them.

Navah: (22:04)
So there, there’s a lot more showmanship, craftsmanship that goes into that creative. then with an Amazon ad. So with Amazon it’s very cut and dry. Here’s, here’s the product, here’s the, the various settings. Like here you go off Amazon, there’s a lot more that goes into, who is this person? Why do they want what they want? When are they gonna actually transact? And, and you actually get to be a little bit more,  for those of you that play board games like a worker placement game, you get to play a game a little bit more, as opposed to it being just, here’s the product I want it to serve here.

Robyn: (22:46)
I want a hundred percent agree on the creative it, you need a much stronger creative game off Amazon. And Amazon is getting there. We we’re starting to have more creative options, but you know, we’re talking like a title or an image or maybe a video. it’s, it’s a little, it’s a lot more, There’s gonna be a lot more investment that’s gonna be needed in creative you. It’s not just title in a primary product image. you’re, you’re gonna need a lot more for your campaigns. you know, and while we’re, we’re talking about things that are, you know, like kind of like the, the auction prices and what people are expecting to pay, there’s been a lot of changes that have happened in how you can target off Amazon. And so, people might be expecting, Oh, I think I’ll be able to get this return cuz that’s what my friend got a year ago. can you talk a little bit about the changes that have happened in that ecosystem and how it’s affected, you know, returns?

Navah: (23:39)
Sure. So, one of, the things that we as marketers’ kind of lost, with off Amazon, is the ability to remarket perfectly or target someone who had just been to our product and abandon the product and then show them they had exact product and follow them around the internet. We no longer can do that. or we can’t do that unless they consent to tracking cookies. so we’re now in this era of the privacy first web where you need to actually build consensual, agreements to be, sold to, to be talked to, to be tracked, with everything. So where before someone land for the site, you got them. Like there’s, you can, you can do whatever you want. Now you actually have to be interesting and creative. You have to get them to say yes. Not just to being remarketed to, but even to be, to tell you that they bought from you.

Navah: (24:33)
so with analytics, you actually have to get that like, yes, I send to cookies. and with the migration from, Universal Analytics to GE four, which is much more on what’s called conversion modeling. So after a certain percentage of certainty that the action took place as opposed to this exactly took place. so that’s a lot of technical terms to boil down to what your friend might have gotten a year ago is concrete one to one numbers. What you will have today and what you will have going into the future are the metrics reported to you from different sources might be slightly different. You wanna have a single source of truth of all of your sales that you can say, I have these sales and I am to a certain degree of certainty, confident that these, this percentage of sales came from this channel and this channel and this channel.

Navah: (25:29)
So I can say to a certain degree of certainty that my return on ad spend was X for this channel y for this channel, so and so forth. so it’s not that you’re gonna do worse than a year ago, it’s that you reporting won’t be as perfect. And that’s just the nature of the privacy web privacy first web people opting into or out of, that tracking. but then also your ability to target people is much more based off of, that consensual conversation. Now, one of the things that’s staying, and I’m very happy about this, and this is really great in e-commerce, is, is, customer match or contact lists where if someone gives you their email, their phone number, you can still, remarket to them in that way. And that works on Google, it works on Microsoft, it works on Facebook.

Navah: (26:21)
And actually Microsoft rolled back, and this is huge for people start just starting out. the minimum spend requirement to use customer match. So before it used to be 30,000, lifetime spend, Google still has the $50,000 lifetime spend, you now on Microsoft can just use your customer list from, from the get go, which is amazing by the way. because what that list allows you to do is to pre-qualify people you’re targeting exactly to those existing customers or, and this is a really good, or you’re finding similar people to that list. So if you take a big list of your, current customers who have said, Yes, I love your product, I wanna stay in the loop. I love your newsletter, blah, blah, blah, blah, and you upload that in, you are able to either target them or find similar people, find net new customers, that share those similar traits. So that’s, that’s really powerful. And then obviously on Facebook you have the look like audiences, this is a little bit jargony, but you wanna use only 1% lookalike. You don’t wanna go any further out because this, the performance is terrible outside of 1%. but yeah, it’s there. Two, two major points from that big ramble. One be okay not having perfect numbers and two, use first party data to your advantage, specifically customer or emails and phone numbers.

Robyn: (27:47)
And one things that you talked about was, so if, if you’re, if you, if you’ve not been kind of following the Google space, like you know how Amazon sometimes like turns the world upside down for us, Well they turn the world upside down for all, of Google’s advertisers. Can you talk a little bit about what’s, what was universal analytics and what is GA for? And why now might be a really good time for you to start? Cuz you might, you might get an advantage kind of by starting now,

Navah: (28:14)
Right? So, Google Analytics has been around forever. Like I, that’s, that’s what I started off learning, when, when I first got into the space. And it’s, it’s been the same. And, and to be honest, it, it needed, it needed a refresh. I’m not confident that the refresh we got is, is what we’re the happiest with, but it, it’s, it was time for a change. the core differences between universal analytics and GA for, number one is that first thing I mentioned about conversion modeling. in universal analytics you would have, concrete numbers, you would be very certain about every single thing that happened. now granted it was on you to say what you wanted to track, and it was on you to, to have those correct filters and, and to install things correctly. but you could really be fairly certain about your data.

Navah: (29:10)
With GE four, they’re migrating to that conversion modeling sense. So you’re now going to have more, again, not perfect numbers, but you’ll have that conversion modeling. You also will have sources of attribution based off of either data-driven attribution, which is the new default with Google. It’s, it’s based off of machine learning assumptions on conversions. the second one is cross-platform or cross channel. So it looks at kind of all the various sources of, how people come to you and then add first. so one of the things that I think SEOs are not as excited about what GA four is, how much GA four is kind of pushing that ad first narrative, and, and seeing that play out. But that, that is a mechanic there. the biggest reason why I would say get started with GA four now is that we have about a year to fully migrate to get our events over to, to push over all that data, to back everything up.

Navah: (30:14)
And then we have six months, from that, that cutoff date. And then we’re, we’re, we’re in into GA four. If you have not done anything with analytics yet, this is the perfect time to start learning and playing the new with the new system, because that’s what we’re gonna have. And you won’t have to relearn anything. for those of you that we’re on analytics, I strongly recommend begin the migration now start playing. You don’t have to learn it, in a day. Like take the time. We were given the time. and I also strongly recommend everyone who’s, who really needs to know this for their job as opposed to it’s nice to know it, but whatever I pay someone to, to do this work for me. for those of you that have to know it, I, I strongly recommend taking the, the certification course that Google does for analytics. I know we all make fun of the certifications and like, Oh, they’re so easy, blah, blah, blah, blah. This one’s actually really, really good. and it does a really good job of walking you through all of the various differences, changes, terminology. Cause I, I’m, I’m not gonna try to make a full explanation at G four in this webinar or in this podcast, but, definitely, definitely take that course and I’ll, I’ll send you a link that you can include with the podcast.

Narrator: (31:35)
Thank you for listening to the process to e-com profits podcast. Make sure you subscribe to get updates for new episodes. Leave a review and one lucky winner. Each month will win a one hour call with your choice of our hosts, a value of over $300. Keep listening to Hear the winner announced on the first show of the month. You can contact our hosts by using the Contact us form at process to e-com profits.com. You can also find the contact information of our hosts and show guests in the show notes for each episode.

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