The State of eCommerce Roundtable

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Our biggest challenge is understanding what exactly is going on at Amazon and other retail partner sites such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.”

– Yves Le Breton, Global e-Retail Development, Revlon

Amazon has “figured out the science of converting shoppers to buyers” and is now emerging as a major contender in the battle for brands’ ad dollars, according to Stephen Kraus, Ph.D., head of digital insights at Jumpshot, who opened up a roundtable discussion about the state of eCommerce in New York City. Facebook and Google are no longer a duopoly for online advertising dollars. Amazon has entered the arena in a big way, and it’s now officially a triopoly. 

The event brought together high-profile industry players, major brands, retailers and journalists to discuss the overall eCommerce landscape and how smart marketers can take advantage of, better compete and win in a “new world order” where Amazon completely dominates with its global footprint and the data it collects; providing it with an unfair advantage, according to some experts in the room. 

Key influencers gathered from companies including 33Across, Business Insider, Johnson & Johnson, Jumpshot, LiveRamp, Magna Global, MullenLowe, Revlon and Yahoo Finance participated in a candid conversation during the event guided by Charlene Li, a best-selling author, analyst, entrepreneur and a board member of Jumpshot. 

Some of the key takeaways: 

  • Brands must understand and navigate an increasingly complex path-to-purchase and they’re frustrated by a lack of insights they can garner about buying behaviors on eCommerce sites. 
  • Many in the room thought that Amazon has an unfair data advantage, including the ability to create its own private-label brands based on a vast trove of insights it has at its disposal. 
  • Internet-savvy consumers are changing how they search for products online. The keywords being used are more conversational; people are using more natural language and searching for specific, immediate-gratification benefits such as “near me,” “open now,” and “tonight.”
  • There are two general types of digital customer journeys. One is for “utilitarian” offerings – products that are practical, low in cost and characterized by a lack of emotional engagement or brand preferences. Utilitarian offerings inspire “basic” customer journeys –  concise paths-to-purchase, often beginning and ending quickly on Amazon, with few “side trips” to do research, evaluate options or explore brand distinctions. Research, which is typically minimal, occurs most frequently on Amazon and is centered around generic search terms.  
  • In more “branded economies,” the path-to-purchase is longer, more circuitous and much less Amazon-centric. Consumers often begin their journey with branded searches on Google, followed by visits to brand sites, publishers, research sources and/or social media. Often a visit is made to Amazon, but mostly for a quick price/availability check, followed by a return to a branded site or another retailer for purchase. Amazon has a stranglehold on the utilitarian economy, but struggles (at least by their standards) in a more branded economy.  

Big “Blackbox” Challenge: Brands Don’t Understand Consumer Behaviors 

When Li opened the roundtable discussion about the biggest challenges facing brands today, it was immediately clear that a majority of brands want a deeper understanding of what competitors are doing and there was a bothersome “elephant in the room”: Amazon’s massive data advantage. 

Our biggest challenge is understanding what exactly is going on at Amazon and other retail partner sites such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. With Jumpshot data insights, we finally have more visibility into what’s going on and we can make both small and strategic adjustments to improve. 

Yves Le Breton, Global e-Retail Development, Revlon

Amazon is finding all the big niche opportunities and because they own all the data; they know what to focus on to take market share away from competitors.” 

Josef Sperzel, VP Director, SEO, MullenLowe

Now that Amazon is coming up with its own products based on what people want, they’re cannibalizing us. Google is still just search, but Amazon is now R&D search. And, the bottom line is:  Amazon is still the player you need to work with. 

Yves Le Breton, Global e-Retail Development, Revlon

It’s a Three-Horse Race: Amazon vs. Google vs. Walmart 

We were doubling down on Google Search several years ago, but now with Amazon more focused on editorial content like its “Best Of” content, more people than ever are searching on Amazon.”

Cristina Marinucci, eCommerce Insights & Analytics, North American Lead, Johnson & Johnson

We’re being forced to consider taking money away from Google or think of partnering with other retail partners to get more traffic. Certainly, having access to Jumpshot data insights has gotten us to a more level playing field with Amazon as the landscape becomes more competitive. 

Yves Le Breton, Global e-Retail Development, Revlon

One thing we’ve not discussed yet is the social aspect and a whole emerging category that Amazon doesn’t touch today: influencers. Many of us buy something we decide is cool because the person who’s sporting it online is cool.” 

Lauren Bernard, VP Digital Innovation and Strategy, Magna Global 

Someone needs to argue for Google. While Amazon is definitely winning in a big way for the utilitarian economy products arena that Steve introduced at the top of the discussion, Google is still researched more for branded products today.” 

Deren Baker, Chief Executive Officer, Jumpshot 

The Retail Apocalypse: Are Brick-and-Mortar Stores Doomed? 

This past year, we’ve seen lots of major retailers closing stores, going bankrupt, etc. From Sears to Toys R Us, it’s been a challenge for many brick-and-mortar retailers to remain competitive. Li closed the roundtable discussion by asking participants if players with a brick-and-mortar presence still have advantages. Certainly, Amazon is not shying away from physical store locations. 

The reason Amazon is buying brick-and-mortar stores is that some products are geared towards emotional shoppers who also want to touch and feel them before they purchase. Certainly, the fashion and health & beauty categories fit into this category.” 

Lauren Bernard, VP Digital Innovation and Strategy, Magna Global 

The brick-and-mortar retailers that survive will understand and experiment with shoppers who are on a distress vs. a discovery trip. Certainly, Sephora is growing like crazy because people want to sample products and experience brands in person.” 

Cristina Marinucci, eCommerce Insights & Analytics, North American Lead, Johnson & Johnson

When it comes to women’s make-up foundation, female shoppers are extremely loyal. Certainly, scents and colognes are hard to do online. Depending on the product category, consumers prefer to do discovery in person. With better data insights, thanks to Jumpshot, we’re able to figure out what Netflix shows women watch who prefer red lipstick and target them with ads during those shows.” 

Yves Le Breton, Global e-Retail Development, Revlon

Download the full data report that Jumpshot previewed during this roundtable here
Watch the full industry event here. 
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