Margin of Opportunity

What is the best way to increase your margins as a merchant? Sell your own merchandise. Quartz as an interesting piece on Amazon’s “secret” plans for private merchandise:

Trawling through over 800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Quartz identified 19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com.

The key strategy behind private label brands is this however:

Perhaps what Amazon is trying to do as it rapidly expands into new businesses—especially business areas where it might not have forged partnerships with well-known brands—is to give the impression to customers that there are tons of options to choose from, when in fact, they’re really just choosing between different Amazon brands. “Consumers pay a premium for a brand, that’s why they’re not store-generic,” DiMassimo suggested.

Retailers have long adopted a multifaceted brand approach to retailing – think Zara plus Massimo Dutti, Oyosho, Bershka etc or HM plus COS, Cheap Monday or indeed pretty much any other major retailer these days. As above, it’s about generating margin whilst at the same time, presenting a feeling of choice.

Read the full piece

Amazon’s PR Genius

“Our teams remain heads-down and focused on customers,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “In the last few months, we launched Echo Show (our newest Echo device with a video screen), introduced calling and messaging via Alexa on all Echo devices, debuted Inside Edgeon Prime Video (the first of 18 Indian Original Series), introduced Amazon Channels in both the U.K. and Germany, launched four new Fire tablets, expanded Amazon Fresh to Germany, launched Prime Now in Singapore, launched our 25th airplane with Prime Air, hired more than 30,000 new employees, opened three new Amazon Books stores, launched more than 400 significant AWS features and services, migrated more than 7,000 databases using AWS Database Migration Service, and held our third annual Prime Day — signing up more Prime members than ever before. It’s energizing to invent on behalf of customers, and we continue to see many high-quality opportunities to invest.”

Jeff Bezos comments on Amazon’s 2017 Q2 earnings. This idea ‘to invent on behalf of customers’ works out more often than not for Amazon, we see AWS, Kindle etc as proof of that. But what people often overlook is the public relations genius of Bezos and Amazon in these situations.

Remember Prime Air drones on 60 minutes? Or the orange Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva) robots we see in the warehouses? Or how about Zappos and their famous customer service? Many of these will be loss making – perhaps indefinitely – but what they do for Amazon is priceless. They give them press, more often than not at the expense of other retailers and increasingly, other firms in general.

Not everyone can make splashy purchases like Whole Foods or The Washington Post, but as an entrepreneur, you can always think of creative ways to get press.

Behavioural psychology > Cosmetic changes

Behavioural psychology > Cosmetic changes…that’s what a new report on Ecommerce by Qubit claims. Now, the company it has to be said has somewhat of a play here selling behavioural technology. According to the company, “Qubit’s technology prioritizes the biggest opportunities for revenue generation so you can deliver personalization that makes an impact”. Yeah.

Regardless of this, the report itself is well worth your time. *Spoiler Alert*…these were the key findings in order of importance:

  1. Scarcity
  2. Social proof
  3. Abandonment recovery
  4. Product recommendations
This figures; some of the most successful ecommerce stores are classic examples of these e.g. Amazon’s product recommendations. Perhaps but not totally unsurprising is scarcity – this very concept is winning offline (Zara, HM etc). What’s worked for your ecommerce store? Let us know in the comments.

A Primer on Sourcing

What sets a successful production run apart from the rest is a company’s initiative to engage with a manufacturer while maintaining their relationship. If you’ve been looking to start producing your products overseas, it’s about time you tried. What are you waiting for!

Nathan Resnick has written an excellent piece on sourcing goods from China that can be applied to any business (regardless of sourcing country).

Go to A Better Lemonade Stand to read more.

The Extraordinary Effectiveness of SMS Coupons

The-Extraordinary-Effectiveness-of-SMS-Coupons

This is a guest post by Orla Forrest of Neon SMS, an SMS Marketing company (http://www.neonsms.ie/).

Marketing campaigns are measured not by how cool or flashy they seem, but by how much money they recoup for the company and whether the investment in the campaign is made back through customer engagement. Therefore, any decisions regarding the execution of the campaign need to be made carefully. For instance, the success or the failure campaign could boil down to the selection of medium through which it is executed.

That will depend on the specifics of the campaign and its target market, but by and large, SMS proves to be the most successful channel by a distance. Its average peak redemption rate is a staggering 85%, which is more than four times greater than any alternative channel, so SMS is a proven winner.

What makes it such an attractive medium for ecommerce? Its convenience is a major plus point, as customers will get the message on their phone and know exactly how to redeem the coupon. The timeframe from the sending of the coupon to its redemption is far shorter than with other channels, as people will have their phones on them the whole time and redemption is usually as quick as sending a short code or keyword. Email, by contrast, tends to go over people’s heads and be ignored, while paper coupons just seem old-fashioned and can easily be left at home by mistake. Your phone, on the other hand, always makes it out the door with you.

For ecommerce providers devising an SMS coupon campaign, the key is in its simplicity. Make it as easy and quick as possible for customers to redeem the coupon, or else they probably won’t bother. Be sensible about the timing and frequency of delivery, too. Send it during evening downtimes rather than first thing in the morning when people are at their busiest at work. Messaging customers once a week is usually the best balance between consistent engagement and not flooding them with messages to the point of nuisance.

Chewy Acquired by PetSmart

In a deal announced by the best ecommerce reporter, Jason Del Rey, Chewy.com has been acquired by PetsSmart for over $3 billion. Yes, billion. Similar to the recent Walmart purchase of Jet.com, is this nuts?

Forbes recently wrote about the company, of particular interest:

One pet industry veteran, who says he knows three people who are familiar with Chewy’s finances, doubts the company will reach profitability. He says Chewy’s average sale is $75, its average margin after discounts 30% and its average cost of delivery–which Chewy offers for free on orders of more than $49–around $12. A competitor estimates that Chewy’s customer-acquisition cost could run as high as $200 per first sale, given that the company pays to appear at the top of Google searches for each of the hundreds of brands it carries. “The bottom line is that Chewy is incredibly predatory, and they’re willing to lose money to grow their volume,” says the industry veteran.

So, it’s likely Chewy, like Jet, is unprofitable and will be for some time if not ever. But co-founder Ryan Cohen says he is convinced that e-commerce will eventually take at least 50% of total pet product sales and that Chewy will log more than $5 billion in revenue by 2020.

Potential. That’s the price paid by PetSmart and others for what perhaps the future of ecommerce and retail will look like in a few years.