Feedonomics Expert Interview: Sandie Shin of Sidecar

Sandie Shin is a Director of Customer Strategy at Sidecar with years of experience in strategy, analytics, and social media. She started her career in Los Angeles in the fashion industry where she oversaw digital marketing strategies. Since then she has worked in a broad range of digital projects from brand awareness to direct response campaigns. Her love for marketing, data and people helps her provide maximum value to Sidecar’s clients and help them become profitable and scale with long-term sustainable results.

What major changes have you seen across the e-commerce digital marketing landscape in the last few years?

I think one thing that’s really changed a lot is personalization. I think that there’s been this obsession with data and trying to understand as much about your customers as possible. And that has really helped e-commerce retailers accomplish more advanced segmentation and understand how to craft unique messages for those different audience segments.

This focus on data-driven insights, in part, has led to better personalization. Retailers that have mastered the art of personalization are reshaping the industry.

Are there any retailers that come to mind that you think are doing personalization well?

I think any big retailers that we can think of have come a long way in terms of email segmentation and personalization and continue to evolve their strategies. They really understand the audience and who the VIP customers are. They know how to provide the proper offers that can drive those high-value customers back to the site and convert.

In earlier marketing, it was just about mass-market advertising, like billboards, catalogs, etc., and if you caught the consumer’s attention, that was enough. But now, everyone is really focused on trying to send the right message to the right people, at the right time, to the right device. It’s become more segmented. But with all the data that retailers have collected, I think it’s making it possible for digital marketers to focus their marketing efforts and provide that personalization.

What advice do you have for brands advertising on Google Shopping or Amazon?

For retail marketers who have never advertised on Google Shopping or Amazon, I’d recommend starting with Google Shopping. It’s easier to set up and there’s very little cost for the retailer. For Amazon, it’s a lot like eBay where you have commission fees and you have to pay to be on their marketplace.

Retailers also need to consider their brand identity and customer experience when advertising on platforms like Google Shopping and Amazon. The retailer’s brand is much less prominent on a marketplace like Amazon, and retailers are not able to control the customer experience. Consumers often assume they’re buying from Amazon and become loyal to shopping on Amazon, as opposed to becoming loyal to the retailer.

On the other hand, Google Shopping gives more prominence to the retailer and strong retailer brands tend to have an advantage on this channel. In the same vein, retailers are able to keep tighter control on their customer experience through Google Shopping ads.

Retailers with little brand recognition, looking to nurture a following may find value in advertising on Amazon to reach a wider customer audience. Retailers with widely recognized brands may be more inclined to advertise on Google Shopping.

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What advice do you have for retailers who want to start selling on Google Shopping?

Before you begin advertising on Google Shopping, develop a strategy that’s tailored to your business. Understand the different segments in your catalog. For example, if profits are your main goal, you may want to group together high margin products and bid those product segments higher than low margin product segments. Or, maybe your goals are to grow new customer acquisition. Then focus greater spend on your bestsellers that have been most effective at attracting new shoppers. Depending on your business goals, you can slice and dice your product catalog on Google Shopping in a number of ways.

A best practice we’ve found is to develop branded and non-branded campaigns when you’re on Google Shopping, and understand how those different types of campaigns fit in the marketing funnel. Consumers who use branded search queries are often lower funnel and those clicks tend to be less expensive. Non-branded searches are typically upper funnel and can be costly, but they can be very important for brand awareness. I think that it’s important for retailers to look at different targets when they’re trying to reach an upper funnel versus lower funnel audience.

Where do you see the digital marketing landscape for e-commerce going in the next few years?

I think that we’re going to see smarter use of cross-channel data as retailers continue marketing and selling across multiple online platforms. Retailers are marketing on Google Shopping, on Paid Search, and on Amazon. They need to understand how these channels work together to drive the ultimate sale. That means finding an attribution model and technology that can track touches across platforms and doesn’t just give credit to the last touch. Today’s sales journey is much more complicated than in the early days of e-commerce.

There’s also going to be more focus on trying to understand cross-device conversions. Right now, it’s almost impossible to track when someone viewed a product on mobile and then purchased it on desktop. That’s a big problem because shoppers are increasingly using a variety of devices to make purchases, and retailers don’t have the best to connect their data and visualize that journey. I think that will be one of the biggest challenges in the next few years that retailers and solutions providers will need to tackle in order to fully understand the customer journey.

What is one of the best or the most worthwhile investments that you’ve made?

When I went to college, I studied interior design. I was so sure that that was going to be my career path. But it didn’t take long after joining the program for me to realize that I hated it. Despite graduating with a degree in interior design, I knew that I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life. I decided to make a career switch and went into fashion doing sales and marketing.

I had to start over again, essentially. But I think starting over was one of the best time investments that I’ve made. By going with my gut and taking a big leap of faith, I’ve ended up where I am now, and I love what I do.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter digital marketing?

Digital marketing is an industry that changes so fast that it’s difficult for a college marketing program to keep pace. Although education is really important, the degree isn’t the only factor that will lead you to your ideal job in digital marketing. If you’re interested in pursuing this career path, get out there and intern, volunteer, or find a mentor. In this industry, it’s your passion to learn and your ability to learn something new every single day that is going to take you far.

My mentor really helped me get started in this career. She taught me how to be analytical. I was able to ask her a lot of questions about the industry, and she guided me to the right resources.

That’s another unique thing about digital marketing: there are so many free resources out there. Whether those are blogs, podcasts, or just anything you can get your hands on. Those things will help you continue to learn even after you graduate.

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