Shawn Lipman is the CEO at Feedonomics with years of experience in finance, leadership, and general management. As an accomplished entrepreneur, Shawn has started and sold a diverse set of companies in the technology, healthcare, real estate, and entertainment space. He is passionate about eCommerce and the role that technology can play in enabling successful online initiatives.
What does the future of commerce look like to you and your company?
There’s been a revolutionary change from brick and mortar to a more omnichannel approach. You also see a proliferation of marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Even Google and Facebook are getting in the mix, along with more niche marketplace players like Wayfair, Houzz, and Zappos. All of this has laid the foundation for new emerging companies to enter the space at a rapid rate.
Feedonomics is at the epicenter of this change. Internet retailers depend on us to manage, optimize, syndicate and provision the underlying product data on an omnichannel basis. Furthermore, we have with the ability to deal with the data at scale and with speed.
When we talk about commerce, a few buzzwords come to mind: seamless & frictionless tend to be two of them. What do you think are the most important things for a brand to keep in mind when fine tuning their retail and commerce strategy?
Data is the key. It’s important that you pay attention to your brand’s digital touchpoints, making sure you double-check your product feed optimization and ensuring that your product listings are as relevant as possible, which in turn improves the user experience and leads to a higher amount of sales.
It’s critical for eCommerce businesses to invest in this new data-driven approach so that they can gain an edge over their competitors.
What role does data play in shaping the future of commerce for your brand?
Data is at the cornerstone of everything you do. With respect to search, it is all about relevancy. Let’s say that you want to start running, but you don’t necessarily know which brand or model shoe you want to get yet. At this point, your search term will just be “running shoes.”
After you do some research, your search terms will change to become far more detailed, which is also indicative that you are further along in that buying journey. A search like “Nike Air Max Shoe Size 12 Blue” is far more likely to convert than just “running shoes.” At the heart of it, it’s all about relevancy, and making sure the way you structure your product data is similar to the way users search for it. The consequences of not doing it are 1) You won’t show up at all and 2) If you do show up, you will need to bid/spend more than you needed to.
Structuring the data and having the ability to take flat data and optimize it to ensure broader attribute insertion will give brands a better chance of their product being found lower down in the purchase funnel. The “set it and forget it” approach to data management will not and does not work anymore. Ongoing optimization and iteration is critical to succeeding on all these marketing channels.
Personalization is a major focus for brands when it comes to capturing consumer attention & basket share. How do you address personalization through your channels, especially in an increasingly complex and fragmented marketplace?
Every channel is different, and the data you send to the different channels should be optimized differently. You can’t have a one-size fits all approach, so you need the right technology and understanding of each channel to ensure that you’re optimizing for success.
The way you send your data to Google is different than the way you send it to Facebook or Amazon. On Facebook, if you’re a fashion retailer, and your products are all vertical rectangular images, it won’t look good, and Facebook is an incredibly visual channel. So you might want to add image padding to make those rectangular images square.
Amazon is also interesting, because there is a lot of strategy when it comes to product landing pages. When you deal with child products or variants, like shirt sizes or colors, Amazon groups all the reviews for those products. So you need to ensure that you are sending your data feeds over to them properly.
As transparency becomes a larger demand from both consumers & your partners, how do you address transparency in your services and work?
By providing full access to clients to see what has happened to their data. In other words, providing a view to their raw and transformed data, making logs available, and using a system that allows ALL communications between client and us to be captured and transparent to all stakeholders. Email strings and messages do not allow for proper transparency and accountability.
What are the largest challenges you find your company coming up against, and what challenges do you feel will hit the commerce marketplace in the next 12-18 months? How do you recommend tackling them head-on?
The proliferation of Marketplaces means more players are getting in the game. Companies that traditionally were not specifically focused on syndication in an omnichannel environment are having to add those capabilities to the feature stack.
Players like eCommerce carts, PIMs and inventory management providers are looking to provide solutions to support product syndication.
The way to combat it is to ensure that we remain the domain experts and keep our technology roadmap ahead of the competition – old and new. Just as it would be difficult for us to become a viable eCommerce cart or shipping management technology, it is equally as hard for them to do what we do as well.
“The other key differentiator is human expertise. No matter how much you automate, clients need technology partners that stand shoulder to shoulder with them in solving complex problems and providing excellent service. This is easier said than done. Many technology providers do all they can to create distance between their clients. We do all we can to be as close as possible.”
What are the trends you see percolating in the space over the next year or two? What do you think commerce will look like in 2020 as a result? Who do you see doing it right and what are the learnings marketers can glean from it?
The biggest trend we are seeing is the migration of Marketplace providers to becoming Paid Search platforms, like we see with Amazon Marketing Services, and then traditional Paid Search Channels looking to become Marketplaces, like Google with Google Shopping Actions and Facebook looking to articulate a Marketplace experience. This is clouding the traditional approaches and competencies of performance marketers who are all having to figure out how they can support their clients with an offering that very recently was not within their competency or part of their financial model.
The Marketplaces want to ensure they can capture their share of the pay per click spend and the Pay Per Click Channels want to ensure that they keep their purchaser in their universe.
One of the early adopters for Google Shopping Actions was a company called AMBUSH who sell wakeboards and surf boards. They saw a 2x increase in revenue on Google and return on spend by participating with both the pay per click and marketplace offering.
The agencies that figure out how to support this hybrid will do well but will have to rethink their historic percentage of adspend mindset.
For brands looking to make the future today when it comes to retail and commerce, what are your recommended best practices based on your experiences?
The same way you wouldn’t have a “set it and forget it” approach for campaign and bid management, you can’t have a “set it and forget it” approach for product data and feeds.
Other key processes include: ongoing optimization, A/B testing, and different approaches for different channels.
Brian Roizen is the Cofounder and Chief Architect of Feedonomics, a full-service feed optimization platform that optimizes product data for hundreds of channels. He has been featured on numerous podcasts and eCommerce webinars, and regularly contributes to Search Engine Land and other industry-leading blogs. Brian graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.