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Building a Successful Multichannel Ecommerce Business

An interview with Michael Begg

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, we have Michael Begg, co-founder of AMZ Advisers. Dawood Bukhari got Michael to talk about his powerful advertising strategies, and effective practices to keep up with the trends in eCommerce. Watch Michael share his experience of growing sales for a brand from about $10,000 a month to $75,000 a month within six months.

The two best ways to get most from your marketing budget are bid optimization and keyword segmentation.

Michael Begg
CO-FOUNDER OF AMZ ADVISERS
Hello everyone today we have with us Michael Begg, co-founder at AMZ Advisors. Michael, thank you so much for doing the show today. I know you're not well, I appreciate you coming on the show and not rescheduling.

Thank you for having me. I’m glad to share my experience. My arm doesn’t work, but my voice still does. So I’m glad to talk as much as I can.

I appreciate that. Mike, as an agency, you work with a lot of E-commerce stores. You focus a lot on Amazon, advertising, Amazon SEO, and even help E-com stores expand as well. But before we dive down deep into E-Comm, Amazon, and your experiences, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and your company to our viewers.

Of course. I’m Mike. I’m one of the founders of AMZ Advisors. Our company has been around for about seven and a half years now. And what we do is we specialize in helping brands and manufacturers sell more on the Amazon platform primarily but in E-commerce, in general. We have three different locations, one in the US, one in Mexico, and one in Brazil. And we have about 45 employees in total. And we help with everything from as you said, SEO and Amazon content creation, graphic design, storefront creation, wherever it may be. The advertising and marketing strategy to help your brand grow. And then also on global expansion, we help a lot of brands move into Latin America through Amazon, as well as other platforms like Mercado Libre.

Mike, what are the biggest trends in E-commerce that you see right now?

I think it’s a common trend across any platform if we look at it over time. When we think about the Amazon platform, the cost of advertising and the cost per click continues to rise over time. More and more big multinational brands have started putting more advertising dollars into the platform, pushing up a lot of that cost. And we saw that start with lockdowns during the COVID period and it’s continued since like a lot of brands have seen success. So as advertising costs continue to increase on Amazon, people are going to continue to look for other opportunities to maximize their Ad budget, which is why we’ve seen a lot of success with Tik Tok advertising, for example, or other platforms, possibly like Pinterest. So I think one of the trends is constantly looking for a new cheaper source of traffic, to drive the traffic to whatever it is your storefront, your website, your Amazon listings, or whatever platform you’re trying to achieve. I think the biggest trend that we’re seeing is cost-conscious brands trying to maximize their advertising budget.

You talked about Tik Tok, there are so many marketing channels out there and it's not that every marketing channel will work for every brand. And it depends on the industry, the brand, and the budget. When you go about choosing a marketing channel, what is your strategy and how do you decide which channel to go after?

We start with trying to figure out the product-market fit. And then from there, we look at what platforms are available to us to try to put the product in front of the right audience. So for example, if it’s a product that’s more catered to women, a great platform to use is Pinterest, because Pinterest has an 80% audience of women. Tik Tok can also be good because it has a factor of virality right now, but it also has a younger female audience as well as male. So again, it depends on the product. Are there examples of products that might be, pet products that might do well on Pinterest and Tiktok. It may also do well on Instagram. So we look at what the product is and where we think we can get them the biggest return on investment there. And then outside of that, it’s just a matter of; are there certain markets or certain countries or marketplaces that might be less competitive for this type of product or might provide a long-term benefit? So like I said, we specialize a lot in helping people get into Latin America. We also do a lot of work in Asia. So we look at where can we help your brand grow not only in the US but where can we help your brand grow internationally to maximize visibility over time?

Mike, any favorite eCommerce platform?

Amazon is a big favorite of ours. I started as an Amazon seller and my two partners started as Amazon sellers. And then we grew from there. It provides a massive opportunity to anyone launching a brand, although the market is continuing to mature, and you see more and more household name brands coming into the platform if they’re not there already. But when it comes to a visibility standpoint, there’s no easier way to put your product in front of potential customers, than the Amazon platform. It’s already where everyone’s going to find products. And now it’s just a matter of Alright, can I run the right ads or focus on the right keywords or the right audiences, or whatever it may be to try to put this product in front of the right person?  The other platform that I’m a big fan of right now is Mercado Libre. We’ve seen some real success in Mexico. We’re also seeing some success in Colombia, Chile, and Brazil, with the Mercado Libre platform. So that’s another area that we focus on a lot.

How is Amazon advertising different from Google paid advertising?

From Functionality-wise, there are some differences. At the basic level, they’re mainly keyword-based advertising, which makes the functionality similar between the platforms.  They each have additional features with display, ad targeting, and audiences, things like that. I think the biggest difference between the two platforms, though, is the intent of the people you’re reaching. So if I’m advertising on Google, I’m not necessarily finding people or putting my product in front of people that have high buying intent right now, versus if I’m advertising on Amazon when they came to Amazon to find a product, or to buy a product, or to learn more about a product or a category, whatever it may be. And these people have a lot higher buying intent. So comparing the two platforms, I’m more likely to convert people with my Amazon advertising than I probably am with my Google advertising. And I may see a better realize or a better a-cost on the Amazon side than I would see on Google. And that may determine where I want to spend more of my money on the advertising side. So I would say that’s probably the biggest difference between the two platforms.

What would make more sense expanding to more marketing channels, or expanding your product line?

 I think it depends a lot on the product and the brand. If you have a very well-known brand, or a very large and loyal brand following. I think product line expansion provides a good opportunity to remarket to people that have purchased your product, that love your product, that is potentially raving fans of your product and get them to purchase again.  Operational wise, it may be easier to expand to a new marketplace instead of having to develop a new product. Both of them take time. But expanding marketplace channels can be a  much easier process for most brands. I would say that it depends on where you are right now in your journey as a brand.

When you create an advertising strategy for a client, what does your process look like?

There are a lot of different steps in it. The first basic step is qualitative and quantitative. So quantitative- What does our data look like on whatever the platform is? Whether it’s Shopify, Amazon, or Mercado Libre? How are we converting? How much traffic are we getting? What can be realistic goals? And then qualitative- How do our product listings look? How is the customer shopping experience of UX when they come and hit the platform or the page or whatever it may be? Can we do anything there to improve it? I think those are the two fundamentals because that will guide a lot of the strategy of what else you will be able to do. So for example, we’ll start there. Usually, that gives you a good indication of the main products?  What products have the most potential?  What are the highest converting products? And then from there, we’ll start building out the advertising strategy around. How can we get more placements on the highest search volume keywords that are converting for this product or that are relevant for this product? And then can I test these keywords from there? That’s just the initial start of an advertising game plan. And it gets you up and running on the way and then from there, especially with Amazon. There are so many iterations between keyword segmentation, targeting segmentation, sponsored brands, and then segmentation within that. And then audience targeting and retargeting with a sponsor display side. We could talk for a long time about different opportunities or potential for marketing strategies within Amazon, but the fundamentals start with- What does the data look like? How’s my product converting? Where are people going? And then how does my product look? What’s the customer experience? Would I buy this? Or would anyone as a customer be interested in purchasing this product from the way my listing curtain looks?

What are your go-to tools?

There’s a lot. So a couple of tools that we’ve been a big fan of lately, especially for the Amazon ZombiU group. We like a lot of the research features and some of the other software features they have. On the advertising side, we’re a big fan of the intent-wise platform that gives us a lot of ability to customize their own rules and optimize for specific goals or campaign strategies that we’re trying to achieve. And then, going back to some of the more well-known tools, I’d probably say Helium 10 is another valuable tool for the Amazon platform. With Mercado Libre, it’s a little bit harder. But those are probably some of the main tools that we use.

How important is the PPC audit and how do you do it?

So, the PPC audit is going to help us determine a lot of what our marketing strategy is going to be going forward. It comes in a variety of different ways that we perform it. But essentially, we look at, what the keywords are, or how the campaigns are currently structured? And then see if we can structure them better. So we always recommend doing one product per ad group, or one parent listing with similar variations per ad group to segment the products and segment the keyword data. So if that’s not there, we start by restructuring the existing advertising campaigns to be better suited to the structure that we prefer. It gives us better data segmentation; we can tie keyword performance or product performance to specific advertising goals. That’s extremely important. From there, then it’s looking at how are our keywords segmented? So do we have High search volume keywords with low search volume keywords? Do we have longtail keywords with short keywords that are high traffic? If we’re putting high traffic or high volume search terms with other keywords that don’t have as much high volume, those higher volume keywords will suffocate those other keywords. They’re going to take all of the ad spend and all of the budget. So it’s important for us to also segment the keywords based on the match type and based on the search volume. And we’ll essentially create multiple campaigns if we need to, for using phrase exact match or broad match to segment that out. From there, also are we doing our keyword research? So do we have automated campaigns harvesting keywords within the Amazon platform and giving us more data that we can use or leverage to reach customers in new ways? And then again, it’s using this same strategy and expanding responsive brands after that. And then sponsored products after that. So, it really starts with structure, making sure everything’s done correctly, and then having the proper segmentation. And then from there, it’s going to take time, it’s going to take testing, what are the right bids that maximize my impressions and maximize my click-through rate? And that’s a constantly ongoing process once you’ve started doing the advertising.

What are the most common mistakes people make while doing keyword research, especially on Amazon?

That’s a tough one. I think the most common mistakes would be including unrelated products in your keyword research or loosely related products. I think the main thing you want to focus on when you’re doing keyword research for Amazon is what are the most closely related products to what my product is? Who are my direct competitors? And what keywords can I get from their products? If I start going a little too broad with a loose match or with loosely related keywords, I will get a lot of keywords that maybe won’t convert or maybe it’s a stretch, but it’ll convert. And likewise, with product targeting, I don’t want to go too far on the loose side to get complimentary products or something I want to avoid. I wouldn’t do keyword research using complementary products. I would just focus on exactly who my direct competitors are and what keywords they’re leveraging and then try to leverage that keyword research for my advertising.

What are the other important things to look at apart from keywords you feel a lot of people miss?

The other non-advertising data things to look at again are a little bit more qualitative. How does my image look compared to my competitor’s images? Are they doing anything within their copy that might make sense for us or within their images that might be something we want to replicate? And then the price point is also a pretty significant one to consider. How is my competitor significantly underpriced? Is my competitor significantly higher priced? Both of those will impact your click-through rate and your conversion rate, which is going to affect your advertising performance. And once you kind of have a bigger understanding of what those, I would say non, advertising data points are. You can use that information to your advantage while managing and growing your advertising campaigns.

Best practices for creating the product listing copy on Amazon, and what does your process look like?

It starts with doing thorough keyword research. Again, we’re focused mainly on who the direct competitors are? What keywords they have, leveraging that keyword information, and then identifying the highest search volume keywords within that keyword set. The best practices that we focus on are using as many of the top volume keywords as you can within the title, and then ordering the rest of your keyword usage throughout the bullet points and description and backend search terms based on what you’re seeing in the search volume list. With the backend search terms, we recommend doing keyword deduplication. So not putting the same keywords over and over. If you use them in the front end, don’t use them in the back end. You can even duplicate the phrases to get the exact keywords and allow Amazon to start indexing us for related keywords in the search term field. And then with the bullet points, we recommend short concise bullet points. I think if you get a little bit too crazy with length, it doesn’t provide that much value. Especially on the mobile platform with Amazon because no one even sees your bullet points anymore. And that brings me to the last point. The other best practice is to use your main selling points are the main benefits to your consumer, within your images. Use text overlays on your other images other than your main image to call out the main features of the product. Because again, on the mobile platform, people see your images first. On search result pages, you can click through the images before clicking on a product. So calling out the main features and the main benefits is extremely important for getting people to your page now.

What are the main issues with scaling these businesses?

The main issue, or there’s a bunch, but I would say the main issue is lack of investment. I think a lot of brands have a set budget in mind or set efficiency target that they want to hit. They want to hit a cost of 20% or 15%. They want to not spend more than you know, $2,000 or $5,000 a month. I think a lot of it focuses on your actual growth potential. If I limit myself to 20% of the cost, I can’t be as aggressive on more competitive keywords. This means that I’m losing out market share to other competitors that are being more aggressive. So a cost, I realize, is a little bit of a misleading metric on the Amazon platform. It depends on what your goals are for growth. If you just want to make money, you just want to be profitable, you’re concerned with growing your brand, then targeting a lower cost is fine. But I often think there’s a disconnect between what brands say they want to achieve and what they’re trying to do to achieve that.

Any tips you would give to help manage the advertising budget better?

And I think one of the tips I said before was proper keyword segmentation. You want to make sure that you aren’t suffocating keywords that have potential. You want to make sure your longer tail keywords have the opportunity to spend since the row highs on those are probably going to be higher than a lot of your higher search volume keywords. They’re going to be a little bit less competitive. The cost per click will be lower on those than you’ll see on the higher search volume keywords. I think that’s a big way to start managing your budgets better. With higher search volume keywords, it comes down to granular bid management. With each product, there’s more than likely that there will probably be only a few High search volume keywords. So going in there and seeing how your bid changes every day and how that affects the impressions it gets or how it affects the A costs. Whatever metrics you’re prioritizing becomes a lot more manageable when you just know that these are my High search volume campaigns, so let me start getting a little more granular with this. So bid optimization and keyword segmentation are probably the two ways to get the most out of your budget.

Mike, tell us your favorite client story.

My favorite client story? I think this is an interesting story. So I had a client who worked with us for about a year and a half. We took her brand from about $10,000 a month and got them up to about $75,000 a month within about six months, and they thought that everything was smooth sailing from there. They’re like; “you know what, we can handle this on our own, we’re going to stop working with you”. And they ended up leaving and in six months, their sales kept dropping off. They fell back down to about 20,000 because they weren’t managing the platform closely enough. I think this is one of the great benefits of working with an agency or with an E-commerce expert that can help you achieve your goals. But to make a long story short, they ended up coming back to us after six months. Admitting that they were incapable of doing it. And from there, we scaled their brand up to about $400,000 a month in sales. So it’s a great feeling when someone comes back. And they’re willing to keep giving it a shot. So I think that’s probably one of my favorite client story.

Recommendations for Amazon, new sellers.

I think it’s,. It’s Tough right now on Amazon. I think finding a lot of other traffic sources outside the Amazon platform to get more people to your listing is probably one of the priorities you should have. If you have great SEO on the Amazon platform, if you have great images that will convert customers, then it’s just a traffic game. If you don’t have the budget to advertise on Amazon and start looking at other cheaper platforms like Tiktok, possibly Google, possibly Pinterest, and Facebook, right now is a little iffy. Maybe Instagram might work a little bit better for you. It’s a lot of testing. And then outside of that, one of the things that we were talking about before we jumped on here was the SEO link building. Link building is a valuable source over time to start building more and more traffic to a listing. It’s a long game. You’re not going to see immediate results. But if you can start consistently building links over time to your product, you will index better on Google, Bing, or whatever other search platform they might be using. And that’s going to have the potential of bringing in more free traffic for you over time. So again, I would just try to maximize the most out of your budget. Figuring out what platforms are going to work the best for your products. And that’s how you can get in there and start competing in more mature markets, where sellers have been there long or where bigger brand names are starting to come into the platform and dominate the advertising within a product category.

Mike, thank you for your time. But before you go, I like playing a quick rapid-fire round, in the end, three to five questions. Ready?

Yeah, I’m all set whenever you’re ready.

Describe yourself in three words.

Wow, that is a hard one. I would say motivated, efficient, and probably stubborn.

If a movie was made in your life, what genre would it be?

I think it would probably be a thriller, as you can see from my broken collarbone.

Who is your favorite superhero?

My favorite superhero? Oh, wow, that’s a hard one! Don’t know I’ve never even thought about that before. I’m probably going to have to go with a generic one. I’ll probably just say Superman because he can get everything done.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

I am very much a morning person. As soon as I see the sun up, I am up even if I have other things to do. The morning is my favorite time of day. There’s so much to get done. There are so many things to get out there and see. So I love being up early for it.

Mike, thank you so much for your time. It was a fun chat.

Thank you. I appreciate the chance to come on your show and tell you more about myself and the Amazon platform. If there’s anything else I can do to help you or to help your audience, please feel free to reach out to me. My email is Mike@AMZadvisors.com and I’m glad to talk to you about anything eCommerce, anything about expanding anything about Latin America. Feel free to just let me know.

Sure. Thanks man.

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