Are you active across Amazon, Shopify, Meta, and Google without a cohesive strategy? Most founders are operating each in a silo and missing out on combined learnings from each.
Luke Tierney is the founder of Eco D2C and joins me as we discuss how to leverage the strengths of each digital platform to continuously optimize your product listings and marketing to tell a cohesive story designed to convert.
These learnings will increase your sales as you optimize your conversion rates.
Don’t have time to implement these tips in your business? Reach out to Luke and the Eco DTC team: email@example.com
Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at Foodbevy.com to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.
Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] The last year has seen a dramatic shift in where C P G founders are spending their time and energy. Founders who have built a growing e-commerce presence during the pandemic suddenly saw a decline in sales and an increase in cost turning. A lot of them the focus on building their brands out in retail, but as we all know, the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Now I'm talking to founders who are struggling with the cost of doing business in retail, including chargebacks from distributors, promotions to drive trial, and a ton of other fees. So maybe e-commerce wasn't as expensive in comparison as it originally seemed. A big part of the problem is that brands actually didn't and never had a cohesive digital strategy really designed to support an omnichannel brand and that growth.
So let's dive into this topic today. I've invited on Luke Tierney, founder of EcoD2C, to focus on how to build a strong digital strategy. Luke, welcome
Luke Tierney: Jordan. Thank you so much for having me. Good to be here.
Jordan Buckner: [00:01:00] So what have you seen from your perspective, you work with a ton of brands on e-commerce and across various channels.
What are some of the major trends that you've seen kind of early 2023 and kinda what brands are dealing with?
Luke Tierney: Sure. So I guess just the first thing to jump on just a little bit you know, you mentioned , the absolute surge that online groceries saw over the pandemic and it subsequent you know, retraction, once vaccinations and metic started rolling out in spring of 2021
what our experience has been and what a lot of others , in the space have seen as well. If you had drawn a graph from the growth that was expected in e-com, like if there had been no pandemic, you know previous to , 2020 and then extended that through, online grocery has been growing.
E-commerce has been growing pretty much across the board, and so there are very any opinions on this, but from what we've seen, it's not exactly in line with what it would've have been if there had been no pandemic. But regardless, it's no secret that a lot of people return to the grocery store.
And so There's been a couple of big questions. We've [00:02:00] seen brands have, you know, ones that really grew to rely really fast on that surge traffic, then saw it disappear. And so that was really tough , for brands that had depended on that. And then the other piece is, you know, as you mentioned, like how do you develop a proper omnichannel strategy in which retail and digital are working together?
And how do you account for the rising costs? Because interestingly though, the economy has pulled back a little bit, we haven't really seen that much of a decrease in cost per click. People are taking online more serious than than ever now. So demand pulled back, but costs have still remained high. And so , we help brands try to try to navigate that.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I think a lot of the negative the pressure on this right now is like, oh, things are down from peak 2020. It's like, of course they are because they were wildly high. So let's kind of talk though about some of the e-commerce channels and marketing for CPG brands.
So have you found any particular channels that are more effective for what's called, you know, grocery CPG [00:03:00] brands?
Luke Tierney: Yep. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that all of these things work together. It's no secret that customers are discovering in one channel and then they're buying you on another.
But the question is often like, what advertising channels are gonna be the most conducive to growing my brand, and where do I want the most visibility? Because, you know, omnichannel to define the buzzword a little bit is distinct from. Multi-channel. And this is what we typically see as multi-channel.
All these different, you know, Instagram and, you know, meta platforms and Amazon and website and you know, , all these niche marketplaces TikTok, like, there's not a really cohesive strategy that fits them all together. Right? And so omnichannel on the other hand has one cohesive strategy that these different platforms will play different parts in.
And there's also cohesive voice across those platforms. So what does that look like in real life? So just to set the stage a little bit in terms of online platforms that have just huge percentages of the market from an advertising perspective, Amazon, Facebook, and Google Hold mid 60%.
Of online [00:04:00] ads which means that, I'm not saying that you're, that you shouldn't put in efforts for your viral organic TikTok campaign. I'm not saying that you shouldn't, you know, try certain things out, but just in terms of who the big players are and who's been really consistent over the years, it's been those three, I would say, pretty solidly over the past half dozen years.
And then in terms of where. People are looking to buy you. You know, obviously your website is important but over again in the mid 60, like I think it's 61, 62% of American customers prefer marketplace such as Amazon. And among those marketplaces, they prefer Amazon to buying over a retailer site or on a brand site.
So again, not telling you not to focus on your website, but as the numbers suggest, if you want to get your customers to buy on your website, you need to give 'em a really good reason. So as far as the platforms that we see brands really, really focusing on these days of with admittedly, you know, variation, things in the digital space tend to evolve pretty fast, but, you know, reliably people are pretty focused on their website.
They're pretty focused on trying to figure out what Amazon equation works for them. And then when it [00:05:00] comes to you know, , they'll publish. Ideally, you publish really well. You publish really optimized listings, product listings on both Amazon, your website, and anywhere else you're present. And then a lot of brands will try to scale e-com with.
Med platforms, Amazon and Google, not necessarily in that order.
Jordan Buckner: I'm very pro Amazon but I know a lot of brands are concerned in terms of the fees and the cost of advertising to start promoting on the platform. And I think it's really just a matter of. Expectation of brands going in, thinking like, oh, I'm gonna list my products.
Everyone in the across the country can buy and they will right away. Right? Versus the idea of you have to get your products in front of people, you have to grow your awareness first, your consideration. But from my experience, Amazon's been a really effective platform. But I'd love to kind of know what your take is on, you know, for a brand under a million dollars, who's kind of starting out.
What should be their expectations when launching on a platform like Amazon?
Luke Tierney: If you don't know what your Amazon margins really are when you launch, you're probably setting yourself up for some pain. We see brands [00:06:00] much, much, much larger than you know , the sub million dollar category.
Think that they're doing wildly well on Amazon only to discover that they've been losing money this entire time. Cuz the unit economics never worked out. So my number one advice cause is, you know, when you're setting up on the platform, To make sure that you get a really, really good sense of what your fees are gonna be because you know, some brands, you know, a majority of their revenue might come from Amazon.
Other brands, Amazon is the best at breakeven proposition for them. Some just think of it as a marketing expense. There's different ways to approach it. But especially if you're a growing brand and your brand and you're looking for a profit or just to make sure that this channel works for you, Amazon has a profitability calculator, you know, that will tell you what your fees are.
It's a tool, Intel or Central, there's others out there online. We take brands through an onboarding process in which we take a look not only at what the brand's estimated margin is gonna be at the price point they're thinking of factoring in their cogs, but also. You know, we'll use tools like Helium 10 to take a look at what they're, you know, at a glance.
We can crunch [00:07:00] some numbers regarding , what the top ranking. Products, forgiven search term, what their price is. We can take a look at what their pack size is. We can take a look at what their estimated fees are. You can get a sense of, you know, what does it take to be competitive in this category, and where can you possibly try to get another hand?
So there's a lot of different considerations that go into positioning. But you know, , The question isn't typically, is Amazon a good idea? The question is usually more along the lines of how does one use Amazon in a way that's gonna be beneficial to your other channels and you know, ultimately beneficial to your bottom line as well.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. The thing that I do like about Amazon is that they're really good at giving you all the numbers . There are a lot of things that go into it, but they'll give you all the numbers so you actually can calculate what your costs are and what they have been so that you can get to that level of detail, which is always really beneficial.
Luke Tierney: Yep. And the really big thing to note here is that like the American consumer uses Amazon in the same way that you look up reviews for a restaurant on Yelp. You know, it's that it's Yelp for your products is something that we said [00:08:00] pretty frequently. Around 30% of your customers in store for retail focused brands are double checking Amazon while in the grocery aisle for reviews and for pricing before they buy in-store.
So the halo effect from Amazon is very real. There's a halo effect from any successful presence on any of these digital channels. But on Amazon, we've noticed it to be particularly strong.
Jordan Buckner: So we talked about a little bit about this difference of multi-channel versus omnichannel, right? Like multi-channel, just being in lots of different places, but not having a cohesive strategy around it.
Omni-channel is actually having them work together. So let's say just on the digital space, you have Amazon, you have your own D2C site. Maybe running meta ads, maybe doing stuff on TikTok and a little bit on social. How do you link all those together so that brands and founders are getting the best kind of bang for their buck and driving both awareness, but also write like an ROI and hopefully like a positive ROI in those investments.
Luke Tierney: Great question. So I'm gonna give a couple of examples that we use when we're thinking about omnichannel strategy for, you know, I'm gonna use [00:09:00] optimization for listings as an example cuz it's lower hanging fruit and ad bit easier to implement on your own. But you know, we have many case studies behind the effectiveness of this when implemented.
Right? So, Ideally you wanna be taking learnings from across your channels from one channel and then spreading them across the other channels. So if we're starting with social media for instance, there's no better group of channels to test creative, to test images, to test video, to see what customers are really responding to.
That video can be repurposed or sometimes just copied over, you know to video ads on other platforms. You can include them in your listings on your website. You can include them in your listings on Amazon. The format might have to be tweaked for best practices and different requirements, but, you know, that's just one example.
It's really common for us to see brands invest an awful lot in optimizing their Amazon listings, and they'll get beautiful, you know, SEO optimized, infographic ridden really well set up for conversion listings on Amazon, and then they will make absolutely none of those changes to their website.
We see that. [00:10:00] More times than not.
Jordan Buckner: Just wanna tell you that, right, because like, I think that is a huge miss that I see all the time as well, because Amazon and the way like the kind of best practices of setting up on like building those listings is so spot on to like driving consumers to purchase.
And no one very few brands leverage that across their own websites. And so, yeah I love that.
Luke Tierney: Yeah, 100%. And just to connect back to a comment I made a little earlier on customers preferring marketplaces like Amazon to your website. If you look at sources like e-marketer that are publishing data on what American customers want, they want fast shipping.
They wanna be able to buy in a couple clicks. They want product reviews. They effectively want everything that Amazon is doing well. So you can let Amazon do a little bit of the heavy lifting for you in terms of you know, designing a product listing on your site or just what information you wanna put there.
And, you know you can adopt it for your own purposes. Also, something from Amazon that we see, because Amazon is the go-to search engine for [00:11:00] product research. The majority of search queries now are on Amazon for researching products. That's American's first stop. So, you know, Google I think has like 18% of that market now.
I think Walmart has like 10, you know, these numbers are always evolving, but Amazon is far away the leader here. So if you've done your Amazon SEO research well, what you get is what I like, what I like to call conversion seo. You can see these are the terms that people are searching to buy.
Right, not just because, and that we might be more of a deep dive than we have time for here as to why you can find it on Amazon. But for the purpose of what, of our conversation here, I just want people to know that that is something that you can look up what keywords are converting in, getting your competitor's sales and use sales if you're on the platform and have that data.
And then you can basically take that and use that in your marketing elsewhere. And then moving over to Google. You know, if Amazon is a search engine built to essentially answer what product do people buy when they search for this term? Google is more geared towards providing well-formed answers to questions, whatever they may be.
And so there are things that you can dig [00:12:00] outta that platform that you can't on any of the others that I've mentioned so far, such as You know, overall questions , on your category. You know, people are gonna get onto Google and start looking up things like, what is keto?
Like, details of a keto diet. You know, and then they're gonna go on Amazon to be like, best Keto cookie. So if you have Google SEO research And you understand what questions people are asking, then you can start to, incorporate those into your infographics that you have, not only on your website, but also of course on Amazon and anywhere else that you're selling.
So if , you know, mix all the data together, you're gonna have more of a cohesive voice. Across your digital presence, it's gonna be probably more cohesive with what you have in retail as well. And then, you know, offline and online are gonna work together a lot better to help you you know, help customers really understand who you are and make that purchase.
Jordan Buckner: One thing that I've seen very under leveraged as wealth speaking about Google, right? When you search a or ask a a question they'll link to sites that essentially have an FAQ section, [00:13:00] or blog post that essentially use those search questions and phrases. And then they'll answer it directly.
But then a lot of times then people land on that page and they're like, oh, they must know what they're talking about if Google's ranking them high. And then they'll take a look at maybe the products that they're selling or the other areas. And so yeah, I think that's also very under leverage.
So those are some really good, just like practical takeaways of like using the data that you have from each platform to be able to leverage that across your entire business. Which founders I see are vastly not doing.
Luke Tierney: Yeah, and this spreads to, you know, much more than just these larger platforms. So we see, you know, , Instacart has exploded just to use another channel as an example over the last several years to the point that like if they were an Etailer, then they would be the third largest in online grocery.
They're just behind Amazon and like they have like 20% of like online grocery sales. It's ridiculous. And the thing about Instacart is that, There's all these research tools to dig up data [00:14:00] on. Social media, Google, Amazon, Instacart doesn't have these yet. I've actually been trying to talk with some people I know who were big movers in the Amazon space early on with analytical tools to be like, what could we build here?
This marketplace has, you know, it's become massive overnight. But regardless. You can't do that kind of keyword research on Instacart, but what you can do is take what's working on all of your other channels and then use that to, you know, make sure your listings on Instacart look really well, look really good and make sure that you're set up for conversion there because you know, a lot of people still don't really know how Instacart works in the brand side I'm seeing but effectively any retailer that you're in that's partnered with Instacart will upload their own photos of your products, which may or may not be outdated packaging or just low quality.
But if you just create an a profile on instacart.com. You can take control of those. You can add your own information and basically take the same omnichannel strategies that we're talking about here and apply them there to make sure that you're actually, you know, presented well on one of the US' you know, largest marketplaces in this category. [00:15:00]
Jordan Buckner: I think that's really interesting too, and I've seen that Instacart themselves have heavily invested in their advertising platform and Right. Like realistically to them it's a way to make extra money, but it also for brands, it helps you take some control back and getting your products in front of the right consumers and can be really effective at driving sales.
Yeah. So I'm curious, oh, there's a ton of learnings that you can gain from all those different platforms. Have you created a kind of system for like, what information you can get from which platforms and then how to disseminate that across. So I think that's where a lot of brands kind of fail is like, oh, that's kind of interesting.
But they don't have a cohesive way of making sure those learnings are well spread.
Luke Tierney: That is an excellent question, and this is where we see a lot of this falling flat because unless you know exactly what to ask for, every expert on their platform is gonna know what special thing they can pull from their platform, but they're not gonna know the others.
This is a problem even among digital marketers, like a lot of brands, if they get their, you know, if they have different digital marketing providers for, here's s SEO versus paid search versus, [00:16:00] you know, our social platforms versus Amazon, what have you know, it's like, let's all get together in a room.
And then they're like, if they just say like, go, everybody's gonna be really confused. Well, what do you want us to do? However, if there is something that is much more targeted, like, Hey, we have a product launch, or we're like, you know, you can back to the strategy needs to be bigger than the channel, then you can start to ask more specific questions for like, you know, what, can we use this platform?
You know, we have this overarching goal. Launching a product is an easy example. How can we get. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Instagram, , like literally everything. How do we get a behind this one goal here?
Jordan Buckner: How you can leverage all that information.
Luke Tierney: So , some of it is technical but if you ask providers like what information can be taken from their platform and spread across those channels, typically they'll have some idea, if not something very specific.
But just to give you a couple of very specific examples, we can go back to what I was talking about earlier. Social media is just phenomenal for testing. Visual assets, [00:17:00] creative and video. Google is great for understanding questions in your category. And also, you know, you want your Amazon listing to rank on Google.
So if you have Google SEO and you have an Amazon provider, share your Google SEO with that provider so , they'll prioritize the Amazon learnings, but it never hurts. And then on the Amazon side, again, conversion, seo, and just the anatomy of a good product listing.
It's really easy to steal what they're doing , and then apply it elsewhere.
Jordan Buckner: So with all these things, have you seen brands that you're working with actually be
Luke Tierney: Oh, yeah. Yeah. So we're not even getting to the ads portion here of how all of these different platforms can intersect. But just to keep us strictly on optimizations you know, we there's a brand that we were working with recently.
They were not convinced that Amazon was gonna be a place , that was gonna grow for them. They'd been burned on the platform previously not uncommon. And so , they're just pretty dubious. They're like, let's optimize and, you know, our listings. And then like, and then we'll see, we'll see if we wanna, you know go further than that.
And, you [00:18:00] know, sure enough, we get in there, we do what we do best, and they had an 88% growth month over month sales as soon as those changes were published. And then 15% growth month over month and month two. And then month three, they saw another 80 plus percent month over month growth.
And then they gave us the call if they wanted to start ads. So that kind of experience especially for brands that have like really subpar listings on the platform is not uncommon.
Jordan Buckner: I think that's amazing and just goes to testament on that there is money to be made out there.
But as you mentioned, know your numbers. Make sure that you can be profitable if that's your goal, either first or their second order profitability, depending on the channel. And then make sure you're leveraging the learnings across all the different platforms. I think that's huge. And , if anyone just like listening, just takes away those of starting to leverage those, learn these across platforms, you'll make huge end rules, roads to your success.
Luke Tierney: Absolutely.
Jordan Buckner: Luke, thanks so much for joining on the show today. How can people get in touch with you if they wanna [00:19:00] learn more about
working with you?
Luke Tierney: Yeah, so you can always find us at ecod2c.com. That's E C O D as in Doug, number two C as in cat.com. You feel free to reach out to me directly. I'm just firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will get back to you. And You could reach my LinkedIn, but I frankly don't check it that often. I'd say email is probably the fastest way to get in touch with us out on the website.
Jordan Buckner: That's awesome. So every founder out here is your takeaway homework, is to look at all the platforms, find the data best use, and then optimize it across your listings.
If you don't have time for that because you're focused on other things, reach out to Luke and his team and they'll be able to help you leverage that information to build a highly effective digital strategy and e-commerce listings. Thanks so much, Luke.
Luke Tierney: Thanks, Jordan.