Crealytics eCommerce Café: Elizabeth Marsten

- Luke Metcalfe

This post is part of the series eCommerce Café

Other posts in this series:

  1. Crealytics eCommerce Café: Elizabeth Marsten (Current)
  2. Crealytics eCommerce Café: David Szetela
  3. eCommerce Café: Purna Virji

At the SMX West 2017 Conference in San Jose, we had the pleasure to chat with Elizabeth Marsten, Sr. Director of e-Commerce Growth Services at CommerceHub, about the current and upcoming trends in all things SEM. Check out the full interview below.

Direct Youtube link.

To stay tuned with Elizabeth, you can follow her on Twitter, @ebkendo.

We will be at SMX London, May 23-24…more chats to come!

Full Transcript

Andres Reiffen (AR): So, Elizabeth, you’re the Senior Director eCommerce at CommerceHub. What’s your job, and what does CommerceHub do?

Elizabeth Marsten (EM): I’m the Senior Director eCommerce Growth Services at CommerceHub, which is a delightfully vague title that encompasses my background in paid search, but also our capabilities across different channels: search, social, and marketplaces.

At CommerceHub we do a little bit of the demand solutions for feed management; we send to different channels like Google, Bing, or Amazon. But we also do dropship, so we have a network of nine thousand suppliers throughout the United States, UK, and Canada, and we allow our clients to expand their inventory online, virtually, without having to hold that assortment in their warehouses.


AR: So, at this year’s SMX, you’re talking about retargeting. If you speak to people who are unfamiliar with advertising and explain what retargeting is, they say “Okay, that’s the annoying format where the product follows you around”. It can be a bit scary, and they don’t like it. The probable reason is that they don’t understand what’s happening. They see these ads too frequently and sometimes receive a bad user experience. What would you recommend to an advertiser so they can avoid this?

EM: A couple of things. Within systems, there’s usually a feature called ‘frequency capping’, where you can decide how many times to show ads to a user. If you haven’t put this in place, you might actually be that annoying advertiser that follows them around throughout the day. If it was you, how many times would you want to see an ad? No more than five is usually a good rule of thumb.

You can also utilize other features within those platforms, such as negative audiences. For example, you can add an audience that’s only looked at the product for less than thirty seconds or someone who didn’t convert, or you can change how soon after an interaction you want to remarket to people. I know I personally get very annoyed when I go on a website, look at a product for less than thirty seconds, leave, and get remarketed to for the next week. It’s very clearly not what I wanted. Don’t put those audiences in there, exclude them.


AR: And what recommendations would you give advertisers in general when it comes to tweaking retargeting performance? What are the best strategies?

EM: There are a lot of good strategies. A pretty common one involves looking at cart abandoners. There’s also the ability to target people who have looked at multiple product pages or category pages.

There’s one company – for which Google actually has public-facing case studies – who decided not only to target cart abandoners but to segment them by how much they abandoned in the cart. For example, a site visitor who abandoned ten dollars may not be worth as much as a one who abandoned a hundred dollars. Try to break down how aggressive you want to be.

So, abandonment is one, then you can look at visitors who check out at multiple product pages or those who are clearly comparison shopping and looking at multiple options throughout your site. These can be segmented too so that you can really drive how much you want to spend to get them to return.


AR: So it’s basically all about getting more granular and targeting people more specifically.

EM: It’s the best way to do it, at least as far as who you want to go after vs who you don’t want to go after.


AR: Something interesting that I’ve seen recently is from a leading European eCommerce retailer. Instead of bidding up on Google RSA, they bid down, because they don’t want to target existing customers. Have you seen something similar, and do you think it’s a good strategy? What’s the rationale behind such a thing?

EM: I actually haven’t heard about that one too much, but in a way it makes sense. You’ve engaged with a user in some way, and I can understand not wanting to pay more for them to come again, and the attribution model you use will affect this. But you need to be sure. Do you not want to talk to them ever again? Do you think they’ll come back? Maybe they’re a subscriber?

Now that I think about it, there’s one instance where you’d really want to use that, which is if you have a login page. If you didn’t want to capture people that searched for the login page I can see where you would waste ad spend on that.


AR: Retargeting in general in the last click metrics looks amazing, however, we also know that a certain portion of people would have bought anyway without seeing the retargeting ad. They just use it as a shortcut and would have made a purchase anyway. How do you measure incrementality of retargeting campaigns?

EM: It’s difficult unless you can all agree on an attribution model that gives some kind of weight to a remarketing method. Do you do a time decay model? Do you do something position-based or linear? You just have to agree on what it is that makes sense for the remarketing method.


AR: At CommerceHub you deal with Google, but I would also assume Amazon. You’re probably aware of the neck-to-neck race between Google and Amazon. Who will win this battle?

EM: I think they’re both going to win. It probably comes down to who isn’t them that will lose more than anything else. Google and Amazon are obviously going to compete heavily on the product search side, so you could say it’s a fifty-fifty split. What I think will be interesting in the long-run is: where will advertisers’ budget come from when they decide to advertise on Amazon? When you put together your budget, you look at Google, you look at Bing, you look at Facebook, but Amazon isn’t technically at the top of the list for some companies yet. Additionally, if you have that budget, who’s going to spend it? Who manages it? Where did it come from? Are you going to cut it from another channel? Are you going to cut it from another advertising source? In the end, I think they’ll both win because they’re going to see their budgets go up, but I’ll be curious to see where brands and retailers take their extra budget from.


AR: We see today that Google is becoming more similar to the Amazon experience; it’s sort of a marketplace, albeit not explicitly. There’s one major difference though, and that’s logistics. Amazon counts on centralized warehouses, whereas Google has a more distributed approach to logistics. Do you think Google has any chance in the long run to compete against the efficiency of Amazon’s logistics?

EM: Absolutely, though I would never count Google out for building some kind of network themselves, or partnering in some way that’s beneficial, or maybe even acquiring it. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you want your brand experience to be, so do you own the customer? In this case, you’re probably going to lean more heavily towards a Google advertising plan, vs Amazon who owns the customer instead. If you spend a lot of money or time or effort on your brand experience, and you want to retain that and the customer, then you need to make the right choice for you.


AR: Imagine you were Amazon. Years ago, you had heavy investment in Google Adwords – text ads mainly – then Google changed the playing field, and they went into Google Shopping. Maybe you’d say, “Actually that’s nothing we’d like to be a part of, we don’t play Google’s game’’. But now, as Google Shopping takes over, currently with a 70% share of spend, what would you do? Would you really go for it: expose all your products on Google Shopping, or would you rather not be part of the Shopping platform?

EM: If I was Amazon, I’d have to have some kind of presence, but I’d be very picky as to what category I’d choose to do that in. So it wouldn’t be all verticals and categories. It would depend on competition, the number of other sellers, and whether or not there’s an upsell opportunity through Amazon, i.e. if I can get them over onto Amazon for an entry-level product, and upsell them with my 2-day shipping and Prime membership, then it might be worth the investment.


AR: And don’t you think you would ‘feed the beast’? Today, people can miss the most important products or the most relevant retailers not active on Google Shopping. Isn’t this a reason people start their search on Amazon, and that Amazon itself has the 55% market share?

EM: If you look at the Google Shopping results today, it’s getting pretty complex and ugly. Whilst feeding the beast, you’re also creating that same noise – and maintaining the noise – making it harder to find those products. But if they look at it and think “Oh hey, Amazon! I know what that is. I know where it is, and I know I can find what I want there” then you’re more likely to get that customer.


AR: Elizabeth, thanks a lot. It was a great interview. Thanks again.

Continue reading this series:


Luke is a Content Marketer at Crealytics

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