Himanshu Jain from CommerceIQ talks about the role of marketing automation, AI & ML in boosting the Ecommerce industry & how Ecommerce has thrived in this pandemic
“Automation relieves people from the thousands of mundane, repetitive tasks they face daily”
1. Tell us about your role in CommerceIQ?
I am the Head of Ecommerce Advertising Solutions at CommerceIQ. In addition to our self-managed platform, I oversee our Advertising Managed Service, which combines CommerceIQ’s machine learning and automation technology with a team of dedicated ecommerce and advertising experts. I help large consumer brands fully optimize ecommerce channels for profitable market share growth using our full-funnel, omni-channel advertising solutions for Amazon, Walmart, Instacart and other retailers.
I work with clients and our services team to develop full-funnel channel strategies, using advertising as a lever to optimize investments across the entire shopper journey from awareness, consideration, purchase, advocacy and loyalty. On Amazon, for example, we look at KPIs like Total Sales, Ad Sales, Search Media Spend, Display Media Spend, Incremental ROAS and SOV, to help marketers determine the right investment mix across Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands and Display Advertising.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
My journey to Silicon Valley started as a management consultant at A.T. Kearney where I advised fortune 100 companies on cost reduction and growth initiatives. The foundation of my career was spent building Machine Learning models to enbale business decisions at Capital One. I also built an Ecommerce dynamic price optimization engine to drive dot-com pricing for big box retailers. That business, Boomerang Commerce, sold to Lowes in 2019. The work I’ve done building supply chain/sales automation and analytics products for Ecommerce teams led me to where I am today.
3. How do you think technology is upgrading the Marketing Sector?
As it relates to marketing on ecommerce, technology is critical. Without it, brands would not have been able to navigate the growth of ecommerce due to COVID-19. Technology has been a life preserver between brands and the millions of consumers who rely on ecommerce for the purchase and delivery of food and other household necessities. The pandemic catapulted ecommerce at least 5 years into the future. The complexities brands thought they could gradually learn to control required the use of technology to service this immediate and unprecedented need.
With the scale and volume of ecommerce, there are literally too many variables for humans to handle. This complexity is exacerbated by the speed with which situations can change. Not to mention, the importance of tracking changing keywords (share of voice or SOV), which drives 80% of purchases. No longer coming up first in a keyword search or losing out to a competitor can cost large brands millions in just a few minutes.
For marketers investing in advertising, technology like CommerceIQ has helped them optimize spend while staying on top of demand spikes and inventory issues, which would have been impossible to manage manually during such volatile times. Automation and machine learning are required to make ecommerce advertising effective.
4. How has integration of AI enhanced martech as an industry?
Automation and machine learning are essential to success in the world of ecommerce. Only an algorithmic approach can handle hundreds of constantly changing variables and give marketers the near-real-time information they need to plan their investments and advertising campaigns strategically.
Marketers need a holistic view of their entire ecommerce channel across sales, supply chain (operations) and advertising. Without this cross-functional view, different teams within the same brand will end up at cross purposes because they will be working from different data sets. This can lead to wasted ad spend on low or no-inventory stock and leave ecommerce and marketing teams with a more serious problem to fix – the damaging impact on their organic search rankings.
5. Can you explain how you help brands in simplifying Amazon?
CommerceIQ provides a single source of truth for Amazon that aggregates customer, sales and operational data. This data is used to assess gains and losses from a sales perspective, manage inventory and logistics, and assess promotional opportunities and what competitors are doing.
It can also be used to help brands anticipate consumer behavior, market trends and competitive actions. These findings are integrated with retail point of sales, profitability and inventory data to optimize the ecommerce channel at scale.
For example, using our Outcome-Based Strategy Builder, ecommerce experts from CommerceIQ partner with consumer brands to set business objectives for each of their product categories. The service then creates custom strategies and automates 1000’s of actions driven by machine learning algorithms in near real time to achieve specific business outcomes including awareness, SOV, profitability, ROAS, in stock rate, conversion, and competitor conquesting.
6. How exactly does CommerceIQ help in Ecommerce Channel Optimization?
Ecommerce Channel Optimization (ECO) is the practice of using machine learning, analytics and automations to optimize the ecommerce channel across supply chain, marketing and sales operations to win at the moment of purchase and drive profitable market share growth. ECO connects advertising data, strategies and execution with key ecommerce growth levers including inventory, incremental sales, share of voice, promotions, pricing and content that are dynamically changing in the algorithmic world of ecommerce.
7. What makes your CIQ for sales, a perfect fit for sales team of brands on eCommerce platforms?
In hindsight, when the pandemic first hit, marketers rushed to pour ad dollars into ecommerce. Brands lost millions in revenue due to out of stock items because their advertising decisions were made in a silo and NOT connected to inventory decisions. Advertisers need integrated visibility to ensure they could dynamically move ad spend away from products that were running low in stock and low margin and replace them with alternative products that had healthy inventory and profit margins.
By applying CommerceIQ’s practice of using machine learning, analytics and automations to optimize their ecommerce channel across supply chain, marketing and sales operations we help brands drive profitable market share growth in the short term and a sustained competitive advantage in the long term.
8. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
Automation relieves people from the thousands of mundane, repetitive tasks they face daily.
It gives teams the time to plan and innovate and lets them feel like they’re ahead of the game instead of constantly playing catch up. Automation and machine learning are the way to succeed in the world of e-commerce.
Below are a few tips to get started on your automation efforts:
1. Get a thorough assessment of your automation capabilities.
2. Don’t boil the ocean; start small with one product line or campaign.
3. Don’t rush to conclusion, give it at least three months.
4. Use the success to get organizational buy-in and write a long-term plan.
9. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time
We are working on extending our offering to omni channel retailers like Walmart and Instacart. We continue to innovate and build algorithms and automations to drive value to our customers in the area of advertising, demand planning, content improvement and pricing and promotions.
10. What advice would you like to give other Start Ups?
Three things –
1. Be close to customers. This is challenging during the current times but you can’t build things sitting in front of your computer. Talk to prospects, experts, get feedback and iterate otherwise you will end up building something that is cool but nobody wants
2. Cash is king. Make sure you have enough to last you at least 6 months. Most start-ups die because they run out of money.
3. Hire well. You need to inspire people to work for your start-up and it is difficult to compete against established companies for talent. Understand the motivations and provide people with stretch roles and opportunities they will never get at larger companies.
11. What work related hack do you follow to enjoy maximum productivity
Taking out 30 min every Monday to prioritize the tasks at hand into buckets. I like the Eisenhower matrix framework to classify things into –
a. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
b. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
c. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
d. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate)
I use an app called Trello to track these as they progress to completion.
12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I have a team of Product managers, customer success managers and engineers working on defining new product features, developing them and working with customers to drive value through those features.
13. What movie inspires you the most?
My favorite movie is “A Beautiful Mind” which depicts the life of mathematician John Nash, who was the pioneer in the field of Game Theory. The paper he wrote when he was 21, won him a Nobel prize in economics! He fought mental illness for a large part of his life and contributed so much to his field. I have watched it at least 20 times. I probably remember every single dialog of the movie!
14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone? (Most used apps)
My favorite one is Twitter. I think the new age media is becoming distributed where specialists are self publishing and you can follow people that write in the area of your interest and learn a lot. Along similar lines, I love the Google Podcast app. Apart from the usual whatsapp, instagram and gmail to stay connected.
15. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?