We at Unfair were fortunate enough to exchange words with Gaurav Bhatnagar, European Head of Acquisition for Amazon Advertising, about his views on the pitfalls and opportunities of the ecommerce industry for SME’s in Finland and elsewhere.
Female Founders Day, an event dedicated to encouraging women to engage in founding startup businesses and entrepreneurship, was organized in Tampere in May 2019 by Startup Tampere, Polar Partners and MelloVR. Bhatnagar was the keynote speaker for the event. Here’s what he shared with us in terms of his own personal views as a professional (not those of Amazon).
With estimates of almost half of U.S. online expenditures this year going to the large companies (such as Amazon, Ebay and Apple), small and medium enterprises selling their products and services online are facing numerous challenges. But according to Mr. Bhatnagar, having marketplaces also creates opportunities for smaller businesses to reach their potential customers.
— The great thing about the ecommerce space is that it provides a fantastic way for small companies and entrepreneurs to get their products in front of hundreds of millions of customers worldwide. Irrespective of who the company is, learning how to use ecommerce services allows you to reach a lot of customers and highlight the strengths of your product. This was not possible just a short while ago. Having otherwise complex activities (such as warehousing, delivery, marketing, etc.) available as services at the click of a button creates significant opportunity for smaller players.
According to Mr. Bhatnagar, educating yourself as a business owner is the key to avoiding the pitfalls of the ecommerce industry, when using the marketing services of the large players.
— I think there’s definitely an education curve. The skillset needed is different when comparing to traditional marketing. You need SEO and SEM skills, campaign optimizing and budget management. But you can start small. You don’t suddenly need to spend a large amount of your money doing something you’re not comfortable with. The new world of marketing and advertising gives you a lot of control over the budget for example.
Learning from bigger markets
The patterns of online purchasing in Finland are somewhat lagging behind when compared to UK and other markets. Some of this is due to the fact that Finland is a relatively vast and sparsely populated country with a strange language, but there are several ways we can learn from bigger markets.
— Each country has its own evolution and adoption of technology. Being a sparsely populated nation doesn’t mean ecommerce can’t work. In Australia, there’s a lot of entrepreneurial businesses innovating to fill the gap. For example, Google has used drone technology to drop ecommerce parcels as a trial in the nation’s capital, Canberra, where the population density can be compared to suburbs of Helsinki.
— Finland has got a vibrant, technically forward-looking entrepreneurial base and we should look into that market to find innovative solutions to fill the customer’s needs.
Machine learning, AI, IoT… from buzzwords to viable solutions
AI, machine learning, blockchain and IoT are buzzwords that investors love. But there are ways that ecommerce owners can make use of these technologies and scale their businesses.
— There’s a lot of hype around these terms and a lot of people selling very extreme visions like being ruled by robots or that lots of jobs will be lost. Ultimately technology can be used to make businesses more efficient and to get to deeper levels of insight. It allows people to step away from manual tasks and focus on those that add greater level of value to the product and/or the customer. The technologies in question are already being utilized massively in the ecommerce sector. We’re moving past “if this then that” type of approaches to picking up signals from a group of tens of thousands to decide what the customer is thinking.
According to Gaurav Bhatnagar, the utilization of machine learning will be more prevalent in the future.
— I think that in five years the hype has died down and people will become more pragmatic about the use cases for machine learning. The technologies will also be more widespread and readily available for people without years of experience.
Gather data, get creative
We at Unfair, as a lean marketing agency with people dedicated to discovering data-driven solutions for our customers, are constantly seeking ways to combine data with creativity. Having experience in bringing creative approaches to the table in a data-driven organization, Gaurav Bhatnagar knows that creativity and being data-driven are not always at odds. In fact, sometimes they go perfectly hand in hand.
— Historically the two approaches have always been presented as either or and I think that’s not particularly a useful way to look at things. The starting point of any question of marketing, before we even come to data, needs to be the customer. What’s the most effective, most stimulating and most educational outreach you can do? The first thing is to figure out the customer’s need and then you need to marry up the data side and the creative side to fulfill that need.
— Providing useful, aesthetically pleasing, creatively designed experiences is a very important skillset, but at the same time it also has to be married up with right type of measurement and attribution.
— Computing power is becoming cheaper and cheaper and technologies to capture and store data are becoming more readily available, so gathering data is not a problem. But it takes creativity to figure out what to do with all the gathered data.