Episode 29: Melissa Burdick

10 years at Amazon in the advertising team catapulted Melissa into the world of ecommerce. She is now a member of the Forbes Agency Council and co-founder of Pacvue.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why surrounding yourself with brilliant contacts is the key to sustainable success on Amazon
  • How important tech and data will be in 2021, but whether or not it’s levelling or widening the playing field.
  • Is Amazon just a learning platform, which you can utilise as a springboard to something better
  • Launching with a big or small range first
  • Micro-influencers
  • Why she wouldn’t launch on Amazon if she had $10k to throw at it

You can find Melissa on LinkedIn here.

Other resources:

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Click here for the RAW unedited transcript
[0:00:00] George Reid: Welcome to It’s Always Day One. My name is George Reid, a former Amazonian turned Amazon consultant. Each week on the podcast, you’re going to hit industry experts, brand owners on Amazon employees share their answers to the basic yet fundamental questions you should be asking yourself about your Amazon business. Now let’s jump in. Hello, Melissa. Thank you so much for joining me today. On these always day one podcast, we’ve just been having, ah, little matter That was quickly rolling into a ah, long natter. So I thought it was good that we press record straight away. You only give us a quick, 32nd overview of yourself. And then we could get cracking with a question of all the thought of just from our matter.

[0:00:43] Melissa Burdick: Sounds good. Thanks for having me. I’m Melissa Verdict, co founder of Pack View. We’re marketing automation platform, adopting retailer AP. Eyes like Amazon Walmart insta cart, target others. And really, our vision is about unifying the e commerce ecosystem and driving actionable results, especially through marketing automation. And prior to pack you, I spent 10 years of Amazon where I like to say it was the cheapest MBA that I didn’t have to pay for because I was there from a very early you know, kind of early days of consumables helping to launch the consumables business and the advertising businesses and learned so much about execution, how to launch an e commerce business. Um, and things like that. So that’s a little bit about me.

[0:01:36] George Reid: Is so much that I want to dive into a question because you briefly touched it beforehand. And it’s a topic I find quite interesting around the leadership principles, and we’ve touched upon them before in the podcast. So you wanna talk to me a little bit about Amazon’s leadership principles and what ones you find continuously coming up in your day to day life now, perhaps more than they ever did. Amazon.

[0:02:01] Melissa Burdick: Yeah, you know, I think that it sounds a little bit like drinking from the Kool Aid. But when you leave Amazon, you realize, uh, that those leadership principles are so good that we’ve actually adopted a lot of them in our company Now, Andi, there things like, you know, bias for action. Think big. Um, you know, earning trust that’s so critical in our businesses earning trust with our clients and our customers, um, and customer obsession, which is, you know, their number one thing as well. So I think that those are you know, those were really big leadership principles for us being in this. I mean, we’re essentially a startup, and having bias for action is critical because that’s actually one of the benefits. Were able Thio be fast and pivot Aziz Well, so there’s just so there’s so many great things about all those leadership principles. What about you? Which one is your favorite?

[0:03:00] George Reid: It’s interesting. Before we when we discussed it, you said about Amazon. Perhaps you were thinking too much about them as you are now, you’ve left and I was exactly the same. And the fact that when I was there on a wee whippersnapper, I waas I didn’t take them too seriously. I thought they were just a little bit stupid. To be honest, I was like, Why, what? Honestly, my manager kept I would write something and she would be like, You’ve got to use. You’ve got to make sure you incorporate the leadership principle terms in your communication, George, and I’m like, Why? I just host, like, Why do I need toe Why do I need to use this term kind of dive deep on bond? It’s only since leaving that is now kind of started to click. Maura, Maura, that one. They’re just great terms for describing something but to kind of aligning with other people so they know exactly what you’re talking about When you say something, I learned that from speaking to click on Stefan Haley on the podcast of You both Know what you’re talking about when you say dive deep trust eso is very interesting for me. I think the customer obsession one always rings true. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. If you just always have that the forefront of your mind. That’s great. I do like the fact that you said about earning trust. Now, how do you think earning trust, though, comes into play for for sellers or for e commerce brands?

[0:04:31] Melissa Burdick: When when you mean in terms of us working with them or

[0:04:38] George Reid: sorry, no, with their customers, with Amazon themselves, perhaps so a brand selling on Amazon. There’s elements of earning trust with Amazon. There’s also an element of earning trust with your own customers, Right?

[0:04:49] Melissa Burdick: Right. I see. Um, well, I think the important thing that I learned, especially being at Amazon, is that they consider their customer the person buying stuff on Amazon. Um, and so you know, maybe more. So now they see it a little bit more than that. But vendors and sellers, in my opinion, have not really been the customers as much as Thean End consumer buying toilet paper on Amazon. That’s the customer. That’s the customer obsession. And so, you know, Amazon rolls out these tools and their 70% baked. They never rollout tools 100%. And so there are problems and bugs, and that’s, you know, the Sometimes you bang your head against the wall because you can’t solve a problem because you can’t advertise an item because of some problem. And there’s actually a problem. You actually have to get someone at Amazon to help you fix it, because the tool is broken and that’s just the way it is. Um, and but that’s that’s part of, Ah, you can’t You can’t roll out things and be fast unless you have some things that are going to break. And that’s just the M O of working with Amazon, and that’s why people in the ecosystem, you know, we have to be kind of were able to pivot. We can find out like, how do we solve this problem? How do we get to the right person? And that’s I think the benefit of, you know, working with maybe some experts that you can find having the forums that people go to to kind of ask the questions. How do you solve these things? Um, not just being, Ah, you know, he or to say, I don’t know how to solve this, but, you know, really being curious and having a network to go find out either someone at Amazon that can help you or not. But to answer your question, I think that you know the vendor tools and their seller tools. There’s so much better than they are, um, that they were. But there’s still, you know, there’s still a self service tools.

[0:06:42] George Reid: Yeah, that’s that’s the case. You’ve got to be inquisitive. You’ve got to continuously be asking questions on DNA. Always. I see it a lot where people are unhappy with something on Amazon. Andi. There either one to start to give up straight away or to just complain. A supposed to go. Let me go find solutions on def. I’m looking in one place for a solution. Maybe a Facebook group on. It’s not working. Look for other alternatives. So I put up recently just a poll on LinkedIn of where on you will be the same as May I imagine off. Where do I go for opinion and thought, Leaders and ideas and Amazon I go to linked in personally, and it’s just consultants the law, and it’s like a big barrel of consultants. I use a lot for my own education as well, discovering new things. But I think a lot of sellers, perhaps they’re going to Facebook forums asking for help, which can be very beneficial. But if it’s not working, look for other alternatives as well. Look, toe book in 30 minutes of someone and dio, what have you discovered here? What have you noticed that there any work around? Because it can be critical, particularly when you’re playing with the new tools and you’re on a beater. A two conversation yesterday with someone who is experimenting with a new flex Peter in the UK Amazon, basically giving you their tech in your own warehouse, which is really cool on. I was like, make sure that point of contact Amazon is fully aware of who you are. And don’t let him dio for a long period of time. Like, keep your trust with him. Because if you can get on these beaches there so beneficial to you to so many people. I’m sure you found it when you were there and you are rolling things out and you were still happening to chase people being like, Hey, haven’t heard from you were looking toe work with you on this new tall or whatever on you were chasing them as opposed to you Always had a couple of people who were great and would jump on things on day were the best people to work with. And they always, in my opinion, were the most successful as well, right?

[0:08:49] Melissa Burdick: Yeah, I think that And the other thing to a couple of things to build off of that one is I think it’s critical to have a network like I’m sure you dio But you know, I like to say I may not know the answer, but I know where to go to find out whether that’s, you know, on article or a person. Most likely, I’ve got a great network of people former Amazonian people of brands, you know, just as I built my network through the years that I can, you know, have a my text and ask them a question or Teoh to find out quickly. So I think, you know, building out your network with people and resource is is critical on the other thing about that. The other reason why that’s so important, too, is that people at Amazon move around their rules so much, you know. So the person that you built that report in relationship with, you know, they’re often promoted and gone or they’ve moved thio, you know, different job or even retailer place. And so that’s that’s kind of frustrating thing Is that the rotation once you finally get someone that you have a great relationship with, they’ve moved on to some new role? Um, which is always a challenge.

[0:09:56] George Reid: Yeah, that that was always the case. Um, if you could get an internal contact brilliant, I think it’s becoming increasingly hard. Is becomes game or self service on def. We obviously Amazon is one option for e commerce brand today on the question of Bean playing a lot with recently, particularly with consumable brands who have been discussing with is in today’s market. Where would you launch your product? First on why I know you spent a lot of time in this. I’m intrigued by your response.

[0:10:27] Melissa Burdick: I mean, the reality is I still think that Amazon is a great place to launch a new product and learn because it has the most traffic. It has the most sophisticated tools. You get early feedback with reviews and things like that. But I’ve been spending a lot of my time launching other marketplaces that are, you know, creating their own self serve ad platforms in the U. S. Instacart is you know, we just launched Instacart in the summer and for C B. G s. That’s just especially now with co vid is just been killing it. And so that’s been a great place for people thio, um, advertising to show up. It’s it’s a little bit different because they have feet product needs that come in from the retailers that show up on their sites. Um, like a marketplace. But, you know, getting the distribution helps, um, across some of these marketplaces, for sure.

[0:11:24] George Reid: But there isn’t. You basically say it depends massively in the type of product you’re selling. What position? You’re out. What? Your financial situation in terms of the cash you gotta put into the business, does it very massively. Are you still saying if you’re launching, you wanna be looking at Amazon? Oh, are you looking at your own website first, or is it at the same time? Or instagram Amazon website? Because you can’t do them all.

[0:11:49] Melissa Burdick: I still think Amazon’s the best bet. I think your own D to see site is, um, the easiest. Like the reason why Amazon so great is the barrier to entry is low. You use FB A You can learn. Um, you know, it’s a lot less expensive because all the pipe ings and everything is there. Um, so you know, I think I think it does depend on the product type. I think in the fashion cosmetic space, like social commerce, is so important, like tick tock and influencers. And things like that can help you get the boost that you need. Um, but I do think that Amazon’s probably right Now you know it’s it’s low barrier to entry, and it’s easy for you to launch and get learnings and be able to refine your product for sure.

[0:12:40] George Reid: Andi, I guess caveat to that, in my opinion, might be with CPG, where there’s a lot of repeat purchase opportunity on bats. Obviously, aim of the game for many launching on your own site. Would that not allow you to build up some assets like a strong email list on then, when you pivot across Amazon? Let’s say it’s a very competitive category. You can break in Mawr easily if you’ve got a lever to pull on, as opposed to just having the singular leave off advertising. What do you think about that?

[0:13:14] Melissa Burdick: I do. But I just think that it’s so expensive to drive traffic to your site. You know, you have Thio do a bunch of Facebook advertising, and you just have to weigh the costs of, you know, the eyeballs and traffic that you’re gonna be able to drive to your own site versus it already existing on Amazon and kind of paying, um, to get onto Page one for some keywords. You know it it you have to balance that math and and look at the product type and the white space that you’re going into. How competitive is it? You know how many people already know about the product? So, um, luckily, that’s not That’s not my business, So I don’t have to worry about Thio. But if I were a new brand, I think that, you know, it’s a lot less overwhelming. Um, it depends on how well funded you are, but, you know, that’s why brands can light up on Amazon pretty easily. Get those early learnings refine the product and, yeah, I mean, that’s each individual direct to consumer site they need to worry about, like the shipping, you know, offering free shipping and all those kind of things that customers were really come to expect.

[0:14:21] George Reid: Would you? If you are launching an Amazon and this could be Maura’s, a big brand who already is established or a complete new brand? Would you look to launch a full range first, or would you go one product at a time? What’s your opinion on that?

[0:14:36] Melissa Burdick: Um, you know, I think that it’s it’s a lot easier when you launch a small selection and build from there, You know it just in terms of the costs. T be able to do that. That’s that’s typically what you see. You know, people launch a small portfolio, and then they go from there, um, versus launching tons and tons and seeing what works and throw things because you’re limited. Resource is in time, you know, in terms of what you can do so on. I think that especially what we’ve seen in the U. S. There’s a little bit more ski rationalization thes days along the challenges that we’ve had versus kind of going bigger right now. You know, it’ll all change when when things go back to normal. But that’s

[0:15:25] George Reid: yeah, no good point. I think I agree with you. My opinion is start small. Make those mistakes identify those hurdles that you’re likely going to face in the 1st 246 weeks. I’m not spread yourself too thin with things like appetizing as well. Um, on that advertising piece, then how important do you think it is to drive traffic from off of Amazon onto the platform rather than just focusing on something that Amazon advertising?

[0:15:55] Melissa Burdick: That’s a great question. I mean, I think that the savvy brands you know people have seen success is you know, it depends on if you have a direct to consumer site or not and what your goals are. But, you know, I have seen success from brands that do drive traffic off Amazon to Amazon. So leveraging, you know, Twitter and Facebook, especially around events like prime day and seasonal holidays. Um, you know, people trust Amazon’s for shipping, especially right now, like my money on, you know, not having all the shipping challenges and things like that. So certainly driving traffic onto Amazon. And I’m a big believer in micro influencers. I think that, you know, that’s how I personally shop. I find, you know, look at people what they’re wearing or buying, and people that I kind of think are like me and, you know, cuts through the noise. And I buy those things that, for the most part, are found on Amazon. But again, like I said, I mean Tik TAKS becoming an up and coming platform is that is that big in Australia of any chance or is that

[0:17:07] George Reid: I’m sure, is with certain people I haven’t. I’ve used it. Once I was playing with podcast snippets on Pitcock. I can’t pronounce the Ticktock, but I don’t know who’s using it. I haven’t seen many kids kind of warning around, but then I don’t probably not that observant with that with that micro influence. Uh, I really like that on gold episode. Andrew Shields talks about this in the opening part about micro influences and discloses, um called strategies on that topic. Then what? What have you seen from the brands that you perhaps worked with, Engaged with Spoken to That’s working well in that influence of space right now or particularly the micro influences where people don’t have big budgets like some listeners won’t have.

[0:17:57] Melissa Burdick: That’s a good question. I think that a lot of brands that I’m working with, they’re just starting to think about this on DSO. You know, like in terms of how how influencers meet e commerce, especially when it comes to platforms like Amazon. I mean, they’ve been working with influencers forever, um, instagram and other things from a corporate perspective. But when you get thio, you know more of the tactics like you think about and just really, it’s been the last year or so and I think, really, starting last prime day with the Amazon live, you know, influencers and creating all the video content and things like that, Um, leveraging ticktock to drive sales. Either it’s Walmart or Amazon. Um, you know, I think that people are just starting to think about how can they leverage these newer platforms and opportunities, uh, to be able to drive traffic. So I think that, you know, no one’s really crack the nut specifically driving Thio e commerce sites yet, but I think that will be a 2021. We’ll see a lot more of that. And I know that Amazon paid search, like you can actually fund influencers more heavily if that makes sense in terms of the commission’s that they can get. And so you know, playing around with more of those functionality. The self service tools to be able to see how that works is going to be interesting.

[0:19:19] George Reid: How does that work then? If you’re a brand and many faces challenge off the old Charlie Object syndrome, there’s always something new out, particularly with Amazon, particular Amazon advertising right now. But when you got Amazon live kind of a recent thing, not necessarily pumping right now when you got Amazon Popes. When you’ve got tick tock, there are a lot of shiny objects floating around. How does a brand way up what they should be going after? Should we go after? Everything should double down on one. What, Your thoughts?

[0:19:50] Melissa Burdick: Yeah, I definitely think that, you know, it depends on who the brand is and what their budgets are, but I never I would say, test conservatively initially. So if you’re able Thio test some things without big investments going too big and getting little winds, that’s kind of the best way to do it. Like Amazon Post is free. Um, you know some of those things that you know are no brainers because it’s free, do those things and you know it’s time because everything does have a cost, which is time is a cost. But you know the other thing, too. That’s where you go back to your network and you go and find out who’s doing this. How is it working? Is it working for them? Um, you know, literally ping them on, lengthen and ask them. I saw this. Did this work for you? Um, you know, things like that. So that’s that’s where it’s. I think it’s really important to have the share groups and the networks to ask, You know what is working? You know that that kind of stuff And that’s that’s where you get, you know, when you have some tighter focus groups or share groups. I’m sorry, Um, you can get that kind of level. Detailed information from folks

[0:20:59] George Reid: completely agree. Eso One final question before we go into a very brief speed round what come brands due in 2021 to create sustainable success?

[0:21:12] Melissa Burdick: That’s a great question. Um, you know, I think that there’s two things when it comes down to it. One is having the right people in place. So whether that’s, you know, the person running e commerce that your brand, whether it’s your partner’s consultants, you hire agencies you hire or combination of all those things. One is, you need to have the the the strategy and the tactics in place and those air people. And then you need the technology and data, so you need the right, you know, tech stack the right ability to analyze your data in action. It So those were the two like critical things that you need to be. You know, people are continuously assessing the technology and tools or changing all the time. So what are the best tools? What’s the, you know, best all those things that can help you identify what to dio. And then do you have the right team and people in place, whether it’s a combination of in house outsource or some hybrid of those things that you can you can have And then Plus, I always think, you know, having a network is critical of those people that you can call on. Maybe they’re not the consultants. Maybe there are people that are just colleagues peers that you can have on your speed dial or text to be able to ask those questions of

[0:22:36] George Reid: completely great strong answer. All right, let’s do a quick speed round. I’ve been playing with this recently. I think you’re number two going through it. Let’s see how we get on. Okay. Okay. All right. You’re gonna be fine. What is the biggest threat to a brand selling on Amazon?

[0:22:54] Melissa Burdick: What’s the biggest threat to brand selling on Amazon? Oh, goodness. Um,

[0:23:01] George Reid: expert buying yourself time that I like it

[0:23:04] Melissa Burdick: e. I mean, there’s there’s so many threats. I mean, the big ones are competitors, and maybe that’s, you know, Amazon Private label. Or maybe that’s someone that comes into the space that has, you know, higher reviews and a lower price than you

[0:23:20] George Reid: strong like it in today’s world. If you had ВЈ10,000 kicking around spare, would you still start in Amazon business? Strong answer. If you were running around, was in business on your own. Who would you hire first?

[0:23:36] Melissa Burdick: I would hire Ah third party agency if I was running it on my own. I had limited Resource is I would outsource to an agency that was an expert. Thio. Give me a steroid shot in the arm before I had money to be able to hire my own team.

[0:23:51] George Reid: I’ll come back to that, but we’ll finish the speed round of the final question. Do you think data is leveling or widening the playing field?

[0:24:00] Melissa Burdick: I think it’s I think it’s, um, whitening the playing field because, you know, the issue is we have too much data now. And so I think that people are overwhelmed and they you know, if you don’t have a tool to be able to aggregate get into place for you. You’re spending all your time downloading spreadsheets and trying to figure out what to do with the data. Or you’re just you have too many spreadsheets on your desk trying to action all of it. So I think that, you know, having having data is a blessing and a curse. And now we have so much of it that it’s the savvy partners, the savvy. You know, savvy brands are doing things with that data and the ones that you know, maybe a little bit more overwhelmed have a lot of reports on their desk not knowing how to action it

[0:24:49] George Reid: completely agree. I’m just going back to that previous one about running the business on your own. You said about bringing in the third party agency. Which topic would you look to specialize in for that agency? Because if, well, if we’re being realistic to get an agency that could do everything, you’re you’re spending a small fortune, eh? So what would you narrow doubt on in in terms of a category off on that?

[0:25:14] Melissa Burdick: Well, the way that I would look at that is what are my skill sets and strength that I’m going to do myself. Andi, that’s gonna be different for everyone. And what am I gonna outsource that I don’t have time to do or can’t dio Uh and so that’s going to be a different answer for for a lot of people. But typically, I do think that, you know, speed matters. Things is very fast market. And it’s also, you know, hard Thio. We’re kind of talking about it earlier, but things change so fast, and being able to stay up on everything is very hard. And so having a savvy third party that you can, you know, ask questions Thio or how they can help you is important. And so I would I would outsource the things that I absolutely had no skill set in, Like for me, that would be like more of the logistics supply chain side. Like That’s just something that I’m not an expert in as much as I am like, you know, the acceleration of a brand strategy and marketing and advertising side. But if I were to do that, I would look at a partner to be able thio manage the inventory. Um and things like that for me.

[0:26:20] George Reid: Completely agree? No. Good answer. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for your time today. We’ve managed to keep it short and sweet, which is a new theme. Hopefully people who enjoying it, but yeah, thanks a lot. Some really, really strong answers, Some interesting thought processes and given its being so short, sweet. I’m sure we can get you on again in the future For another Another session.

[0:26:41] Melissa Burdick: Awesome. Thanks so much for having me

[0:26:43] George Reid: change. Unless I have a good day. Hey, guys, just a quick one. If you are enjoying the podcast on either have some actionable next steps or new ideas I’d really appreciate if you could one subscribe to the show and leave us a review. Thes are really, really important to us. As you probably know, being in the Amazon world, Aunt to if you’re looking for additional support with your brand head over to the website. It’s always day one dot co dot UK. Where we’ve got links to other resource is as often our guys speak soon

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