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Exploring the Impact of AI and Interactive Content in E-commerce

William Christensen, Head Of Marketing at Seller Labs

In this engaging WYTPOD episode, Harshit Gupta, Director of Business Alliances at WYTLabs, interviews William Christensen, Head of Marketing at Seller Labs, a cloud-based tool provider for e-commerce businesses. William delves into Seller Labs’ journey, highlighting its role as one of the pioneers in e-commerce automation. He discusses innovative marketing campaigns, emphasizing the significance of content creation and the power of interactive content in engaging users. The conversation covers AI integration into Seller Labs’ offerings, the importance of community building, and strategies for cross-channel marketing cohesion. William shares insights on overcoming challenges in communicating the value of groundbreaking data tools and offers a fresh perspective on managing churn rates.

Seller Labs helps to Improve your Amazon sales with​ cloud-based tools for e-commerce businesses to source, sell, and provide customer service.

William Christensen
Head of Marketing at Seller Labs

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of WytPod. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances at White Labs. We are a digital agency specializing in SaaS and e-commerce SEO. I’ve got William with me today, the head of marketing at Seller Labs. Now, they are cloud-based tools for e-commerce businesses to source, sell, and provide customer service. A big welcome to you, William. I’m so happy to have you with me today.

Thanks. Yeah, good to be here.

Brilliant. Now, could you please provide an overview of Seller Labs products and services, and what are the unique value propositions for it?

The interesting thing about Seller Labs is we were one of the first on the scene in terms of e-commerce automation. About 10 years ago God created the Earth in Amazon terms because that was long before any of that. That was the Wild West, back when things were, you threw it up and things just flew off the shelf. Back in that period, Brandon Chekitz was an Amazon seller, and he was trying to figure out how to get better reviews because he knew that if he got better reviews, he could increase the speed at which things would roll. And he built an automation tool that just automated feedback. So you would request teller feedback and that thing. It was pretty powerful to the point where they were having hundreds of people, hundreds of new sellers sign up for it every single week because there wasn’t anybody else out there doing that. That was the first time anybody had seen anything automated in what was there. In the coming months, Brandon would reach out to the Seller Labs API team and tell them, Hey, this is a little bit insecure. We probably want to look at something like maybe an MWS off-token.

He gave them the idea around that. Two months later, they made the MWS off-token. We’ve been around the Amazon API for as long as it’s existed in all of its different iterations, and that has been quite the journey. That’s our expertise. We focus on Amazon, we focus on their API, and we build tools for sellers. Now we’re focused on agencies, building out tools that automate processes for them. Everything from lead generation all the custom reporting to automated audits, you name it. We’re in the game, and we’re doing some pretty cool stuff that I’m not seeing anybody else in this space do with Amazon data.

That’s amazing. I think because you were the first mover, that again gives you a really good competitive edge altogether. Brilliant, man. I would love to know, if can you share any specific examples of some of the most innovative and creative marketing campaigns that SellerLab has executed. What impact did it bring to your user engagement and brand visibility?

Great question. From a standpoint of marketing campaigns, I honestly think at the very beginning, it was all about product-led growth. The way that Seller Labs for Feedback Genius, specifically, grew was through its software. The funny thing about Amazon sellers is they often buy from Amazon as well. As the tool grew an Amazon seller bought something and two days later, they received an email requesting feedback or, Hey, let us know how everything went, and please feel free to leave us a review. It would mean a lot, that thing. They were like, Whoa, Wait a minute. Where? They’d go dig in and find out where the message came from. Much like Hotmail or many of those others, the way that it grew was through that virality of people recognizing and finding those different pieces of software. That’s been a focus of ours trying to create that. The other feat of marketing genius that I would say is when Jeff Cohen was running marketing here at Seller Labs, he focused a lot on staying super relevant and ahead of the trend. He and his team, when fees and fees changed or anything on Amazon that was shifting or moving, he was at that forefront talking about it on Facebook Live, talking about it in front of people at conferences and all of those sorts of different things, just remaining uber-relevant in terms of the conversations that were happening out there in the space.

Those would be the two, I think, executed campaigns from a seller labs perspective in the past that have been done and had good results.

Brilliant, man. How does your company approach as a part of its marketing strategy and what role does it play in enhancing the visibility of companies’ tools or even services? It’s a pretty competitive landscape altogether.

Yeah, no, it’s wickedly competitive. I would say that our approach to SEO was and is all about content creation and content creation of high quality, finding things that are highly relevant to talk about and updating those blog posts, keeping things fresh and relevant for what’s being discussed in the marketplace, because the content is king. It’s not about stuffing keywords anymore. It’s not about weird backlinks or any of that blackhead stuff. It’s really about engaging unique value-generating content.

Yeah, makes sense. Even I’ve seen interactive content is gaining a lot of Have you experimented with interactive content in your marketing initiatives? And if so, what engagement or results have you observed?

Great question. I would say at this point, we’re in the mode of exploring more of the available interactive content. I think the fascinating thing about interactive content is that it is a choose-your-own-adventure. One of the players that I enjoy connecting with or I have connected with, tested a little bit around that is the Typeform Video Ask tool, which is a form, but it’s all built-in videos, whether it’s a lead funnel or just an application to sign up for something. It allows you to have your client experience an interactive face-to-face journey with someone with a bunch of micro video clips in a choose-your-adventure dial. Other software have come out that are doing that as well. I do see it as an ever-increasing trend, and especially with AI becoming at the forefront, there’s no longer a need to have an if-then statement that clearly defines this as exactly the response. You now can interpret someone’s language or meaning, and the computer can respond in kind and give relevant and valuable information.

Talking of AI, have your company introduced AI in any of your offering tools or even in general for your marketing? Do you leverage AI?

Yeah, the first place that we went, because basically what we’ve done is we’ve made tools that can go in and grab all of the data inside the SPAPI, inside the Advertising API, and in a couple of the unique places where Amazon doesn’t give you an API, some bots go out and grab some of that stuff. We have those three different data sources, and making sense of that data is a whole other layer. We have a Google Sheets extension that we’ve built that allows you to pipe all of your data from Amazon and just push it right into a Google spreadsheet in whatever format you want. And inside that application in beta right now, we have a chat with your data function. So you can go in and say, What was my top seller yesterday? It will look at the schema of the database and say, This is the SQL query you should be using to handle that. And then you can pipe that right into your spreadsheet and you’ve got the table that describes how that was going yesterday. We’re currently in talks with a couple of other providers that specialize in this dialog-esque format to chat with your data, chat with your Amazon account, and get out some of those insights so that we can knock that down and get things rolling.

That’s awesome. But I’ve seen another thing that works What’s really in the SaaS niche is building a community around your brand. That is crucial. How do you foster a sense of community among your set of users? What benefits have emerged from having an actively engaged user community?

The interesting thing about community is that’s a big part of our focus for 2024. We’re building an e-commerce service provider community. This will be a place where sellers are not welcome. If all you’re doing is selling on Amazon or selling on Shopify, we’re not inviting you to this community. This is a community where you’ve got to be providing a service of some kind to e-commerce sellers. The idea is that this is a group of people who are providing valuable services to the different individuals out there who are selling on e-commerce in Amazon, Shopify, or Walmart. That community, it’s interesting because as I’ve described this concept to several agency owners and the like, they said, Yeah, no, you’re right. I’m not aware of a community that’s specific to just agency owners. There are lots of communities out there that are e-commerce. There’s a rocket fuel one. There are lots of different million-dollar sellers and different communities that foster both agencies or service providers and sellers, but there’s no one who’s just focused on e-commerce service providers. Watch for that closely depending on when this episode airs.

We do qualify for that, right? So we qualify for that.

Yes, you qualify for that. And later we’re going to have you come jump on our podcast because we have a podcast as well. And the podcast is one of the ways that we find new people to join the community. It’s called Monetizing Your Mental Capital. And so we’re teaching Amazon sellers how to create a new revenue stream because right now they’re good at monetizing physical products. But when you get to monetizing an idea or monetizing a service, that’s a foreign concept. They always think the grass is greener on that side of the fence. We explore on our podcast, the difficulties, the challenges that you’ll face in trying to build a service business, and all of those sorts of things. We’ve had lots of cool chat, Ruben, Jason’s voice and several other cool people jump on the podcast. Excited to have you guys join and share some of the nuggets of insight on how to monetize mental capital as well.

That’s amazing. I would love to. I would love to know, concerning multiple marketing channels available, how you plan, I’m sure you must also be leveraging in terms of them. How do you create a cohesive cross-channel strategy to ensure a consistent brand message and even user experience in that sense? How do you do that?

I would say the biggest E to that, Castle, is a branding guide, something that’s very well defined in terms of when you see this Seller Labs logo, it’s going to look like this and it’s going to have this font and this size, and this is how we arrange things and put that there. I’m amazed at how often that’s something that I’ve been in a startup that didn’t have one of those. I’ve been in the shoes of not putting that out there in the right way. I think in the beginning, it’s ragtag enough that it’s not the most important thing to put out there. But as you grow and as you have that experience happening in multiple places, you have to create standard operating procedures across the company where everyone’s following the same format so that people recognize, Oh, that’s your mark, that’s your brand name.

It makes sense. Because you’re talking about branding, I would love to know what the KPIs, like beyond the traditional matrix, what the main KPIs that your marketing team measures, and the overall impact of the SellerLabs brand in the industry. Are there any tools that you’re leveraging for that purpose, anything around web monitoring, social monitoring, or all of those things?

Got you. I would say that at this current moment in time because SellerLabs is going through a transformative process, I dug down to our roots and started to focus more on that agency product. We’ve been less focused on the branding play from overarching, how are we being seen out there, beyond making sure that we’re at the trade shows that are most important to us and those sorts of things. I would say that my advice would be more around how to get in touch with a new audience that you’re trying to track down because about six months ago, we decided that we were going to focus. We like sellers. We think they’re great people. We have a lot of sellers who are customers, but we decided to focus our efforts on generating data tools for agencies. That’s been a wickedly awesome challenge, put it that way, to identify, connect, and convert those individuals into understanding and using our data tools.

What channels are you leveraging for it to gain traction for this new vision, for this new goal altogether?

The interesting thing was at the beginning, I started reaching out to e-commerce service providers and I was like, We can take all of the frustration of everything manual off your plate when it comes to reporting. We can just make that just an easy, slick process. We got a few people who were like, Oh, yeah, that’s the pain we’re trying to solve right now. But we discovered that the pain wasn’t painful enough for them to be like, Oh, yeah, I’m totally in. Let’s do this. I was having a difficult time getting people to talk to me. I sat down and looked at my roots, looked at several different strategies that I’ve had in the past to create some of that traction and relationship. We do something very similar to you guys with this podcast. Our podcast is a service to e-commerce sellers in that we’re teaching them about monetizing mental capital. But we saw it as a vehicle to get to know more of these agency owners so that we can understand more about who they are. The rapport and the partnerships that we created through that relationship have been amazing. I can see that’s what you guys are doing, too, with your podcast in building relationships right and left to connect that.

[00:15:00.570] – William Christensen
The cool part is it not only generates the relationship, but you also get a lot of really cool content and you get to meet a lot of people. It’s a really powerful tool. Then that funnels into the community and all the other things we’re doing with that.

Yeah, makes sense. Are you leveraging even user-generated content? Is it something part of your marketing strategy? What’s your take on that?

User-generated content is interesting. I think that for us, the user-generated content we’re getting is very similar to the user-generated content you’re creating in a podcast like this one. This can be redistributed, and handed out to hundreds of, hundreds, if not thousands of people in very different ways. Every time you ask me a question and I answer, that becomes an opportunity for you to repurpose that content. In the podcast that we’ve done this far, we’ve had amazing discussions about what it takes to monetize mental capital and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of starting a service-based agency or creating a product-based service. That content is highly relevant both to the e-commerce seller market, but also to other agency owners. That becomes the user-generated content that we’re putting out there in front of lots of different people. We’re currently in the process of building the engine that makes it so that we can repurpose that and go across all the different channels.

Makes sense. Because you’re focusing a lot on the podcast, and that is one of the good channels that you’re working on, mainly, I would love to know, if are there any specific strategies that are working well when it comes to promoting the podcast and gaining more visibility on that front?

I would say that the most effective thing we found is to make it clear as to the purpose of the podcast. The more vague the podcast is, the harder it is to achieve guests, to get viewership, the whole thing. It can be very vague. The more dialed-in you can make that clear, the better you can go. Then leveraging past guests. I have a lot of relationships in the e-commerce space, and that’s one thing we did as well. We reached out to the people that we knew that other people would know. Then we can now use those names to reach out to people that we don’t know and say, Hey, we had Chad Rubin on the podcast, and we’ve had Jason Boyce on the podcast, and we’d love to have you as well. They know those names, but they don’t know us as well. So you could leverage that momentum of reputation to push things through and grow.

Makes sense. Any specific challenges that you’re facing to scale your podcast or this activity in general, or with respect to your production, anything that resonates or facilitates your workflow?

I think that one of our challenges, we have all of this amazing data. We went down the pathway of identifying exactly what it looked like to create a totally clear look at financial data. When most people come in and they look at the Amazon API and they want to look at orders, they go to the Orders API. That makes sense. You would go to the Orders API for orders. We decided to go out of it from a different approach, and we decided if we can figure out how to make what shows up in your bank account, balance almost like on a financial accounting level, can we figure out how to do accounting level data data used for marketing and performance purposes. We base all of our data. We have access to all of those other APIs. People compare all the time. But where we focus our efforts is on that transaction data so that we can match it up to what’s in your bank account. In doing so, we started to add the cost of goods sold, where in the process, the next two or three weeks, we’ll have a prototype done for taking inbound shipment fees, for example, and taking their cubic volume and cubic weight and distributing that, the dimensional weight, distributing that across the SKUs.

Each specific SKU now has true SKU economics where you can say, Here’s the profit and loss. We were all excited about this ground-breaking stuff, $2 million per month or $2 million per settlement account. You can imagine hundreds of thousands of transactions. We were getting it to the point where it was reconciling to the penny, which is pretty It’s incredible, considering that Amazon API and all of the stuff that we got transactions in there that don’t have date stamps. You have to be like, Okay, that doesn’t have a date stamp, but it does have a product ID, and massage all of that together. The challenge we faced was, so what? I would tell people about this and they’re like, So what? What does that do for me? That feature benefit jump in our marketing has been a real challenge from the standpoint of, We know this is groundbreaking. We know this is exciting. We know that we’re not seeing this happen in a lot of other places. How do we get people to care? I’d walk up and I’d tell people, Yeah, we’re a data as a product company. We do this and that and this and that.

They’re like, Oh, that’s nice. Then off they go to the next place. It’s taken a lot of effort to understand more what is the real pain that we speak to beyond just doing custom reporting to help people understand why the data is important. That value value exchange has been difficult.

Makes sense. Now, I would love to know because you put down some very good points. I would love to understand how exactly the churn rate is in your organization and what programs you have running, marketing programs running in parallel to increase your customer retention as well as your customer engagement.

The churn rate is pretty industry standard for a SaaS company. That was one of the first things that I analyzed when I joined the company was trying to understand what that churn rate looked like and where those go. We’re right in that SaaS industry-standard churn rate. As we dug into that a little more, one of the things that we learned and realized was it’s probably better not to focus on this. If we are industry standard or beating industry standard, this probably isn’t the place where we need to spend all of our time. We came up with a whole bunch of reasons why people churn. Sometimes they just stop selling, they whatever. A lot of times, it’s not something you can do. There’s nothing you can do about it. We also found that other competitors wanted to niche down or focus on different things that we didn’t want to niche down or focus on. Focusing on churn too much made us stop focusing on what we were good at, and we were just running around trying to chase people who were on their way out the door. My experience with churn up to this point has been, as long as you’re within industry standard, go, yes, go get Stripe and several of these other programs that have that rescue idea of the credit card expires and they have a tool that helps you re-grab that and look at some of those common basic churn reasons.

Get some programs in place like that, but don’t hyper-focus on it. Hyperfocus on making your product better and making it so that people can’t ignore you because of your product, not because of how good you are at messaging them when it’s time to churn.

If I talk about the niche down industry standard for you, what’s that percentage? Which is the niche down?

The niche down?

The niche is down. Within your specific segment, what’s the industry standard of churn rate?

Man, that is a good question. It’s been a hot minute. Like I said, we focused on this Back when I very first came to the company, and you look at Paddle, which is a pretty knowledgeable company from that standpoint, and they talk about annual churn rate being between 5% and 7%. That’s where it should be. When we realized that we were lining up with that, we realized this was not the place we should be focusing our efforts.

Okay, we’re coming to an end, and I would love to have a quick with you. Are you ready for that?

I’m ready.

Okay. If given a superpower, what Will you choose? Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or be able to talk to animals?

If I had to choose between those two, talk to animals.

Okay. Do you have any pets?

I have three cats.

Oh, awesome, man. I’m more of a dog person. If you could travel back in time, what period would you go to?

I would probably go to either the Industrial Revolution, the time when machines and inventions were happening a lot in the motor car was invented, some of those different things.

So we are in Industrial Revolution four. That’s like IR four.

Agreed, which is cool because we get to live in the middle of that. But some simplicity’s missing in our industrial revolution because it’s so complex and there’s so much happening, especially with AI. Or I would go back to the time of Christ, back to Israel, and walk where he walked, and go check that out. That’s the other time period I would go to.

Interesting. Okay. You are a religious person, I believe?

Yes. Yep, very religious.

All right. What’s the fastest speed you have ever driven in a car?

Oh, man. I want to watch the end of these episodes now just to see what’s their speed. We buried the needle, so I don’t know how fast we were going. We were It was the middle of the night. It was just me and a buddy in our car. I think it said like 110 or something like that on there, but we buried the needle. I don’t know exactly how fast. We slowed down by the time the cop pulled us over, but it was pretty fast.

All right. How many hours of sleep do you need?

I need at least seven. If I get less than seven, I’ve got to catch up on the weekends. If I get more than seven, a lot of times I’m groggy, so I need seven.

Okay. What’s your hidden talent?

My hidden talent is selling hope. I am good at getting people excited about going in a certain direction. So six working geniuses Is Patrick Linzioni galvanizing is what he calls that working genius. Or in the strength finder book, they call it Wu, where you’re good at convincing people to jump in on a new idea or go to a new place. That’s That’s my hidden talent.

I think it’s critical. Even a guy in your role needs to keep the team motivated and everything. That’s a crucial skill. All right, now, coming to my very last question, what’s your last Google search?

Oh, boy. My last Google search. My last Google search is SaaSchurn. When you asked me for the churn rate, I quickly like, I’m pretty sure it’s 5% to 7%, but I’m going to double-check myself just to make sure. That was my last Google search literally while I was on this phone call with you.

All right. Thank you so much, William. Thank you for sharing your experience about the company, your strategies, and everything. I appreciate your time here with me. Thank you so much.

Yep, absolutely.

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