James Horey Discusses Vendor-Focused Software And The Future Of The Amazon Ecosystem

James Horey Discusses Vendor-Focused Software And The Future Of The Amazon Ecosystem

Esme Mazzeo
Esme Mazzeo
April 08, 2019
29

Founder and CEO James Horey started ReviewBox in early 2016, after speaking with an acquaintance in the pet supplies industry who mentioned that they were having difficulty managing their Amazon account data effectively. They needed a way to access product information, customer reviews and questions from Amazon and other platforms to help improve their customer service practices. Horey was just coming off work at another startup and had experience developing software. He decided to take on the challenge, and ReviewBox and its family of products were born. We spoke to Horey about how he helps businesses fill in their customer service gaps and the future of vendor-focused software within the “Amazon ecosystem.”

What makes Reviewbox’s software unique for vendors who rely on Amazon?

Within the market where we play, there just aren’t that many software competitors right now. Especially in the mid-market. There just aren’t a lot of great software capabilities for these really great mid-sized brands that happen to sell on Amazon. That’s where we come in.

For those brands specifically, they often want a lot of data about their Amazon sales. In addition to product reviews you may look at the questions, the content, the retail price, they’ll list the third-party sellers, they may launch greater coverage outside of Amazon like Walmart or Target and PetSmart and so forth. We have to be able to provide software that gives that information.

How is your clients’ data presented to them?

Our customers interact with our software in three main ways:

  • The web application: The primary way to see data when you log in
  • Email notifications: We like to view the email notifications as part of our interface. We have a lot of users, for example, that primarily interact with our software through our notifications and through our emails. So, we try to add a lot of data and information to those emails.
  • Data reports: You can quickly and easily set up reports to be automatically emailed to you so that if you don’t want to login or you’re just too busy and you just want an offline copy of those reports you can automatically access them.

Specifically what kind of data is in those reports?

When they log in to the dashboard what they would normally see is — first,  a customized view depending on their own product and what sort of subscription they may have with us. But they can view all the relevant data that they want across their e-commerce channel.

This includes information the marketing team will care about such as product reviews, the questions people are asking, all of the content that they have set up so images, bullet points, descriptions, page type — things like that, that the marketing team may care a lot about.

If the sales team wants to look at the price points of their products they can easily do that as well. We’re constantly adding more data to the mix. If they wanted to integrate ad data and look at their spend relative to retail pricing, relative to the ratings and reviews, it’s pretty straightforward to do that within our platform as well.

Do you have an example of how a company can use your data to improve their bottom line or their overall business practices?

We do have a few case studies with our customers. Radio Systems Corporation, which encompasses brands like PetSafe,  is a great example of that, but we have a few others as well. In terms of improving the bottom line or top line, it’s going to really depend on the specifics of what they’re looking for within the subscription.

If they’re primarily focused on negative reviews and questions, that’s going to be harder to measure in terms of dollars. If you’re a brand like PetSafe and someone leaves a 1-star review, that certainly is going to affect the likelihood of that item being purchased in the future. No one wants to see a bunch of 1-star reviews on their products.

Having said that, if they respond to the 1-star review and hypothetically change the reviewer’s mind enough for them to edit their comments and update their review to three or four stars…how is that going to improve their bottom line? It’s going to improve it. It’s hard to quantify the effect of a single review.

Frankly, from a customer service point-of-view, responding to online reviews is a gap that to be addressed. A lot of our customers may be answering calls and answering emails no matter what, because it’s direct communication with a person who needs an issue resolved. We view the data that we provide as a tool that’s making it easier to have the same communication with someone leaving a review on their product. It will improve their customer service regardless of the bottom line.

You have other products in addition to ReviewBox, like Ad Station, SearchBox and CopyBox. How do your products work together to help a company either fill gaps or just improve overall?

It’s about trying to fill in the gaps within the product information that you’re currently viewing. Even though the products are separate subscriptions and separate modules, the reality is for a shopper that’s considering buying an item for one of your brands…they’re going to be looking at a lot of different pieces of data to make that decision, right?

They may type in a search term and see an ad that you’re managing on Amazon. Or they may see one of your items organically popping up on a page. When they clicked through that, they’ll probably see a bunch of images and they may read through the product description or the bullet features. Of course, they’ll look at the price and whether the item is available within the range that they expect. Finally, they’ll move through the ratings and reviews to make sure that other people have validated that product.

We look at that entire journey that the customer’s going to go through for your product and ask, “How do we structure all of that information and systematize it so that the company has access to the customer’s entire journey. Even though we have different product subscriptions I think of it as all belonging to a single story.

What does the future look like for your company?

One thing that I think is important to understand about our company — we’re a bootstrap company and what that means is that we have been growing because our customers have trusted us and have paid us and are willing to grow with us. That’s really exciting. For 2019, that’s going to continue.

In terms of product, I still think that there are gaps within the data ecosystem that we’re trying to fill. The next big one is really centered around what I consider operational data. So, sales and inventory data, return rate, vendor data from vendor central and so forth. We want to be able to integrate that data to fill out the missing pieces with the data ecosystem that we can provide for our customers.

From there I think it’s really about doubling down on this idea of acting on this information. So, what does that mean? Content syndication, review solicitation, active ad management and so forth. I think that’s something that’s really interesting for us and something that hopefully we’ll be able to help our customers with.

What direction do you see vendor-focused software heading in? Are there any holes in the industry overall that you would like to see patched up?

I think that within the brand space, especially with Amazon, things are changing quite a bit. A lot of these changes have already started happening and will continue to accelerate throughout 2019. One of the big macro changes is the whole direct to consumer angle.

For a long time,  manufacturers and brands had to rely on distribution partners and retail partners to be able to sell their items and connect with consumers. So, if the only place where a customer could buy a particular brand of shampoo was through Target, the customer had to have a pretty good relationship with Target. The physical store.

Amazon has changed all of that. When someone leaves a 1-star review on Amazon, they’re not necessarily thinking about Amazon. They’re thinking about you, the brand owner — whoever made that product. Whether that brand sells in bulk to Amazon or whether they sell directly to consumers through seller central or through their own website, they have to think of themselves as a direct-to-consumer brand.

What that means from an economic point of view is that really new brands are able to take advantage of that scenario. Perhaps they’re simply structured in a way that’s very conducive to the whole direct-to-consumer angle. Perhaps they’re structured to sell directly to consumers more conveniently through seller-central instead of vendor-central. Perhaps they’ve already started thinking about their e-commerce distribution strategy or what those contracts look like.

If I were to make a broad prediction, I would say that the number of really new brands and brand startups coming up throughout 2019 is just going to increase. Consumers are going to have access to a greater degree of really interesting products from brands that they’ve never heard of.

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