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November 29, 2021

Nathan Rigby of Analytic Index: Mastering SEO and Data in the Era of Private Brands and Retailer Ad Platforms

Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
“I am equally fascinated by all things ecommerce and how the data can tell the truth.” — Nathan Rigby, co-founder of Analytic Index

From Walmart, Target, and Kroger’s retailer ad platforms to Amazon, there are so many places brands can spend their advertising dollars these days. 

But the competition for eyeballs in retail media has become increasingly fierce, especially with retailers like Amazon launching their own private brands to drive up ad spend or potentially to take market share away from the companies that advertise with them.

“They are fully understanding that this is not only a powerful tool for negotiation with brand manufacturers, [but also] their own product opportunity for profitability and assortment expansion and ways to control price across the environment through a competitive offering that has a like-to-like kind of similarity,” says Nathan Rigby co-founder of Analytic Index, an analytics platform that provides real-time intelligence and comprehensive insights to help brand manufacturers dominate ecommerce.

To win in this fiercely competitive environment, Rigby says brands need the right analytics and insights and a firm grasp on search engine optimization (SEO). 

Rigby joined a recent episode of “The Unpacking the Digital Shelf” podcast, “Search Optimization in an Era of Private Brands and Retailer Ad Platforms,” to talk about how private brands, retailer ad platforms, and the new science of search optimization are reshaping the ecommerce landscape. 

Solving Data Challenges for Brand Manufacturers

Rigby and his co-founder Mike Karlsven, a fellow Walmart alum and ecommerce veteran who co-founded One Click Retail with Rigby, launched Analytic Index to help brand manufacturers more easily solve complex ecommerce challenges. 

Analytic Index may be a technology platform, but it focuses on data-driven storytelling to help brands unearth meaningful insights about the shifting ecommerce landscape and how they can pivot to remain competitive in this environment. 

“One of the larger problems we felt still needed to be solved for was the total e-commerce view of being able to understand [the platforms] at the aggregate level, as well as being able to dive into each individual marketplace. And last but not least, being able to do a cross-retailer analysis across all of the foundational data for sales, search and some of the shelf elements that are so important to agencies, brand manufacturers, and retailers.”

Winning With Analytics

Analytic Index provides a complete data set for several retailer ad platforms and channels, including Walmart.com and its OPD platform, Amazon and Target. Data sets from Home Depot, Chewy’s, Lowe’s, and Wayfair are set to come by end of year. 

Rigby says the goal is to give shopper marketing and ecommerce teams the most comprehensive data possible for category management that wasn’t “limited by budgets or by the ability of tracking certain items, keywords, or categories.”

In the process of meeting this need for ecommerce organizations, Rigby also has discovered several compelling insights that could foreshadow where ecommerce is headed, particularly when it comes to private brands and retailer platforms.

The Retail Media Battles: Walmart vs. Amazon

Arguably more so than any other retailer, Amazon has embraced the power of private brands and retail media.

Rigby says Amazon is pushing its private brands “through retail media, both [through] sponsored products as well as other sponsored search mechanisms, to be able to drive their presence across the consumer landscape, as well as the corresponding impact that has for brands and their retail media spend.”

With Walmart, its private brands are “still coming from a very brick-and-mortar personality set,” Rigby adds.

The different approaches between Amazon and Walmart in this area have led to Amazon having a much bigger impact in the retail media space. In July, Amazon’s private brands accounted for 16 of the top 20 primary categories Analytic Index tracked. For 10 of these categories, Amazon was the top retail media advertiser.

“Vice versa on Walmart, they are not actively investing in retail media from their department plays…...for all intents and purposes, we don't see great value populated on Walmart retail media spend,” Rigby says.

How Brand Manufacturers Can Win the Retail Media Game

“Data is foundational to be able to help them with their negotiating strategy, both in terms of how they are spending their money in retail media dollars, as well as those one-on-ones with Amazon and Walmart.” — Nathan Rigby, co-founder of Analytic Index

While retailers like Target and Costco are using private brands to drive their brand reputation and increase their assortment and price negotiating leverage, private brands have become purely a retail media play for Amazon.

“They're [Amazon] falling into an added benefit of how this potentially drives retail media engagement,” Rigby says. “They can set some [price] floors — not through bid technology — but through their own bids of private brands at certain levels across certain keyword terms that naturally rises the ocean of their advertising sales.”

So what does all this mean for brand manufacturers?

Rigby says it’s crucial for ecommerce organizations to “understand what's going on, what truly are the levers that are being pulled, and the consequences of those retailer levers.” 

As brands negotiate with retailers, they also need access to robust data to shape these conversations, to create deal terms that are advantageous to their companies, and ensure maximum ROI for every dollar they spend.

A Data-Driven Retail Media Strategy in Action: The Business Case for Almond Flour

In a world where retailers like Amazon are using private brands to potentially set floors for retail minimum bids and spur more keyword activity to drive up retail media revenue, brands need the right data to level the playing field.

Ironically, they may find a path forward from an unlikely source — almond flour. 

During his appearance on the podcast, Rigby offered a mini-masterclass on how Analytic Index provides comprehensive data from retail media platforms that can give category managers a greater SEO advantage and increase their visibility on these platforms.

“As you look at almond flour across Walmart, Amazon, Target and any other retailer, they're all going to have different plays at different assortments and different levels of effectiveness [in terms] of the levers you can pull, as well as the impact that those levers will have on your business,” Rigby says.

For example, on Walmart.com there were two different categories for almond flour — baking ingredients, flour and meals comprised one category, and tortillas accounted for the other. Twenty-three branded and non-branded keyword terms were driving growth in the almond flour category on Walmart.com, while eight different brands were bidding on these keywords on Walmart’s platform, the most aggressive being Nature’s Eat followed by Bob’s Red Mill. Analytic Index also discovered there were 15 open keywords a brand bidding on almond flour could leverage for both organic and paid media opportunities. 

By comparison, Amazon also had two different categories for almond flour and 115 keyword terms that 18 brands were sponsoring, which meant higher saturation for the number of keywords but also more competition. On Amazon, a total of 19 brands were competing in the retail media space, including Blue Diamond Almonds, Simple Mills, Anthony's, and Wellby's Baked Goods.

“So, you can start to compare and contrast how competitive these different spaces are,” Rigby says, adding that “you see completely different brands playing on these different platforms.”

Brands Can Benefit From Comprehensive Analytics

As the almond flour example showcases, brand manufacturers can benefit from comprehensive analytics that allow them to fairly compare and contrast different retailers. Getting the right insights at the right time also allows them to better understand — and capitalize on — organic and paid search opportunities to drive sales, greater brand awareness, and potentially, brand loyalty. 

Rigby says that for years brand manufacturers have been talking about reverse-engineering the algorithms of retailers and online marketplaces, but the answer to their ecommerce challenges may lie in scalable data that empowers them to better understand who's winning certain keyword terms and why.

“You can start to understand what keyword terms not only have high-volume traffic to them, but more importantly, what keyword terms you are relevant for, and whether or not you're relevancy — based off of conversion metrics and organic saturation — allow you to build off of that momentum and invest in those [keywords] in a prioritized way, rather than shooting at traffic estimates,” Rigby says.

And with this more data-driven and SEO-optimized retail media strategy, brands can make better business decisions that ultimately lead to greater success — whether they’re selling almond flour or another product they want to fly off retailers’ shelves. 

To learn more about how your organization can optimize your retail media spend, check out Rigby’s episode of The Unpacking the Digital Shelf podcast, Search Optimization in an Era of Private Brands and Retailer Ad Platforms.”