Brands and consumers alike are addicted to Amazon. In this interview Kiri Masters, Author of "Amazon for CMOs", joins us to talk about her new book launch, how brands are battling addiction to the big-A, how consumers are being lured in with everything from advertising to QVC-style programming, and how everyone from Lady Gaga to Mitsubishi are competing for your attention on the world's biggest store.

Main Takeaways:

  • Today, Brian and Phillip are joined by Kiri Masters, the founder of Bobsled Marketing, author of the upcoming book Amazon for CMOs, and co-host of the Ecommerce Braintrust Podcast.
  • With its plethora of sales channels, many brands don't know how to find the perfect Amazon solution to sell their products on the platform.
  • What are some best practices for being successful in selling your products on Amazon?
  • Amazon has grown exponentially in recent years, but what do the next few years hold for the eCommerce giant?

First Meetings Up Until Today: The Kiri Masters Story:

  • Phillip and Brian first met back in February of 2018 when they were on the Ecommerce Braintrust Podcast talking about voice commerce. (Now that's on brand.)
  • Bobsled Marketing is an agency that helps brands with their Amazon channel across branding, marketing, and operation support.
  • Kiri started Bobsled Marketing about five years ago after a completed unrelated career in banking.
  • It's a passion of Kiri to not just keep their passion and learnings at Bobsled to themselves, but to share them with the world.

The Amazon Buffet: Many Different Choices for Many Different Companies:

  • Phillip asks Kiri to give some examples of the advice they give and the expertise they impart to their clients when it comes to Amazon.
  • As an agency, Bobsled mainly deals with mid-market companies that have already done well in their own sales channels but need some clarification around Amazon-specific sales channels.
  • If you're not educating yourself on the different business models within Amazon, then you are already behind the curve.
  • There are so many different paths and options you can choose with Amazon so it can be challenging to align your brand with the correct channel if you are not educated in its structure.

A Missed Opportunity: Why Don't More Brands Sell on Amazon?

  • Kiri is still surprised at the number of household brands that do not have a presence on Amazon: but why are they not present on the platform?
  • A lot of the information that you find written about selling on Amazon is geared towards the "wantrepreneur" crowd and not towards established brands.
  • Amazon brings in about 50% of the eCommerce market, so not considering Amazon as a place to sell your product is missing a crucial portion of your retail strategy.
  • Amazon serves as the point of discovery for a large portion of online shoppers.

Starting With Amazon: What is Different About Brands that Start on Amazon?:

  • Amazon is creating an addictive product not only for consumers but for brands as well.
  • There is an organic problem on Amazon when brands cannot control the shift to retention marketing that has become a trend in online retail.
  • On one hand, Amazon doesn't want merchants or sellers to interact directly with customers, but on the other hand, with regulatory issues like taxes, Amazon takes a backseat.
  • The lack of direct connection with the customer is a major pitfall with brands who sell on Amazon because they are giving up any data that they would otherwise collect on their shoppers.

Feeding the Beast: Selfish Trajectories for an Ecommerce Giant:

  • Amazon has started to share customer acquisition metrics with the brands and sellers that are selling on their platform.
  • All of the metrics that they are now launching look great on paper, but it still all circles back to Amazon building a self-serving advertising business.
  • Lady Gaga launched her makeup line on Prime Day, but what does this mean for Amazon going forward?
  • Amazon's private label strategy upsets a lot of brands because the extent of data that Amazon has on its shoppers seems much more significant.

Is the Future Bright or Dark?: Insider Insights Into Amazon's Trajectory:

  • Kiri believes that Amazon is trying to fill gaps in their assortment rather than becoming an OEM manufacturer.
  • Amazon is starting to look more like a social media channel every day as they are pushing more towards content creation.
  • If Amazon is looking to create a massive marketing powerhouse, they need to vastly broaden their offerings at the top of the funnel.
  • Amazon has to make its platform stickier to keep people more engaged as everyone is competing for real estate in the attention of the consumer.

Amazon Live: Marketing Through Informational Videos:

  • Brian asks Kiri and Phillip if they had watched Amazon Live, a QVC-like video stream that can showcase brands on the Amazon platform.
  • Amazon Live is a pay-to-play channel but shows that Amazon is offering a lot of different ways to leverage the Amazon platform to get their products noticed.
  • As brands with backing come in with larger budgets, a lot of the smaller brands might not be able to compete with the spends.
  • Do you think offerings like Amazon Live will help smaller brands compete with larger brands for awareness?

The Cost of Amazon: How Much is Too Much to Spend for Acquisition:

  • The acquisition cost to get customers on Amazon is high, but after spending that much to get a customer, that customer belongs to Amazon.
  • Anker started out selling exclusively on Amazon but used customer feedback and intelligent data capture to grow the brand.
  • Digital native vertical brands like Glossier and Away have stated that they want direct connections with their customers and have stayed away from selling on Amazon.
  • Other brands have a mote of sorts around their brands from Amazon because they require extension customization like Care/of and Madison Reed.

Digitally Native Brands vs. Amazon: Is It Possible to Compete?:

  • Kiri asks Brian and Phillip if they believe that digitally native brands can compete without having to sell on Amazon in the future?
  • Brands are now able to put together a tech stack that is quite similar to what Amazon Prime can offer.
  • Amazon set the expectation for how brands have to interact with their customers in regards to logistics and fulfillment, and now brands can deliver at a palatable price point.
  • Phillip brings up Nike, Allbirds, and Tumi to demonstrate a way that brands will eventually begin to differentiate between brand and product

Amazon for CMOs: What's It All About?:

  • Amazon for CMOs is co-authored by Kiri and her friend Mark Power who also runs an Amazon agency (but they are still friends).
  • Kiri noticed that a lot of frank and honest conversations about Amazon between Executives was happening behind closed doors and this advice was based on your network and ability to connect with these people.
  • Kiri and Mark wanted a resource for the Executive audience that brought the voice of the industry into the book and talks about how brands are doing things.
  • The book also contains about 15 interviews with CMOs and Executive at large retail companies.
  • If you want a free copy of the book, they will be giving away free Kindle editions during the launch week of September 24th if you sign up on the site.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Amazon:

  • Brian asks Kiri the standard question of where she sees Amazon heading in the next few years.
  • Kiri sees some external factors coming into Amazon's future, and a lot of those on regulation, which will lead to AWS splitting off from Amazon itself.
  • AWS was built for Amazon internally initially, so if it is separated, will the retail division have to pay market rates for AWS?
  • Anti-trust in the United States has broken apart companies that eventually came back together, so there is a cyclical nature to splitting up large corporations.

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! Where do you think the next few years will take Amazon in regards to becoming a marketing giant? What are some of your best practices for selling your products on Amazon?

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Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.

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