“All my problems bow before my stubbornness.” ~ Amit Kalantri
Translating Data into Insights, and Insights in Action…
… that was it, that was the idea behind MixShift.
Add a healthy dose of “Customer Obsession”, an unhealthy passion for Amazon Data, the bottomless support of the Amazon Community, and just enough old-fashioned entrepreneurial stubbornness, and you find us where we are today.
Our vision for MixShift stems from the concept of a ‘Decision Support System’; an intelligence layer sitting upon a highly complex system, to support efficient, and enhanced, human oversight.
And what’s more complicated in the Retail World these days than Amazon? Unfortunately for us, that complexity comes in many flavors. Every Brand is unique, each Agency has its own approach, and the Amazon Investment world is just getting started. Our saving grace, it all starts with the data… and we know data.
The challenge remained however as to how to build a solution that is both simple & efficient, but also flexible, transparent, & tailored to the varied needs of our users. And while our roadmap remains long, we hope what we’ve built helps you pierce the veil on your Amazon performance… without breaking the bank, or your brain.
“If we have data, let’s look at the data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine” ~ Jim Barksdale
A Business Born of Frustration.
The best kind of origin story? Maybe not, but it’s ours.
Have you ever had a problem you just can’t let go? And you’ll chase it through the years, taking the hits as they come… keeping true to your vision, but always worrying you’re moving too slowly. That’s our story.
The ‘Problem’ for us was in how to bring ‘Data-Driven Decision Making’ to the Amazon ecosystem. Should be easy right? Amazon makes mountains of data available to users. How hard could it be to put it to use?
Turns out, it’s quite difficult… and it starts with the data itself.
Amazon loves its data. Nary a PowerPoint in sight, the business was built upon “six-pagers”, supported by appendixes galore. The maxim “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” has worked its way into a number of Amazon’s Leadership Principles. One would think that they’d extend those principles to the businesses that rely on their platform… and to a degree they do, but unfortunately (or fortunately… for us) it’s hardly sufficient.
Solving for every potential use-case is a tall task. It required us starting from the raw data and building upward. But as we looked to aggregate data sets, we found the flaws that Amazon left for us to solve. Data sets were incompatible, definitions inconsistent, documentation inadequate, structures ever-evolving, restatements not as described, and historical lookback… limited.
In short, building the foundation was going to be much more difficult than we anticipated. It also highlighted an opportunity to solve a problem our customers faced, albeit short of our full-vision. But as a bootstrap company, we seized the opportunity.
“Whenever something is engineered as complex, it is designed to keep you simple.” ~ Richard Diaz
Democratized Data Access…
…our first Minimally “Lovable” Product.
Your Amazon data, automatically pulled, thoughtfully aggregated, consistently maintained, historically retained, and stored securely in a stand-alone MySQL database. That was our market-entry point, and still a much in-demand feature of our line-up.
Our aim was to free our users from their data worries and empower them to focus on building the reporting and analytics to their specifications. Our early users were BI experts themselves, and we found out quickly how many different ways the data could be put to use… an insight that guides our roadmap to this day.
Still, BI tools have their limitations, validating that it would require software to deliver on our vision. The trick would be how to do so in a way that strikes the balance between customization and efficiency, while avoiding forcing ‘our approach’ on our customers. Our users are experts themselves and avoiding black-box algorithms while delivering seamless tops-down/bottoms-up navigation, would be key to our success.
So, we got to work building useful features into our platform that complemented our database solution. From purpose-built views that solve for common use cases such as pacing, to addressing the elephant in the room… eliminating pivot tables forever.
It was a solid start, and more work than we anticipated, but there was still much more to be done.
“The cause is hidden. The effect is visible to all.” ~ Ovid
Translating Data into Insights…
Your ACoS went up last week, tell me why… No guesses, tell me precisely.
Think about all the data sets you need to gather, the math, the spreadsheets, the metrics and their interrelationships. Are your palms getting sweaty?
If you ever wondered what it’s like to be an Amazon Vendor Manager, that’s pretty darn close… “Provide an unbiased assessment of performance using data” is the bar for virtually any corporate job at Amazon.
We wanted to build that same amount of rigor into our product; where users never had to resort to ‘guestimates’ to derive what’s really happening. Or said another way, to empower our users to “Never fear the tough questions again”.
And while translating “Data into Insights” is a theme throughout our product, it’s the ‘Bridge Engine’ that was developed specifically for this use case.
If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘Bridge’ concept, it is, simply put, a methodology for explaining a metric’s change in performance by calculating the ‘contribution to change’ for each of the component parts. In practice, this mean we quantify exactly what drove your ACoS up; the headwinds and tailwinds, for each campaign and across every search term, so you know exactly where to focus your attention.
ACoS is the money metric that gets all the attention, but just as critical are all the other metrics, also bridged, that help you to definitively diagnose your performance. For example, your ACoS is up, driven by a lower conversion rate, which can be attributed to these ASINs… and now you know where to go for your investigation.
Our relentless focus on uncovering the root cause, and doing so in a “choose your own adventure” style, makes us unique in the Amazon space. But as powerful as that approach can be, the insights still need to be actioned…
“If you automate a process that has errors, all you’ve done is automate the generation of those errors.” ~ W.L.W. Borowiecki
…and Insights into Action.
The allure of automation is undeniable.
The efficiency gains can be massive compared to manual Amazon Console management. But are those gains worth the loss in transparency? And just how far can you trust the automation to make the right decision for your brand?
You’ll find plenty of strong arguments on both sides of the equation, and we prefer to play Solomon here. Automation has its place, especially where scale is critical, data is sound, and tasks are rote. But if the data is insufficient, or situation multifaceted, wresting the controls from a black box algorithm, if required, is a challenge in-and-of-itself.
For us, we understood how the “Amazon Game” is played and know firsthand the limitations of the data. Instead of forcing automation into our product, we kept the focus on delivering efficiencies, without sacrificing the transparency and flexibility our users had come to appreciate.
To do so, we broke out the core Advertising management tasks into workflows, and then layered on technology to ensure ‘taking action’ was as efficient as possible. As we had the full data-set, and a longer historical record, we had the opportunity to package the data in ways specific to the task at hand… and then take actions across the entire account, down to the search term level, from a single view.
Interestingly, because of this unique approach, we discovered that some of our users were using our product side-by-side with other automation platforms as a ‘check on’, and a means to explain, the automated actions being taken.
“When you know your Why, You’ll know your Way.” ~ Michael Hyatt
Follow the Vision…
There are so many shiny objects to chase in the Amazon space that it can be difficult to stay focused. We let our customers drive our roadmap, building upon the infrastructure we’ve created. We have plenty of enhancements to incorporate, but balance those against the critical needs of our users.
Generally, we plan to stick to the ‘official’ data sources, and avoid those interesting, but questionable tactics only possible through scraping, or aggregating across our massive data set. Amazon continues to evolve their APIs seemingly every week, and integrating those new data sets will remain a top priority.
Specifically, there’s such a gap for Amazon Reporting, that we can’t help but to continue to invest there. With reporting requirements ranging widely, we have an endless roadmap of reports to create… including incorporating ‘smart insights’ leveraging our Bridge Engine. And with all the new Amazon data sets, there will be plenty of opportunities to put our tech stack to use in turning data into insights, and insights into action. There are few as well positioned as us to chase that challenge.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed the ‘short’ story of MixShift. And If you like what you’ve read, we’d love to have you check us out. And who knows, maybe it’ll be your critical need that we schedule to address next…
And for those who found their way here and are interested in joining the team, feel free to reach out to us. We are always looking for those with a passion for the space, and if we don’t have a role for you right now… things moves quickly in the Amazon world.
MixShift was launched in 2022, after spending five years in development under Dash Applications, a technology incubator. Our core team consists of Amazon experts who earned their stripes through every conceivable way. From shady resellers who knows the hacks, to Amazon Insiders who know the inner workings. We’ve built agencies, built brands, did our turn in the trenches and sat in leadership roles. Our vision originated from our founders work to automate Amazon’s end-to-end supply chain under the ‘Hands-off-the-wheel program’ and has been refined through our first-hand experience with Brands and Agencies. We’re closeted (or not-so-closeted) nerds, with a passion for building businesses, solving problems, developing software, mining data, and of course all things Amazon, and are guided by a lean-six-sigma mindset to Eliminate, Reduce, Automate and Outsource in all that we touch.
We are a global company (how’d that happen?) with customers and team members around the world, though we call Colorado home. When we do step away from the computers, you can find us skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, travelling and of course watching our families grow. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but do hold ourselves to high standards, a critical mix in the Amazon ecosystem.