Merchant Innovation

Going Beyond Google: Innovating Retail Analytics

“No one can compete with Google.”

But not everyone has to.

Those are the words of a former Googler, Morten Hellesøe Poulsen — the CEO of Plytix, a products analytics platform — who is using his knowledge of brand analytics to go beyond Google to offer an innovative way brands can gain a more accurate understanding of product performance and conversion.

Hellesøe Poulsen knows he can’t compete with Google, but he neither wants to, nor (at least for the time being) needs to. That’s because his startup has begun to carve out a niche platform that gives brands something they can’t replicate using Google’s analytics platform: metrics to third-party websites.

That means, say for a brand like Nike, if its executive team wants to know how well its brand (or a specific product) is connecting with consumers, they can turn to Plytix’s brand analytics platform to get the full picture. While Google’s analytics platform provides a snapshot of how consumers are responding to its products on its own branded site, what about when Nike wants to know how its products are performing on Amazon or Zappos — or any other third-party marketplace?

That’s where Plytix’s platform fills the gaps.

Why this is important, of course, is that we all know — especially because of research conducted by PYMNTS — that most consumers start their shopping journey on a third-party marketplace like Amazon. Which means that Google’s analytics fall flat when a major brand like Nike actually wants to know how their products are performing elsewhere.

“We believe it’s time to have a new analytics tool. An analytics tool where the data revolves around the products,” Hellesøe Poulsen said in an interview with PYMNTS. “We saw a big gap in the market here. We saw that a lot of these brands didn’t have adequate data to improve their business. So we set out to build this new analytics tool with the purpose of tracking performance data of your products.”

Sure, in theory, the platform sounds simple enough. Give brands data on third-party websites. But to make that third-party data actually materialize into data, it means more than acting as an analytics platform. That’s where Plytix’s image bank comes into play.

This image bank includes all the pictures and descriptions of products that a third-party marketplace or seller would use when listing a specific product. That means that seller no longer has to spend the time or money to track down the images or fill in descriptions on the products. Plytix’s database already has them covered.

“Basically, what we’ve done is created what will become the world’s biggest online image bank. This is where all the brands upload all their pictures on our servers and then that bank acts as a one-stop-shop for all the retailers to get product-related information, like products and descriptions,” Hellesøe Poulsen explained. “Once they get those pictures or descriptions into the website, then we create that bridge that allows brands to track every time customer interacts with products.”

That last part is key: enabling brands to understand how consumers interact with their products. And because the data that Plytix gathers isn’t sensitive or proprietary to a specific seller, it’s data that can be used to benefit both successful sellers/marketplaces and the brand that sells on those sites.

What All That Data Really Reveals

Posing a hypothetical question that Hellesøe Poulsen hopes his platform can solve for companies, he asks: “What if you can get data from all the Web shops and all the blogs selling your product?”

“You have much more data and thereby, you have much more data and a much more holistic overview of your end users and how they act,” he concludes.

Bingo.

What the data reveals to companies is how many times a product is viewed on a specific product listing, how many times a product is being viewed on a specific page, and how many times those views actually turn into conversions — and on what site.

“You can see across all channels where the interest is — and where consumers are more likely to purchase,” Hellesøe Poulsen said. “You get closer to customers because you see on your site, and any third-party website as well, how people are responding to products.”

Seeing how well consumers respond to a specific product has always been a challenge for brands who sell online, as it’s not as easy to track when products are diversified across multiple online channels that go far beyond the branded sites. In the end, this helps with being more transparent across the supply chain, Hellesøe Poulsen says, and helps for managing inventory, and determining which channels are best to promote the products across.

“At the end of the day, it’s a two-sided business model,” he said. The retailer gets the benefit of having the massive image bank (making it easier to list products), and the brand gets a fuller picture of how those products are performing as a result.

And then there’s Plytix’s role, which also helps break down the process of understanding data by delivering companies with a clear, concise data report that focuses on one thing and one thing online: eCommerce data. That’s something that Google doesn’t focus on when talking about sites outside the company’s own branded channels.

Taking Retail Data Analytics Beyond Google’s Reach

As brands know today: data and understanding how data translates into sales is critical to keeping up in the fast-paced digital world of retail. Breaking down that data into reports about how specific products are performing is the cog in keeping a company’s wheels turning.

“At Google Analytics, they try to encompass everything. We focus only on one thing. That is eCommerce. … All the data revolves around the products,” Hellesøe Poulsen said. “Analytics can very quickly become a jungle [if you’re not a expert].”

Luckily for brands, they don’t need to be analytics experts. They’ve got Google — and now Plytix — to fill in those gaps.

Still, there’s a point where Google’s platform ends — and Plytix’s platform starts.

“The difference between us and Google is that we can go beyond your own website. We can give you the exactly the same data as Google Analytics eCommerce tracking, but we can just give you that data for any third-party Web shop selling your products as well,” Hellesøe Poulsen emphasized.

Where that matters most is delivering brands what they expect most out of their analytics platforms: understanding how consumers browse, shop and ultimately convert that browsing into buying. That’s where Plytix’s CEO has taken his Google experience and applied it to another way to capitalize on underutilized data.

“I learned a lot from Google, but I also learned there is a world outside of Google,” he said, explaining that once he left the walls of Google, he learned there’s much more in the data and analytics space that’s yet to be tapped. That’s why his company’s focus isn’t on the competition — or Google — it’s about implementing a platform in the ecosystem he believes hasn’t been done before.

“We don’t want to be concerned with competition in the market, because we could spend all of our resources keeping up to speed. We make a deliberate choice to do what we would do. … We hope we can be part of disrupting the eCommerce industry. But we can’t do it alone,” Hellesøe Poulsen said.

And that means bringing a service to market that incorporates data of all the players that keep the retail ecosystem moving. Even Google.

“We’re not doing this to compete with Google. We’re absolutely not. We can’t just stop saying we’re going to stop using Google Analytics and use Plytix instead. It wouldn’t be responsible,” Hellesøe Poulsen said. “You have to use Google Analytics for your own Web page. But for tracking products across third-party websites, you have to go beyond Google Analytics.”

For Hellesøe Poulsen and his innovative team at Plytix, they hope that means brands turning to their platform to do the rest. 

Morten Hellesøe Poulsen is one of the panelists at Innovation Project 2016, being held March 16-17, 2016, at Harvard University. He’ll share more insights and trends about third-party retail data analytics.

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