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How This Apparel Retailer Quintupled Its Amazon Advertising Revenue

THE SCOOP

In 2014, online apparel retailer Country Club Prep had achieved major revenue gains promoting its products through paid search and social media. It was the perfect time for the retailer to expand its reach and begin selling on Amazon. But it didn’t take long for its growth to stall on the time-intensive platform. Country Club Prep struggled to pinpoint what products performed well on the marketplace. On top of that, the cost to advertise and fulfill products through Amazon ate into the retailer’s margins. Country Club Prep knew incremental growth on Amazon was possible; it simply needed the right partner to execute a better strategy. That partner was Sidecar.

PROFILE

Retail Category
Apparel
Website
Headquarters
Atlanta, GA
Channel

The GOAL

Achieve Profitability on a Complex Channel

The biggest roadblock to Country Club Prep’s success on Amazon Advertising was the channel data, or lack thereof, says co-founder Matt Watson. “Our business is very data driven, but we couldn’t get the data in any digestible way on the Amazon platform,” says Watson.

This lack of data, combined with the high cost of advertising on Amazon, made the platform incredibly challenging for Country Club Prep.

Amazon Advertising’s reporting feature didn’t allow Country Club Prep to visualize its sales data in a meaningful way. The apparel retailer wanted to understand which brands were over- or underperforming on Amazon and make inventory decisions based on those trends. Finding those insights required downloading a spreadsheet and parsing through thousands of data points. The payoff simply wasn’t worth the effort, says Watson.

The cost of advertising, on top of commission and fulfillment fees, made growth on Amazon prohibitive for Country Club Prep. Amazon charges Country Club Prep 15% commission with each sale as well as advertising CPCs. On top of that, Country Club Prep used Fulfillment by Amazon so that it could be eligible for Prime, meaning it had an additional fulfillment fee. Those costs ate into margins even further. At the end of the day, the math simply didn’t add up.

In recent years, Watson saw that more shoppers were flocking to Amazon as their primary e-commerce platform. “More consumers are starting commercial searches within Amazon. So we knew that was a place where we needed to be more competitive.”

When Sidecar launched its own solution, Sidecar for Amazon, Watson decided to reevaluate the channel. Country Club Prep had been working with Sidecar since 2017 to streamline its shopping and paid search campaigns on Google. “Sidecar was already achieving our ROAS goals on Google Search,” says Watson. “I was ready to see how Sidecar could apply that same data-driven approach to Amazon Advertising.”

BY the Numbers

409%
Revenue Growth
in first three months
131%
Sessions Increase
month-over-month
24%
Overall ACoS
in first three months,
surpassing 33% goal
14%
Manual Campaign ACoS
in first three months,
surpassing 33% goal

The sTRATEGY

Streamline Management With Intelligent Structure & Bidding

Country Club Prep began using Sidecar for Amazon in March 2019 to manage its advertising campaigns. Initially, the retailer implemented sponsored product ads and set an Advertising Cost of Sale (ACoS) of 33%.

To accomplish this goal, Sidecar took a hybrid approach to Amazon. The strategy focused on learning from initial performance and ramping up spend as the technology collected more data. Sidecar developed an automatic, product-focused campaign and a manual, brand-focused campaign, ensuring that Country Club Prep reached a wide swath of shoppers. In turn, Sidecar was able to set appropriate bids based on shoppers’ unique purchase intent.

First, Sidecar created an automatic campaign. Automatic campaigns function similarly to Google Shopping campaigns. Instead of bidding on specific keywords, Amazon matches products to search queries automatically, based on product information. Using this campaign type allowed Country Club Prep to collect performance data quickly, uncover valuable search queries, and identify top performing products.

After two weeks of running the automatic campaign, Sidecar was able to launch a manual campaign alongside it. Once products gained enough performance and search query data in the automatic campaign, Sidecar added them to the manual campaign. This campaign type allowed Sidecar to set both positive and negative keyword bids. Using the search query report from the automatic campaign, Sidecar could identify which search terms tended to convert at the highest rate and bid up those keywords.

Sidecar negates manual campaign keywords from the automatic campaign. That allows Sidecar to funnel high-intent traffic to the manual campaign where bids are set more granularly and sales are achieved with greater efficiency. As the automatic campaign collects more performance and search query data, Country Club Prep will be able to include a larger portion of its catalog on the manual campaign, increasing overall efficiency.

“There was a steady focusing of our spend as we gained more data,” explains Watson. “We wanted to spend where it was going to do the most good and maintain our ROAS goals.”

Sidecar’s hybrid approach to Amazon, using automatic and manual campaigns, allowed Country Club Prep to understand performance at both the brand and product level. In the automatic campaign, Sidecar grouped products together by category within an ad group. This allowed the technology to identify top performing products that should be broken out in the manual campaign. In the manual campaign, Sidecar created ad groups based on brand and top-performing products. That way, Country Club Prep could easily target high-intent, branded queries. It also solved an issue the retailer faced previously on Amazon, understanding which brands were top performers.

“While some of our brands performed similarly to what we’re seeing on our own website, there were two that really overperformed on Amazon,” says Watson. “We were able to track that more easily with Sidecar’s reporting and maximize sales for these two brands.”  
Sidecar for Amazon delivers dividends for our business, accelerating ad revenue that has activated the flywheel and ignited organic sales.
Matt Watson
Co-Founder, Country Club Prep

the results

5X the Revenue

Sidecar grew revenue 5X period over period in the first three months of working with Country Club Prep. The most successful growth month saw revenue increase over 250% compared to the previous month. During the same period, Sidecar was able to keep Country Club Prep’s ACoS to 24%, well under the retailer’s goal.

“Sidecar rapidly increased our orders on Amazon. Because of the velocity of sales, we had to rethink our inventory and stock larger quantities,” says Watson. “We were actually overselling some of our products, which is a good problem to have.”

Initially, the automatic campaign drove the majority of sales for Country Club Prep, but as Sidecar collected and analyzed more performance data, the manual campaign gained steam. With richer keywords and targeted bids, the manual campaign is currently driving the majority of revenue for the retailer. It is also operating at a much higher efficiency because the campaign is able to target granular terms. Country Club Prep set an overall ACoS goal of 33%. In the first three months after launch, the manual campaign achieved an ACoS of 14%, compared to the 33% ACoS of the automatic campaign.

Watson anticipates that the revenue gains will only increase as the manual campaign becomes more sophisticated as Sidecar gains more data over time.

Another unexpected benefit of advertising on Amazon is the Flywheel Effect, says Watson. “If you spend with Amazon, you end up improving your sales metrics and actually boosting your organic listings as a result. After working with Sidecar we saw a substantial improvement in all of our organic sales.”

Finally, Sidecar is alleviating the time-intensive nature of Amazon Advertising so that Country Club Prep can focus on its strategy and more effectively run its business. “Sidecar puts time back in my day,” says Watson. “We discuss our strategy goals every few weeks, and we make adjustments as necessary. Outside of that, all I have to do is make sure that our inventory is where it should be.”

Looking ahead, Country Club Prep plans to further expand its footprint on Amazon with sponsored brand ads. This ad format promotes a specific brand at the top of the search results page and highlights three brand products. Currently, Country Club Prep is advertising its own line of products with sponsored brand ads and anticipates it will be a powerful tool for brand awareness.

“The bottom line is we're making more money from Amazon ads, and we're doing it profitably, thanks to our partnership with Sidecar,” says Watson. 

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