Interviews & Insights

A Conversation with Rina Yashayeva, VP, Marketplace Strategy at Stella Rising about eCommerce Strategies for Brands

July 2, 2020 by Rishi Talwar

Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.

That saying is true for Rina Yashayeva, the VP of Marketplace Strategy at Stella Rising. With a background in Retail and Fashion, she started her career in New York, before transitioning to E-Commerce, and moving to Seattle to work at Amazon.

At Amazon, Rina held several different roles, starting with joining the Beauty team to launch and manage some of the most prominent brands such as L’Oréal, Maybelline, Garnier, and Conair, growing them to top tier vendors in Amazon Canada. Eventually, when an opportunity presented itself to work for an Amazon subsidiary called Quidsi (parent of in New York, she took it. It’s safe to say she’s a New Yorker at heart!

In her third and final role, Rina led Business Development efforts for Beauty on Amazon, launching dozens of emerging beauty brands onto the platform. After years of internal vendor management, marketing, and business development Amazon experience, Rina made the move to the agency side, where she leads Marketplace Strategy at Stella Rising.

In this interview, Rina shares her perspective on Amazon strategies, the importance of leveraging eCommerce data, and how she works with new consumer brand clients. Enjoy!

Rina Yashayeva, Stella Rising

Can you tell me about Stella Rising and your specific role?

Stella Rising is a marketing, media, and strategy agency. We call ourselves “the Agency for Rising Star Brands.” Originally a print agency, we have transitioned to a focus on digital services. With expertise in beauty, CPG, healthcare, grocery, and fashion, we are an agency with research and consumer behavior at our core.

We provide a full range of digital services from social, SEO, and, of course, Amazon. Initially, we helped our clients with their Amazon Advertising, but have expanded into end-to-end services that drive eCommerce growth, including content, strategy, and management. I lead the Amazon services for our team, combining my internal Amazon background with the agency’s digital expertise.

How has your Amazon eCommerce strategy changed in the last few years?

Amazon has changed significantly in the last few years, driven by the increase in competition. It has never been easier to launch a new brand on Amazon, but it has never been harder to succeed. Competition is fierce because the number of brands emerging annually is infinite, the barrier to entry is quite low. That is why it’s even more important for brands today to have a comprehensive Amazon strategy.

In the past, even two years ago, a brand had more of a say in whether they wanted to be a seller (3P) or a vendor (1P). Today, Amazon guides that decision for brands. The larger and more established brands (generally $10M+ in annual revenue) have the option to be invited to be a vendor (to form a wholesale relationship with Amazon).

On the other hand, over the last few years, the third-party marketplace has seen real growth. Most brands that are launching on Amazon for the first time launch as a 3P seller, with the tools necessary to grow their business and succeed. From our experience working with clients, it is critical to understand the category they are in, their performance potential, and the fees involved, to help define their Amazon launch strategy.

What is your first interaction with new clients like?

My first step is to understand whether the given brand is already on Amazon or not and if that presence is controlled by the client itself or the third-party marketplace. This answer will dictate the direction of our conversation and the services that we can offer. If a brand is new to Amazon and is looking to launch, we learn about their products, and goals and objectives to understand the role that Amazon plays as it relates to their overall eCommerce strategy.

If the brand is already on Amazon, then we analyze their current presence and performance. We can run an audit on the business to give a “Stella Score” from 0 to 100% for a high-level overview of how the brand is positioned, almost like a report card. Once we engage with the brand, we learn about their goals, past performance, current successes, and challenges. We dive into their Amazon history identifying areas where Stella Rising can help. Do they need help with strategy, content, management, advertising, or all of the above? We offer full services and cater our approach to the exact needs of the business, to help the brand reach its unique goals.

How important is leveraging data to execute a successful eCommerce strategy for brands?

Data is at the root of all of my decisions. As an ex-Amazonian, I have been conditioned to back up everything that I do with data. Naturally, this has carried throughout my career and work at Stella Rising. Whether you are a seller or a vendor, we analyze the data of past and current performance to understand what is working, what is not, and ways to improve your business. Between Brand Analytics, Business Reports, and a myriad of third- party tools, we have the data at our fingertips necessary to drive success.

Every week, we report on topline performance, ASIN level detail, and advertising performance to all clients. Some of the key Amazon performance metrics we report on are Revenue, Units, Buy Box Percentage, and Inventory metrics. For Advertising metrics we report on Conversion, Spend, Revenue, ROAS/ACoS. Analyzing data in this way provides us with levers that we can adjust to continue to improve our client’s overall success.

Do you analyze seasonality for a brand’s products?

Seasonality will vary based on the product category. At Stella Rising, we have deep expertise in Beauty, so for our clients – the suncare subcategory is highly seasonal. For our suncare clients, we take seasonality into account when determining promotional strategies and advertising budget levels. Not only are we looking at seasonality by-product, we also have to pay attention to consumer trends on Amazon. We follow Amazon’s key time periods for high traffic, including Prime Day and Holiday, as well as category-specific ones such as New Year, New You, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s/Father’s Day.

Based on the trend curves of the product or category itself, paired with Amazon’s events, we build a calendar and a budget for the year across promotions and advertising, to ensure we are spending efficiently to maximize conversion.

What is one thing you recommend Amazon brands work on?

On Amazon your content is key. Invest in high-quality images, video, and infographics. Build engaging A+ Content and an informative brand store, as your foundation. Once the pages have been set up for success, a strategic Advertising approach is the lever that will accelerate the business.

However, the work you do off-Amazon is just as important. One thing I stress to my clients constantly is that Amazon does not function in a vacuum. It is imperative to build the brand holistically. The brand’s paid advertising, Social Media, PR efforts, creative, etc. must work in tandem to tell one holistic story, across their DTC (Direct to Consumer) website, Amazon, and other retailers.

From Stella Rising’s proprietary research community known as Glimmer, we find that over 85% of consumers are omnichannel. They can discover a beauty product on social media, purchase on Amazon, or buy a fragrance in-store, smell it in person, and then replenish on Amazon. Consumers are not only using Amazon as a retailer but also as a research platform. They might discover off-Amazon, turn to Amazon to read its reviews and content, and still purchase off-Amazon. The consumer’s path to purchase is multi-faceted, they are discovering through different channels every step of the way. Ultimately, a brand must build their story in a 360 degree way, and decide what role Amazon plays.

How does Stella Rising help brands with their Amazon advertising?

Having a great product on Amazon is not good enough unless we get it out in front of the consumer. Amazon is a search-heavy platform, over 75% of consumers shop through search, therefore Amazon Advertising is a crucial investment for every brand. Oftentimes, brands start with Sponsored Ads (Amazon’s pay-per-click search advertising).

When we build a brand’s Advertising strategy, we aim to reach users at each stage of the path to purchase by incorporating all campaign targeting types. We allocate budgets at the campaign level, and create a keyword-rich build, utilizing the largest database of Amazon shopper search trends. We segment out upper-funnel (non-brand) campaigns, and lower-funnel (brand) campaigns. Also, add on ASIN-level, category and competitor targeting, working within the set budget. We discuss a brand’s revenue and ROAS goals, providing in-depth bi-weekly reporting to support those goals.

What is one piece of advice that you’ve carried throughout your career?

The unpredictable is inevitable. Be open to various opportunities because you never know what life is going to throw at you. Say yes to things that you wouldn’t necessarily say yes to, and the outcome might surprise you.

What’s one thing about you that most people don’t know?

I am a certified yoga instructor, which is my passion outside my career in Digital Marketing. I took my first yoga class in college, in order to fill the gym requirement, and got certified in Power Vinyasa when I was living in Seattle for Amazon. Yoga keeps me calm in this fast-paced ever-changing world!

Rina Yashayeva is the VP of Marketplace Strategy at Stella Rising, a full-service digital media and marketing agency. With expertise in growing spirited, high-growth consumer brands, Stella Rising connects those brands with the consumers who will love them.