Julian Reis: “Don’t underestimate the power of customer reviews”

Don’t underestimate the power of customer reviews. Over two-thirds of consumers start their product journey by reading customer reviews on Amazon, even if they end up converting elsewhere. The power of positive reviews and high product ratings help boost conversion rate and build brand affinity on Amazon and beyond. As a part of my interview series […]

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Don’t underestimate the power of customer reviews. Over two-thirds of consumers start their product journey by reading customer reviews on Amazon, even if they end up converting elsewhere. The power of positive reviews and high product ratings help boost conversion rate and build brand affinity on Amazon and beyond.

As a part of my interview series about “Five non-intuitive things you need to know to run a very successful Amazon business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Julian Reis.

Julian’s passion is discovering the small patterns that lead to big change across industries — from finance to energy to consumer brands. After getting his start as a macro-trader with an eye for market-shaking trends, he used those talents to build and sell two successful hedge funds (including Pagoda Capital, later acquired by Tudor Capital) as well as an international oil services business (Kuiper International, later acquired by Gulf Capital). In 2013, he was inspired by exciting changes in the beauty space to become angel investor to cosmetics e-tailer Luxola (later sold to LVMH) and to Skin Laundry, the disruptive dermatology business quickly expanding across the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Tracking the social commerce phenomenon in China, he founded SuperOrdinaryin Shanghai in 2017 as a laboratory to grow the next generation of innovative consumer brands. He’s proud to lead a team that currently includes over 250 employees from companies such as L’Oreal, Nike, Airbnb, Tencent, Microsoft and Paypal.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

First of all, let me say I never thought in a million years I’d be working in the beauty industry! My journey was certainly non traditional. During high school/university all I wanted to do was become a trader on Wall Street. However, when I finished college, I moved to New York to join JP Morgan’s on Markets Training program. I started as an interest rate derivatives trader where I learnt the importance of understanding how markets interact with one another. I always had the entrepreneurial bug, so in 2002 I left my job to start own hedge fund called Pagoda Capital. In my first year the fund grew to over 200mm which in those days was a lot. I later moved to Tudor Capital, founded by the legendary Paul Tudor Jones, where I help build their Asian operations. Back in Singapore in 2011, I became the main angel investor in Luxola.com, an ecommerce 1.0 platform distributing beauty brands to South East Asian markets. This experience opened my eyes to the beauty industry. I was amazed how brands were gobbled up by the big players like L’Oreal and Estée Lauder, and this intrigued me. I then founded my own beauty brand called Skin Laundry in 2013, which taught me about building a beauty brand from the ground up. We opened stores in London, New York, California, Hong Kong, the Middle East. Then in 2016 when I was living in Hong Kong we brought in new management and I found myself looking for my next venture, which brought me to founding SuperOrdinary in China.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about selling on Amazon.com?

We’ve pulled together a team of e-commerce industry experts who collectively have 25+ years of experience growing beauty brands on Amazon. Our team has built and scaled many of the top brands who were at the forefront of the Amazon beauty movement, so we really understand the nuances of the platform and the tools available to protect and grow brands on Amazon. Unlike most of our competitors, we are solely focused on beauty, and we have a proven track record of launching and scaling brands on platforms like Amazon throughout the world. We have a wealth of learnings from operating brands in China, and we apply those insights to our US operation. We are a full-service strategic partner and offer brands a suite of services including forecasting, customized advertising strategy, content creation, review management, logistics and inventory management and robust reporting.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I think one of the hardest things in your career is change, like transitioning into a completely different career path. We as humans are always trained to stay safe and do what you know. If you are in finance, stay in finance. I have always been a dreamer, and to a fault. I have done everything from starting an Art Gallery in Singapore (Gallery Reis) to owning a pool cleaning company where I learnt about the services industry to finally starting my own beauty brand.

One of the biggest lessons of my career came from my time owning the pool cleaning company in Singapore. On paper, the company was very profitable and growing as the operator of the company was key to the daily operations of the business. I learnt a very valuable lesson when I bought the company. As soon as I bought it, he no longer was interested in operating the business any more, and the business tanked! He didn’t show up at work and soon I realized I was in trouble. I eventually sold the business back to him, therefore teaching me an important lesson to put myself in other peoples shoes to try and understand their point of view before jumping into ideas.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At SuperOrdinary we are constantly thinking about better ways to connect brands with the end consumer. In China we have been very successful in investing heavily behind live streaming as a form to selling products to the customer. Given our experience, we have been challenging ourselves to see if something similar would work in western culture. It’s something we do not have the answer to just as yet but if it makes sense we will be ready to pounce on this opportunity.

Ok. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. You are a seasoned Amazon expert. Can you share with our readers five, non intuitive, insider tips, in order to be as successful as possible on Amazon? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of customer reviews. Over two-thirds of consumers start their product journey by reading customer reviews on Amazon, even if they end up converting elsewhere. The power of positive reviews and high product ratings help boost conversion rate and build brand affinity on Amazon and beyond.
  2. There is no “one size fits all” strategy when operating on Amazon. There are many ways for a brand to utilize the platform, depending on their goals. For example, if a brand doesn’t want to utilize the channel for major growth, they can focus their strategy on brand protection and control to ensure their seller landscape is clean and their pricing is in accordance with their other sales channels. Or a brand can focus on protection with some growth, or leverage all the levers available for all-in growth.
  3. Product education and ingredient lists are extremely important to today’s consumer, especially when it comes to skincare. Often, brands will post this content at the very bottom of the page, making it easy for the consumer to miss. Take advantage of the real estate at the top of the page to ensure you are giving your consumers the information they are looking for, without making them look too hard for it.
  4. Amazon brands should choose the right key performance indicators to achieve their desired business objective. For example, brands with revenue growth goals are often fixated on sales efficiency metrics (advertised ROAS, CPA, etc.) while ignoring the most important top-line KPI — MOM business growth.
  5. Don’t ignore your IPI! Your IPI or Inventory Performance Index measures how well a seller is doing with their inventory metrics. It’s made up of four components: Excess inventory, sell-through rate, stranded inventory, and in-stock rate. Amazon’s fulfillment centers are extremely busy and often at capacity. Amazon doesn’t want to become a storage unit for slow moving inventory. The better your IPI, the more storage space Amazon will allocate to the seller account.

Amazon sellers have a reputation for being great guerilla marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

On the whole, larger legacy brands have been slow to embrace Amazon. By not managing their brand presence, they are allowing unauthorized resellers to capture the demand and control the brand experience, I.e. Marketing, product information and pricing, unboxing experience, etc, which often leads to a less than favorable experience for the end consumer. Our advice to all brands is to have an Amazon strategy in place so they are in control of how their brand lives on this channel.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m a big believer in Karma and always try to abide by the golden rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. I truly feel that I have been blessed in my life and my parents have always told me to be generous and look after others. I treat everyone in our company as family and I feel this culture of do what you love really is important part of retaining top talent.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Wow… The list would be long. The two people Id love to sit down with is Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater hedge fund, and Anthony Bourdain if he was still alive. I love the humility of Anthony and his appreciation of the simple things in life. He reminds us all that life is short and is here for living!

Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!

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