Be fast and adapt to changes immediately. Content should never become stale. Product description and content should always be updated and adjusted. Use an API for everything and to help facilitate this process. Think of it this way; an API can work as a kind of translator between two applications that don’t speak the same language but allow communication nonetheless. APIs can make the whole process of getting things done faster and easier — including updates to your content.
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 CTO and Managing Director, Robert Weissgraeber, at AX Semantics
Robert Weissgraeber is the Managing Director and CTO of AX Semantics, where he heads up product development and engineering. Robert is an in-demand speaker and an author on topics including agile software development and Natural Language Generation (NLG) technologies and a member of the Forbes Technology Council. He was previously Chief Product Officer at aexea, studied Chemistry at Johannes Gutenberg University, and did a research stint at Cornell University.
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?
I’ve always looked for ways to start an organization that could solve really hard challenges while affecting change in an area that hasn’t seen real innovation in years. For example, writing hasn’t seen a significant transformation since the introduction of the typewriter 200 years ago, so this was one area where I knew I could make a difference.
As companies embraced the digital age, they found there was no way to create the amount of content needed to have a robust online presence. To facilitate large scale text creation, I wanted to develop tools that helped companies scale writing without having to hire more editors or writers than their budgets could ever permit. Taking on the challenge to build and deliver a product everyone could utilize and access — like Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology- seemed like just the right fit.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about selling on Amazon.com?
With the recent introduction of ads and changes to Amazon’s search algorithm, Amazon.com became one of the most contested search engines almost overnight. Content on Amazon is not only a ranking and conversion factor, but its algorithms differ widely from other channels, so with scaled content production you can leverage those factors to your liking. Equally, there are a vast number of decisions that must be made with every detailed page on Amazon.One misstep can prevent a company from moving quickly to a top product category.
Content generation is imperative when it comes to mastering Amazon, as always up-to-date, unique product descriptions are critical to help with SEO, lead customers down the sales funnel and drive them to purchase. A lot of our customers, especially in the e-commerce and retail sectors, use Amazon as a sales channel. We work closely with them to optimize their content to fit all parameters by utilizing Natural Language Generation as a key factor.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
One of our biggest challenges with natural language generation technology (which is true for us and other vendors in the space) is that it can be used everywhere. Written content is a big part of our everyday lives and interactions. Take Alexa, for example. Below Alexa’s voice output, there is text as well. So the question was, “Where to start?” It’s just not possible to go everywhere when you have limited resources compounded with an infinite number of use cases.
Faced with that challenge, we decided to remove ourselves from making that choice. Instead, we opted to educate users on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of NLG and let them decide on the ‘what.” The approach has worked well: we’ve seen the creation of at least three new verticals from our product without us doing the innovation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A potential new customer came to discuss a comparably small and clear use case. Instead of one person, they ended up coming in eight people strong, forcing us into a multi-hour, on-site meeting, where they asked a wide variety of questions. In the course of the meeting, I mistook the person who was the decision maker.
It worked out in the long run though as the quietest person at the table later took me aside and let me know she would follow up directly, but that her boss considered it a closed deal. It turns out that a big part of the meeting was just for show to please the boss who had wrongly decided on their last vendor. Adding to the situation, I didn’t even remember all the names on the table — which will never happen again. They are now actually one of our cornerstone customers.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Product innovation drives a lot of what we do. As such, we are continuously looking at ways to refine and offer even more functionality. With the introduction of our real-time natural language configuration platform, we introduced multi-user live editing — think Google Docs for NLG training. The next level is already in the works: AI companions that can work on your project in parallel with humans to assist in annotation, data extraction and corpus analytics.
We’re not stopping there. We’re currently working on an automated product video generator that allows retailers to ensure good quality content across various channels. Amazon allows users to utilize video, so this will add brand and content value to sellers on Amazon as well.
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.
AI-powered content generation tools are a must for e-commerce companies who want to succeed in the digital age, scale amidst perpetual business and cultural shifts and successfully navigate and master Amazon. Here are five tips that can help you attain success.
- Use unique content. Utilizing unique content sets you apart from your competitors in the marketplace, and Amazon gives you preference if your content is good. Make sure to create distinctive, quality content that satisfies your reader’s expectations and Amazon’s search engine. Content that is too curt, indistinct and superficial offers no depth on your subject area. It will leave your readers unsatisfied and won’t help your effort in terms of search results.
- Always optimize your content. Optimizing content to fit Amazon’s search engine is crucial. Keyword relevance and SEO are just two — of multiple factors — that can influence where your product ranks in the search engine. Research and use relevant keywords in your product title, bullet points, descriptions and backend keywords. SEO is an important consideration, and optimizing and providing high-quality content is still the best way to increase traffic and improve earnings.
- Include conversion relevant content. When creating content on Amazon, don’t just think about providing facts. Writing compelling content that includes keywords is essential, but content needs to be engaging and also include a call to action to drive customers through the sales funnel.
- Be Data-driven. Analyzing data helps you understand your performance metrics and where you can adjust your strategy on Amazon. Don’t judge performance solely on subjective text quality, but actually analyze the data behind your content and make adjustments appropriately
- Be fast and adapt to changes immediately. Content should never become stale. Product description and content should always be updated and adjusted. Use an API for everything and to help facilitate this process. Think of it this way; an API can work as a kind of translator between two applications that don’t speak the same language but allow communication nonetheless. APIs can make the whole process of getting things done faster and easier — including updates to your content.
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?
We like to look at the data and numbers every day to adjust our strategy and see what is and is not working. It’s a very classic response, but most people don’t do it because it can become tedious and boring after a few weeks. I recommend having short data-driven discussions daily and then acting on the results. You don’t need to start a big project to harvest immediate changes.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I fully support the movement to grow, build and buy local, but not solely for economic and sustainability reasons. Communities thrive and build with the exchange of ideas and contact. New innovations and processes evolve as a result of collaborative communication. With all the world accessible at our fingertips, local communities are even more important for our sanity and mental health as they provide localized support and in-person social interactions.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Like it, change it or leave it.” This is one mantra I have learned to live by to bring about positive results. I didn’t like my old job. I tried to change it, but failed. I didn’t let that stop me, however, as I kept looking and soon left there to be where I am now — at AX Semantics. I couldn’t have made a better choice!
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 🙂
I really respect Angela Colter, former director of 18F, because their user-centric approach to ‘mundane’ software problems really makes a difference — and she was a big part of that. I’d love to discuss her experience with that type of approach and see what further insights I could glean and action.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!