Jacques van der Wilt is General Manager Feed Marketing at DataFeedWatch by Cart.com, which offers ecommerce product feed management solutions, helping online retailers to sell in advertising channels such as Google Shopping, Facebook and Amazon Marketplace.

We caught up with Jacques to find out more about his role and ask him about product data, AI in PPC, and which channels retailers should invest in.

Econsultancy: What does a typical day look like for you?

Jacques van der Wilt: Every day starts with a workout; staying fit is important for the body and mind when you are working long office hours. Then I drive to the office, and the first thing I do is check the number of new signups: acquiring new customers is my primary driver, and I have to stop myself from checking it five times per day.

The biggest part of my day is filled with meetings. I have a brief daily meeting with my management team and a weekly 1-to-1 with each of them. This is how we all stay current on the relevant topics. I also meet with some of our largest customers, so I always keep an eye on the market.

Every day during lunch, I read up on industry news, and I have some time set apart to research and elaborate on strategy and roadmap, something I also discuss in various smaller meetings. I write articles and record podcasts and video interviews regularly. I enjoy talking about DataFeedWatch and explaining how data feed optimisation enables online retailers to boost their sales and ROI.

Around 4pm, I start my ‘second work day’ and have meetings with various colleagues from Cart.com; since early 2022, we are part of the Cart family. Cart.com is the leading provider of comprehensive ecommerce solutions that enable merchants and enterprises to sell and fulfil everywhere. Accelerating our growth together is always the main theme!

Econsultancy: What motivates you about your job?

Jacques van der Wilt: I am motivated by growth. Growth gets me everything: big challenges, a sense of progress, and achievement. Growth is rewarding, and it continues to fuel my motivation. Growth is also about growing myself, with knowledge and new experiences, growing the people that I work with, growing the company, and growing the revenue of our customers.

I have always been a customer-focused person. From washing cars as a kid to waiting tables as a student to running a B2B SaaS business today: I always enjoyed going the extra mile to keep my customers happy. At DataFeedWatch, we provide support in the same spirit, and happy customers put a smile on our faces and drive growth.

I work with a great team of people, both at DataFeedWatch in Europe and at Cart.com in the US. We have a very friendly and positive company culture, and working with them is keeping me eager to go to work every day.

Econsultancy: How can AI enrich PPC efforts in 2023?

Jacques van der Wilt: It’s a discovery process. I believe AI is bound to bring a new level of efficiency to PPC advertising. And lots of innovation. We’re only at the beginning of our AI journey, and there are already countless ways marketers are leveraging it:

  • Creating the copy and images for you so they suit consumer profile and searches.
  • Identifying high-potential buyers when setting up the targeting.
  • Automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as keyword research, creating assets, bid adjustments, and ad scheduling.
  • Optimizing the quality of data feeds by identifying errors or missing information, product categorization, and listings optimization.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I expect us to see new ad formats or new targeting strategies emerging in the near future. The key is continuous experimentation and discovery.

All of this brings me back to when programmatic advertising was being launched, back in the day. Who knew, right from the get-go, the full extent of its capabilities in facilitating precise audience targeting or real-time bidding? I think it’s similar with AI today. We’re yet to experience all the uses and benefits it has to offer.

Econsultancy: What are some of the key ways that marketers can increase sales with Google Performance Max campaigns in 2023?

Jacques van der Wilt: There are a few best practices you can follow for PMax campaigns:

For a start, ensure the feed product data you base your PMax campaigns on is accurate and approved by Google. According to our findings, on average, 7% of products imported to the Google Merchant Center are rejected because of data errors. Cleaning up your data feed will allow you to manage product listings at full capacity.

  • Optimise product titles – it’s not without a reason this is the first optimisation area for most online retailers. They’re very well aware of the impact a title has on immediate customer action. We’ve noted that for some of our clients, a single title optimisation led to almost doubled ad conversions.
  • Exclude unprofitable or underperforming products and items out of stock that unnecessarily drain your budget. Instead, focus your ad spend on those that drive the highest amount of conversions or ROAS.
  • Before you set your target ROAS for the PMax campaign look at the bigger picture first and calculate your Marketing Efficiency Ratio – or blended ROAS. They showcase how your overall ad spend affects total business revenue. Once you have that clarified, you can further decide about the optimal ROAS for PMax.
  • For now, it’s best to focus your primary efforts on Shopping campaigns within PMax (feed-only approach), as Google has a hard time ​​meeting ROAS targets while simultaneously spending on other types of campaigns, like YouTube or display.
  • Don’t neglect search ads. Make sure your PMax Shopping efforts are accompanied by search campaigns in around 70/30 spend, as this adds to your visibility and broadens your reach of potential customers.

Econsultancy: What advertising channels or media formats are worth investing in right now?

Jacques van der Wilt: I think this is a very important question merchants should be asking. Today, a month and a year from now. Because the answer to it evolves together with the ecommerce industry. And paradoxically, it remains the same: ‘that depends.’

For instance, right this moment, Snapchat might be an immense opportunity for a trendy cosmetics brand in the US, not a great fit for an industrial equipment manufacturer and completely off for a seller of vaping products.

To identify the best channels YOU should invest in, you need to consider many variables: what vertical and countries you’re in, who your customers are, historical performance, and a lot more. It’s close to impossible to grasp and stay atop of.

I said close because what we’re soon about to work on [and I am personally beyond excited about] is to answer that very question for EACH RETAILER. With surgical precision and in real-time. Our upcoming feature integrating DataFeedWatch and Cart Unified Analytics will use AI to analyse data across all of your ecommerce operations (your storefront, ad channels, warehouse, and whatnot) and give you actionable insight into where to best spend your next advertising dollar.

…But while we wait: There’s one fundamental principle I subscribe to: diversify your channels. To build healthy revenue streams and minimise dependence on a single ad platform for your sales.

Our own data shows that advertisers tend to expand to channels that complement one another strategically: eg. Google Shopping and Facebook are a hot combo. With the first one driving end-of-the-funnel and the latter contributing more impulse-based purchases. We’ve also been observing an increasing number of merchants deploying to local channels, like Fruugo in the UK or Bol.com in Belgium.

Econsultancy: What trends or innovations do you predict will come to the forefront of your industry in the next 12 months?

Jacques van der Wilt: Most innovations and trends in the feed marketing space specifically will circle around implementing AI into current solutions or creating new ones based on it. At DataFeedWatch, we are already working on implementing machine learning to enable automated feed mapping and optimizing product data. Tasks that retailers once had to do manually will become fully automated.

Looking from a broader perspective, I am curious to see how augmented reality and virtual reality will shape the ecommerce industry. I believe it is highly possible that the virtual experience of a product before buying will become a norm in the online shopper journey.

Another trend that is following AI development across all online industries is voice search. With more and more people using mobile devices to shop online, where clicking the microphone icon is faster than typing, it seems a natural shift. We’re also likely to soon witness an AI transformation of search engines that will increase the interest in voice search even more. Consumers will start asking more conversational queries.

If you haven’t started optimising your website for voice search yet, now might be a good time to look into it.

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Econsultancy: What’s next for DataFeedWatch? Any goals or ambitions you can talk about?

Jacques van der Wilt: The vision for DataFeedWatch’s future is to become, together with Cart.com, the ultimate automated solution for retailers to drive revenue. Automation and machine learning is going to be key to our and our customers’ success.

Our next step will be to take our marketplace integrations to a new level, in order to provide retailers with all the digital sales channels they need to grow. These expansion opportunities will be followed by full automation of feed mapping-related tasks (with the help of AI). We want to reach a point where our customers can leverage fully optimised feeds for any channel, with very little to no effort needed.

Another big project is our integration with Cart Unified Analytics (UA). Cart UA is a business recommendation engine that connects data from across the shopper journey. It integrates metrics from sales and marketing data, web traffic, advertising spend, fulfilment channels, proprietary first-party data, and third-party sources to provide a comprehensive view of ecommerce operations. Based on that, it can provide actionable insights, incrementality, and comprehensive identity resolution.

Thanks to the integration with UA, we will be able to recommend channels and marketplaces to our customers automatically and implement more one-click improvements in the tool for our clients.

So, this is the future that I foresee in the next one to two years. I think all of what I just explained is a natural extension of what we have always been. Our primary goal always was and continues to be, to help merchants grow. Now, together with Cart.com, we are going to take it to the next level.

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