Momentum Commerce Teaches Amazon at Harvard Business School & Charlesbank

Momentum Commerce Teaches Amazon at Harvard Business School & Charlesbank

By Andrew Waber
News & Press
Retail Media
Retail Strategy
October 6, 2022 · 3  min

In a single week this past September, Momentum Commerce leaders gave two advanced audiences detailed talks about what it takes to win on Amazon. Our CEO John Shea taught an MBA class at Harvard Business School, while our head of strategy Eileen Devor led a discussion at Charlesbank’s invite-only Digital Day conference.

Being a part of both events was thrilling, and a nice moment of recognition. Momentum Commerce isn’t even two years old, so already getting invited to speak at some of the nation’s most prestigious business institutions means we’re likely doing things the right way.

Now, let’s get into what John and Eileen covered in their respective sessions.

On Monday, September 19th John Shea joined Ben Kirschner’s digital marketing MBA course for a guest lecture on digital advertising. Eric Gesimondo, the COO of our client XMONDO, tagged along with John to help present some real-world examples and spur discussion. 

With roughly 30 students in attendance, John did a thorough run down of Amazon strategy, how this relates to an emerging brand like XMONDO, with lots of interaction coming from the class itself.

A brief overview of the topics covered:

  • The Amazon Ecosystem, Why it’s Important, and Why it’s Exciting
    • If Amazon was a country, it would be the 23rd biggest economy in the world
    • Amazon’s structure has allowed it to grow this fast, and why it’s outpacing Walmart
  • The Nature of Amazon’s Dominance
    • Amazon provided a way for Chinese manufacturers to have a more direct road into US sales – a huge change from how things worked in the past
    • Now, with advertising on the site becoming necessary for brands to succeed, they’ve developed a more multi-dimensional business model as the marketplace grows more complex
  • A Background on XMONDO
    • A great example of merging a social concept like hair care with the ability to buy those products
    • After starting D2C, the question was ‘what justifies a move to Amazon’?
  • Cold Calling the Class on Pros and Cons of Selling on Amazon
    • Some example pros the class came up with: improved growth potential, capturing demand already going to Amazon
    • Some example cons the class came up with: potential for unauthorized resellers, potential cannibalization of D2C sales
  • Variances in Potential Strategies for Amazon
    • 1P vs. 3P and why a 3P strategy is likely the best for a company like XMONDO still growing rapidly
  • Exercise: Best New Category for XMONDO to Enter?
    • John provided some real-world market data around the ‘Styling Tools & Appliances’ and ‘Coloring & Highlighting Tools’ categories with a class discussion on what makes one or the other a better theoretical target for XMONDO to enter
  • Exercise: Using Data to Inform Marketing Spend or Discounts
    • After showcasing the Amazon Search Trends tool, John went through specific relative stats to track when deciding to increase marketing spend or instead mark down the price of a given product
Eileen Devor image

Thursday of that same week Eileen Devor spoke at Charlesbank’s Digital Day conference. This more discussion-based session was laser focused on ‘How to Win on Amazon,’ with Eileen taking the attendees through a number of concepts specific to Amazon, and then soliciting thoughts from the audience.

  • Giving your products the greatest advantage on Amazon
    • Amazon’s ad business has grown faster than Google or Facebook, and you need to leverage those paid placements to drive growth
      • As the ecosystem has ballooned so quickly, so has the complexity of navigating it appropriately
    • Brands need to have a more nuanced approach to when and where to invest in certain ad products, along with developing a system to continually refine segmentation, targeting, reporting, and subsequent investment
      • This approach needs to be conducted on a product-by-product basis to drive consistent growth and outflank competitors
  • Applying competitive intelligence effectively on Amazon
    • Focus on understanding the competitors in your space and how they price, perform and market their products.
      • Relative statistics (e.g. number of reviews vs. your competitive set) matter more than ‘raw statistics’ (e.g. just the number of reviews alone)

Eileen had some great conversations after introducing these concepts, and an overarching theme was that many brands simply don’t have this data available to them, or the processes in place to activate that data at scale. A bit of a humble brag – this is Momentum Commerce’s bread-and-butter.
If you’re interested in a Momentum Commerce executive education session on Amazon at your company, shoot us a note at