Jonathan Opdyke is CEO of HookLogic Inc., the global leader in commerce search advertising. HookLogic Inc enables marketers to influence in-market shoppers and Win the Moment of Truth™ on the world’s leading retail, travel, and automotive sites. John recently spoke with The Makegood about his latest investment round and the competitive landscape that his company faces.
The Makegood: Congratulations on your latest successful investment round. You raised $14.3 million and will now be able to expand your company. Can you talk about the process that took you from Co-Founder in 2004 to CEO of a successful company, today?
When we launched the company in 2004, we were focused on influencing shopper decisions and the core mission really hasn’t changed, although our product and model have evolved. We spent several years focused only on the travel vertical, honed the model and were able to build on our core strengths as we expanded into the retail and automotive verticals. Probably the biggest factors in the success of our business have been a strong vision and the patience to see it through. Despite being early to market in new verticals, we’ve been able to wait for the right moments. While we’ve grown every year since founding, the patience is paying off as we are now growing faster than at any point in the past 9 years. This past year in particular has set us up for a very bright future.
The Makegood: You recently launched a bid marketplace for ecommerce advertisers called Retail Search Exchange. Can you tell us about this space and how it benefits brands and marketers?
At the core, we’ve been able to create a real-time demand generation engine for product manufacturer brands. With a single bidding interface, brands and their agencies can push their products to the top of search results on many of the largest retailers in the US with closed loop sales reporting. Brands that depend on retail channels to sell their products rarely have that level of control and insight into sales data. We’re a far better advertising product than Google for helping these companies drive sales.
Our retail publishers also now have a way to tap into search engine marketing budgets which, to date, have mostly been directed at Google. The Retail Search Exchange is completely automated, enabling retailers to plug into their search results and add sponsored listings that link-in to their stores, adding media revenue and promoting conversion. Most other ad solutions link away from the site. For example, when you go to Target.com and search for ‘travel system strollers,’ Target is earning pay-per-click revenue from stroller manufacturers that bid to have their product featured, with clicks on the ads remaining within Target.com.
The Makegood: Who do you view as your competition and why do you think you have an edge?
Google and Amazon. Google has most of the search advertising budgets. Amazon has the customer and sales data to offer similar solutions within their walled garden.
Our approach is extremely vertical, which enables us to offer better solutions to the narrower audiences we work with. Our partnerships with many of the world’s largest online retailers, marketplaces travel agencies, and automotive sites also enable us to aggregate lower funnel searches and follow users to conversion in ways Google can’t. While Amazon has visibility within their environment, we think we have a fundamental advantage in partnering with multi-channel retailers that still represent the majority of sales when you include offline purchases. In fact our network partners represent over $1 trillion in total sales, much of which is now influenced by online research.
The Makegood: HookLogic has been active for almost a decade. Can you explain how your experience in the industry helps set your company apart from newer ones?
Most new companies center on new media platforms and solving specific problems. In the verticals in which we operate, we’ve boiled advertising down to the essence and built a business model that is proven, platform agnostic, and truly scalable. We’ve also built close partnerships with many of the largest and most influential ecommerce players, enabling us to truly create impact at scale.
The Makegood: As somewhat of an industry veteran, how do you see it developing and how will HookLogic help influence that development?
We believe advertising will be increasingly measurable and accountable, far beyond what it is today. In many ways, the promise of digital has only been truly realized for direct marketers with primarily online business models. Brand marketers still spend the majority of budgets in “tried and true”, classic ways, focused on audience and reach. We aim to draw brand marketers online through real performance, in effect enabling them to be direct marketers.
The Makegood: Thank you, Jonathan