Home Analytics Amplitude’s CEO: ‘The Product Itself Has Become The Distribution Channel’

Amplitude’s CEO: ‘The Product Itself Has Become The Distribution Channel’

Spenser Skates, CEO & co-founder, Amplitude

Amplitude wasted no time trying to poach customers after Google announced plans to shut down Universal Analytics (UA) and force an upgrade to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) this summer.

The product analytics company, which was founded in 2014, spun up an email campaign last month to woo ticked-off GA customers to its platform.

“If you’re a consumer, Google is great, but if you’re a business … you never want to run your business on Google,” said Spenser Skates, CEO and co-founder of Amplitude. “I mean, Microsoft would never break backwards compatibility.”

Doing away with UA in favor of GA4 is an upheaval for advertisers that have become reliant on the tool, regardless of its limitations. And the data migration is no joke.

“We can get the data from GA and help them bring it into Amplitude,” Skates said. “It’s a good time for us because people are reevaluating.”

And timing is everything. Since Amplitude went public and started trading in September 2021, the company’s stock has fallen by more than 63%.

Skates spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Amplitude went public last year when the market was loving tech and now … well, tech stocks aren’t doing so great.

SPENSER SKATES: Yeah, it’s brutal. People are still trying to figure out the true price of tech companies.

Do you think investors understand Amplitude’s business?

There are swings. Sometimes people get overexcited and sometimes people get fearful. For us, it’s about being out there, telling our story consistently and sticking with our long-term plans. We’re a stronger business than before we went public, and it’s our job to make that clear to public market investors and everyone else.


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What’s changed between now and when you launched Amplitude in 2014?

Back then, the marketing team was responsible for a brand’s online presence, and product was considered to be a small niche. The app ecosystem was still early, and most companies didn’t have web apps.

The difference today is that many marketing and product teams are converging. For example, Lego has a chief product and marketing officer, [Julia Goldin], and Meta’s CMO [Alex Schultz] is a product person. When I first saw that news a few years ago, I was surprised. I thought, “That’s an interesting role for him.” But it makes total sense.

As a customer, I don’t think, “Oh, I’m in the online marketing experience right now,” or “I’m in the product experience.” For the customer, it’s just the experience, an end-to-end thing, whether I’m interacting with the corporate side, the product or advertising.

How is this convergence playing out in practice?

We do a lot of work with Walmart, for example, to understand how their marketing campaigns impact the digital journey. They think a lot about how to create an omnichannel experience that brings together offline and online. We also work with Instacart to track users across the web and mobile. They think a lot about how to optimize the conversion funnel.

And working with Peloton, they found that if someone had a social experience during a workout – if an instructor said, “Good job today, Spenser” – that person is much more likely to return.

It’s evidence that product is no longer this sort of side thing – it’s the main thing – and it’s taking over a lot of what were historically marketing-related use cases.

What spurred the blurring of lines between marketing and product?

The product itself has become the distribution channel – just look at Netflix or Spotify or any SaaS application – and that made it inevitable for product to merge with all of the marketing work being done upstream.

How does Amplitude’s technology work? And how are you different from, say, Google Analytics?

The average application is a very rich, highly complex thing where there are thousands or in some cases even tens of thousands of actions someone can take in a product. But the previous generations of Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics weren’t set up to handle that. Also, when someone takes a journey through a product, it’s not linear. People don’t all do the same things in the same order.

We saw early on that apps needed a new kind of data model, and so we created what we call our behavioral graph, which allows you to track user behaviors in sequence.

It’s very much like the next generation of Google Analytics. But we also launched two new products last year. One is an A/B testing and experimentation product and the other is for product recommendations, so you can send customized push notifications to different groups of users based on their behavior. We partner with companies like Braze or Twilio to send the messages themselves.

Where does your data come from?

All of the data that’s sent to us is in the context of the product experience, and we aggregate it. Some companies use our SDK and others use their own SDK to collect the data on their backend and then send it to us.

What do Apple’s privacy changes mean for you and your customers?

We don’t track personally identifiable information. Companies use us to track anonymized data about the user journey so they can understand where people are getting stuck, which features they use the most, that sort of thing.

It’s similar to what Netflix does as a product when it customizes itself based on what you’ve watched before. That’s the sort of tracking that almost everyone expects to happen.

What’s on the road map?

One area of focus is data management, but there’s also a huge opportunity for us with Google sunsetting Universal Analytics.

Google is forcing everyone to move to GA4, and the Google Analytics customer base is really unhappy right now, because they’re basically losing decades worth of data.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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