How to get started with Amazon Ace Case Study Challenge (2018)

The Amazon Ace must have got you both excited and anxious in equal proportions. Excited because it’s the first corporate case study challenge of the season, and anxious because it is probably your first case study competition ever.

Two bits of a caveat here –

  1. This article is about the Consumer Business case study only. If you haven’t read the case study yet, please stop reading this article right here and come back once you have read the entire case.
  2. In this piece, I am not providing a solution to the case study. My objective is to give you a ground to start. Many second-year MBA students will also be a part of Amazon ACE competition and this article is exclusively for you.

This is to bring you at an equal pedestrial with those who have experience in solving many cases.

You will find here approaches to go about analyzing the case and taking decisions. So even after reading this, different people, different teams will be able to build up entirely different solutions.

Now that you are on it, you might be faced with a challenge of not knowing which stream of thought to follow!

At the very outset, let me tell you that there’s no single solution to a case study.

There will always be ideas that are better but not feasible, or feasible but not up to the mark. To start with, feasibility and innovativeness must be well balanced. But it is often not until you complete a case study do you realize the shape it has taken.

You all will be putting an all-nighter to complete this one in all likelihood. To ensure that your thoughts don’t go awry and efforts don’t go in vain, here are a few tips that will help you out in making your solution robust and viable.


Financials are the Key

Giving fancy ideas must have been acceptable during graduation but doesn’t work in MBA, and certainly not in case studies hosted by corporates. An MBA case study is all about 3Fs – facts, figures, and financials. Financials are the key to solving this case study.

In this case, you have been given a target of $1 Billion in 3 years. Firstly, it may not be possible to hit exactly 1 Billion and that’s alright. Even if you are in the range, your solution will be well received. In order to hit the 1 Billion mark, you can proceed in this manner –


Quarterly Plan

Here’s what I would suggest to you, make it a 12-quarter plan instead of an annual plan and show your calculations for all the quarters. You need not necessarily compute all the numbers.

What you need to do is make a robust calculation for the first couple of quarters, and then use a multiplier to increase those numbers quarter on quarter. The revenue column’s sum of all 12 should work out to be in the range of 900 million – 1 Billion.


Growth Figures

You will have to find out the growth figures of all the 3 categories. By how much CAGR is the tire industry growing in India? Out of that, how much is commercial and how much is retail?

Use this as the basis of your projections for quarters after the first or second quarter. Do this for whichever category you choose.


Frequency and Ticket Size

What is the frequency of purchase, and the average ticket size of products in each category? Certain furniture sets may be costlier than tires but may not be replaced for at least 7-8 years.

Tires, on the other hand, are cheaper but are a category driven by repeat purchases with customers returning every 3 years.


Include all Major Costs

You will have to assume and include major sales and marketing costs. If, for example, you go high on innovation and want to introduce a model where sales personnel are visiting prospective clients’ homes to show them the jewelry first hand, then those costs will have to be accounted for.

After assuming major sales and marketing costs, and subsequently the revenues, you should show a marketing return on investment figure too.



Customer is the King

That Customer is the King is well known. You will have to understand your customer very well in order to develop any sort of marketing strategy. Here are a few things that you MUST include –

Target Audience

Decide on the target audience before you proceed with any plan.

This is an era of consumer marketing and not sales marketing. You need to exactly pick out which customer segment(s) you want to cater to because your marketing plan will be designed keeping in mind them.

You can’t make a marketing plan or a product and then force sell it to every segment.

How to define the target group? You may use either the Stanford Research Institute’s VALS II segmentation and adapt it to India or use India’s NCCS. They are starkly different, so see which one helps you more.

If you can, create your own model and give it some fancy name!

First analyze all the 3 categories – tire industry, fine jewelry, and furniture. See their current consumption pattern, average ticket size, and demand. Then see which consumer segments display what kind of behavior with respect to these factors, and then choose the most viable and profitable ones.


Consumer Journey

Marketing companies like Amazon stress on the importance of consumer journey because they have understood that a customer can be tapped at multiple touch points.

You can build a representative customer journey model and show which segments out of your chosen TGs belong to which part of the journey.

Accordingly, you can device innovative marketing plans to tap them across the journey to finally convert them. It may require some offbeat thinking but will be very important in demonstrating the depth of your research.


Include a Primary or Secondary Research

If you can get hold of people from the target group you have chosen and get answers to questions about their behaviors and preferences about the desired category, it will automatically give you some marketing ideas.

For example, for a close friend of mine, while doing a case study about a leading toy retailer from London, primary research showed him that parents are guilty about not being able to spend quality time with their children.

He did a wonderful job of creating the main theme around the concept of spending quality time with children and it was very well received by them.



Strategy Models

Strategy Models are a great way to defend your choice of a segment. Why did you choose fine jewelry over tires? Why not furniture? In fact, these models can even help you in narrowing down the segment. These are some of the models that you can apply to guide your case study in the right direction –

  •        Porter’s 5 ForcesThis model shows how competitive a particular industry is. It may well be a good model to include as a premise for your strategy. It will also show which forces have to be dealt with. I have done a really interesting article explaining Porter’s Five Forces using the Apple iPhone as an example.
  •        PESTLE Analysis – PESTLE takes into account everything, right from the laws governing a country to the technologies that are shaping up consumer behavior. It is not as in-depth as some of the other models, but definitely a good one.

Make sure you don’t include many models. It will confuse the panel. Select the one or ones that are extremely important in supporting your decision and then go with it.


Make it Attractive!

Yes, presentation and attractiveness are very important too, provided you have taken care of the more important things first.

Marketing Managers can be impressed if you show them a fancy marketing plan, especially one that has phases or parts. Give each part a name and come up with a fancy acronym that means something.

At my workplace, I once created a  marketing plan for bringing students at one platform and came up with an acronym called CLUB (each alphabet denoted a phase, and the names were logically decided). It impressed the bosses.

Finally, I again hope that these tips will give you some ground to start with. I am sure that the blog will be good enough reference material to create a robust plan. Here are some of the articles that might help you further:

10 Market Segmentation Mistakes you don’t know you are making

How to Create a Marketing Plan: The Analysis

How to Create a Marketing Plan: The Strategy

Marketing Plan and ROI – How to calculate it?

For more, you can check out the Super Heuristics blog. Good luck for Amazon Ace!



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About the Author:

Darpan is a Marketing and Product development strategist at an edu-corporate in New Delhi. He has also worked at a multinational business process outsourcing company in their Marketing & Artificial Intelligence business. He is an engineer by qualification and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Udaipur.