Episode #12 – The Performance Marketing Spotlight with Rob Schab

About Our Guest

Rob Schab is Seattle native and die-hard UW football fan! Rob is the Co-Founder & CMO at Levanta, a new Affiliate Platform that makes it easy for Amazon sellers to connect with revenue-generating creators, affiliates and influencers to promote their products. He previously Co-Founded Grovia, a partner recruitment agency that was acquired by Acceleration Partners.  



In Episode 12 of the Performance Marketing Spotlight, we had an insightful conversation with Rob Schab, co-founder and CMO of Levanta, where he shared his journey in the performance marketing space and the launch of an innovative affiliate network for Amazon sellers. We delved into the challenges and opportunities in the performance marketing industry, especially with the integration of AI and the evolving landscape of influencer marketing. If you’re eager to learn more about tapping into the potential of Amazon affiliate marketing, connect with Rob and the Levanta team.



Marshall Nyman [00:00:02]:

Hello and welcome to the performance marketing spotlight. I’m your host, Marshall Nyman, founder and CEO of nymon Co. Each episode, I will be bringing you someone with deep experience in the performance marketing space where they will highlight their experiences within the industry. Today I have Rob Schaub, who is co founder and CMO at Levanta. Welcome to the podcast, Rob.

Rob Schab [00:00:21]:

Hey, Marshall, thanks for having me. Big fan of NYMO Co and big fan of you personally. It’s been great working with you over the last year or so and really stoked to be on the call and talk and chop about affiliate marketing.

Marshall Nyman [00:00:32]:

Thank you. Appreciate it. Very excited to have you on today as well. So let’s get right to it. Would love for you to introduce yourself to the audience so they can get to know Bet.

Rob Schab [00:00:40]:

Yeah, yeah. So a little bit about myself. I’m currently the founder and CMO of company called Levanta, which I’m sure we’ll get into a little bit. I’m based out of Seattle, former University of Washington, if you follow college football. Go Dogs. I’ve been in affiliate marketing for about eight years or so. I thought I invented it at one point, but turns out I didn’t. Huge industry.

Rob Schab [00:01:03]:

We love it. But yeah, I’ve been working on a few companies over the last five years or so. Yeah. Excited to kind of talk through my background a little bit more in Levanta and see how we can help your audience get into Amazon affiliate marketing.

Marshall Nyman [00:01:15]:

Yeah, let’s dive right into your background. Why don’t you let us know how you got started in the performance marketing?

Rob Schab [00:01:20]:

Yeah, you bet. Actually, like I said, I thought I invented affiliate marketing in college. I started doing a lot more research on the topic and started my own company in college. It didn’t work out, but I got a ton of experience in the field that led me to actually get my first job out of college at a company called Toon, which a lot of people know as has offers. So I was working on the sales and business development team there, learned a ton about all the different networks and competitors, how to build a successful affiliate program. Tune, if you know that platform, it’s a great affiliate management platform in the space. They do really well with Fintech mobile and really ecommerce nowadays, and that’s kind of where I got my start. But one of the big things is during that time I was there for a couple of years, I got a lot of customers and prospects asking me, hey, I love the technology, I love the platform, but how do I recruit affiliates? The amount of times I got asked how do I recruit affiliates was in the hundreds.

Rob Schab [00:02:20]:

No exaggeration. And that actually led me to start my next company, which is around recruiting affiliates.

Marshall Nyman [00:02:27]:

Well, I think recruiting affiliates is probably the most important job of running a successful affiliate program. So I’d love to know what GroVia was specifically and what led you to start.

Rob Schab [00:02:37]:

Absolutely. So, you know, when I was getting that question at Tune, I was really looking for solutions to suggest to prospects and clients like, hey, here’s Tune, your affiliate tracking platform, but here’s what else you need. And in my research, there really weren’t a lot of options. So I started to kind of draft up my own business idea for a platform to help you recruit affiliates. It was right around that time that Media Rails was acquired by Impact. I had not heard of Media Rails prior to, you know, at that point, we’re, you know, Media Rails is sort of vendor exclusive to Impact, we need another solution out there in the market. So we started building GroVia almost immediately. I ended up leaving toon.

Rob Schab [00:03:15]:

Starting GroVia with my co founder, Ian Brody, started to have some immediate success. We launched initially as an affiliate recruitment platform and then eventually started to turn this into more of a service. As a lot of our clients said, hey, this is great and all, but I don’t have time to recruit affiliates. Can you actually do this for me? And as a couple of first time entrepreneurs, we were just kind of following the money. If people were willing to pay us more to do different things, we did it. So we ended up launching the service arm of GroVia and it really took off. And within two years, we had built up our company enough to where we were at a point where we could exit. And we ended up selling GroVia to an affiliate agency known as Acceleration Partners, or AP, if you’re not familiar.

Rob Schab [00:03:58]:

And we landed there. Great team, great culture, and we had sort of our first successful exit. So really excited and fortunate to have landed there. Yeah, great success.

Marshall Nyman [00:04:10]:

Yeah, I mean, that’s amazing. Definitely one of the biggest partners in the affiliate space on the agency side, for sure. And so then when they acquired GroVia, you moved into a role there as VP of Strategic Partnerships. What did you do in your role there?

Rob Schab [00:04:23]:

Yeah, so with AP, really, the role was all about strategic initiatives and identifying new areas where we could offer additional services. So thinking about things like bringing an affiliate marketing service and introducing it more into the influencer ecosystem or more into the media buying ecosystem. But I identified a place where I thought there was a massive revenue opportunity for affiliate agencies, and that was in the you know, everyone’s heard of Amazon Associates and knows that it’s probably the biggest affiliate program in the world. So I was looking for a solution on how we can help Amazon sellers launch and manage Amazon Associates programs, but realized pretty quickly that that’s not even possible. There is no Impact or AWIN or CJ like experience for Amazon sellers. And consequently, there really wasn’t a good solution for sellers to launch or invest in affiliate marketing in, you know, with that becoming sort of my biggest strategic initiative at AP, I sort of designed this idea for an affiliate network that sits on top of the Amazon attribution API. I pitched this to acceleration partners. They really loved the idea of providing a service in that area.

Rob Schab [00:05:34]:

But there wasn’t a technology piece of this and AP is not a technology company. So they said, hey, go build the technology, we love that idea, we’re going to support you in that. We’ll build a service around it once you’ve got the technology. Well now we have the tech. We ended up leaving Acceleration Partners, my co founder and I, and our now co founder Spencer who was actually our CTO at GroVia. We launched Levanta almost exactly a year ago. The idea know, again building an affiliate network that’s specifically built for Amazon sellers to connect with Amazon affiliates. And yeah, it’s been an incredible success ever since, you know, I know we’ve even worked with you.

Marshall Nyman [00:06:11]:

Brent Marshall yeah, well we first met a year ago and I remember you telling me that you were going to be launching product and I thought, wow, this is really what we need in the space. There’s so many brands that are consistently asking me what can we do on Amazon, how can we promote our products on Amazon? And obviously a lot of brands use that as an early channel to get started. So to not be able to continue to leverage it through affiliate like you are other things I think is definitely or there was a gap. So being able to provide something to customers now is really great. So you’ve gone out, you’ve working with your same co founders that you launched the last company with. So sounds like really good team of people working together and now you’re building this great product to help people promote their products on Amazon. What was behind the name in actually.

Rob Schab [00:07:04]:

You know, Levanta is Spanish to lift or to elevate. And I was actually in Argentina at the time when we had started. You know, I was just thinking of fun Spanish words to name our company and the domain was free, so we made it happen. And do you like the name?

Marshall Nyman [00:07:21]:

Marshall yeah, and honestly what you’re saying hits a nail on the head and I think that’s pretty much for every business owner. Now when you decide on your name, then you have to actually make sure you can get the domain or otherwise it’s not a good name because somebody else probably has it. So yes, you come up with the name and then you secure the domain. So it’s a good two step and yeah, I like the name. I like names that kind know, they don’t speak to something specific. It kind of makes you think about it and I like know, you don’t exactly know exactly what things are. You gotta kind of learn the brand. So I think that forces people to go online and look it up, which is always good traffic to the site.

Marshall Nyman [00:07:53]:

So how does Lavanta fit in with something like Amazon Associates? As you mentioned, that is the largest affiliate program.

Rob Schab [00:07:59]:

How does that sure, so, you know, we get this question pretty frequently and again, Amazon Associates is sort of Amazon’s affiliate program and it is extremely widely used by publishers and know they’re a little bit more picky about what affiliates they will work with. But regardless, they’re massive. Right? And while affiliates have traditionally loved the Associates program, associates has been dropping rates, which has consequently led to decreased profitability for publishers. So there has been a little bit of a shift away from Amazon back towards the D to C world. Now, one of the big purposes of Levanta is we are technically completely separate from Amazon Associates. We layer on top of the Amazon attribution API, meaning we plug into actual individual seller accounts, whereas Amazon Associates is for every single seller, every single product on Amazon. We’re specific to the sellers that actually connect Levanta to their Seller Central account. What this does is it enables them to connect their Seller Central account to Levanta.

Rob Schab [00:09:00]:

We’re going to automatically pull in their brands, automatically pull in their products, and they can set commissions on a per product or per asin basis. And this is different than Amazon Associates in that with Amazon Associates you may see like a 2% commission across all products in a specific category, or maybe up to 5% if you’ve got special rates. But with Levanta, when these sellers are connecting their Seller Central account to Levanta, they’re offering 20% commissions or all the way up to 80% commissions in some cases. So it’s a lot different in that sense. The commission rates on Levanta are closer to an average of 20% instead of maybe two to 5%. But when Seller central sellers connect their accounts, we basically aggregated about 75,000 products on Levanta and made them available for publishers to promote. So we’ve got sort of this marketplace of one side a bunch of sellers, the other side a bunch of affiliates. Through this marketplace ecosystem, we are driving upwards of $5 million in Amazon sales per month.

Rob Schab [00:10:04]:

And with this upcoming holiday season, I only expect that to grow. And we’re driving a lot of profitability for these new publishers who really want to promote Amazon but needed some additional monetization to do that.

Marshall Nyman [00:10:15]:

So the publisher will get paid both from Amazon Associates and the brand.

Rob Schab [00:10:20]:

That’s an optional piece to all of this is that theoretically our tracking protocol is completely separate from Amazon Associates, but it does technically work in tandem because we’re just using different attribution. Yeah, you know, an affiliate can go promote Amazon Associates and Levanta in the same link. It’s not necessarily something that we encourage or enable, but most publishers are doing that anyways.

Marshall Nyman [00:10:45]:

Okay, yeah, I mean, that’s definitely a nice added value for publishers. What do you think your biggest challenge that you had to overcome with getting launched? A product?

Rob Schab [00:10:52]:

Yeah, I mean, I could probably talk all day about this. It when it comes to building a marketplace business, you’re constantly kind of dealing with the idea of balancing supply and demand. So when we launched Lavanta, it’s like, how can we get as many sellers on the platform without having any affiliates? So that when affiliates come on, they’re excited about the amount of sellers, but by the same token, it’s like, how do we get sellers on here when we don’t have any affiliates? So we’re constantly trying to keep that in tune and keep it in a good sort of homeostasis so that the marketplace can eventually kind of create this flywheel. And I don’t have a recipe for exactly how we did it, but we were able to get on a lot of early beta users on the seller side, bring in a ton of products and make it attractive to a handful of really core affiliates that were able to promote a lot of those brands. It wasn’t easy, but it’s kind of been onwards and upwards ever since.

Marshall Nyman [00:11:45]:

I mean, I think you spoke to a need and when we first spoke a year ago, I remember that really kind of turned a light bulb in my head and I said, oh, I think you’re onto something. So I think that’s probably what it is. It’s just people hear about this and they’re maybe a little bit more willing to test it because it’s something that they know is such a big piece that they want to try to get a little traction there. I mean, Amazon’s obviously the top partner in the United States and so if you’re driving the most sales, how can you continue to help that be part of your business?

Rob Schab [00:12:08]:

Yeah, you’re totally right. I mean, when it came down to acquiring sellers for this, actually, I think it was a little bit easier in that sellers have sort of always been restricted to on Amazon traffic. There’s only a few channels on Amazon, PPC, vine, things like that, where all Amazon sellers are sort of fishing out of the same pool, so to speak, and that drives up the cost of all those channels and things became a little bit too expensive. And now all of a sudden, with the launch of the Attribution API, with the launch of tools like Levanta, there’s this whole new world of external traffic tools that sellers can tap into and they’re really flocking to us. We don’t have to do a lot of outbound marketing when it comes to sellers. They’re really excited about this. So we’re lucky to kind of be a pioneer in the external traffic space for Amazon sellers.

Marshall Nyman [00:12:59]:

Yeah, I know Amazon’s been a very closed network, but I think allowing people that are going to drive traffic to your site and help you increase your revenue is definitely beneficial. So I’m not surprised to see that maybe they’re starting to slowly change their stance on some of the things, but obviously it’s not a quick change with a behemoth like them. So as an agency, I’m curious how is best to work with Know?

Rob Schab [00:13:21]:

Amazon and affiliate agencies have been sort of our biggest key to growth so far. But beyond them supporting us, we’re actually creating a huge opportunity for Amazon agencies. We’re really creating a new product skew for these. You know, affiliate agencies traditionally only can tap into a few channels. Now all of a sudden we’re unlocking a new type of affiliate program that you previously couldn’t tap into at all. And that’s this idea of Amazon affiliate programs. So you can upsell a lot of your customers into managing their Amazon affiliate programs. Meanwhile, once you start to build a service around Know, it unlocks a whole pool of new customers.

Rob Schab [00:14:04]:

All of these Amazon sellers who previously didn’t have access to affiliate programs now do. But they’re not experts in affiliate marketing. They need additional services and additional help in launching and succeeding in these affiliate programs. And that’s where agencies know the folks that are focusing on this, they’re winning big. Marshall, you’ve tested this yourself and you’ve had some early success. You have a few clients that are able to drive a lot of success through these. You know, the handful of agencies that we work with now are having a ton of success with this and making a lot of money from it. And the one last piece I’ll add to this is that it’s also making recruitment a lot easier.

Rob Schab [00:14:41]:

I can’t tell you how many times in my previous days with agencies that I heard the objection in recruitment, hey, we only use Amazon links. We’re not going to switch out to a D to C link. Well, the great part about Levanta is that, okay, if you don’t want to use a D to C link or an impact link, you can use a Levanta link because it’s just an Amazon link like they’re already using, but with some additional parameters. So it helps in the recruitment side of things as well.

Marshall Nyman [00:15:08]:

It’s good to make things easy for people. And obviously agencies can bring a lot of value to something like this and working across different clients, they get a lot of experience. Somebody’s looking to test something like this out. It’s probably better to work with an agency who has a little experience on a newer tool where some of the stuff that’s been out there for years and there’s a lot of experienced people in the space using it I think is maybe a little bit different approach. So probably best to work with an agency on something like this. What do you think?

Rob Schab [00:15:33]:

Oh, absolutely, yeah. Just considering that this is something that Amazon sellers have never really even thought of, you need the expertise of an Amazon agency in order to just kind of understand what types of affiliates you need to work with and generally have a recruitment strategy. I think it’s incredibly important.

Marshall Nyman [00:15:49]:

Awesome. What do you think one of the biggest challenges that are facing the performance marketing industry currently?

Rob Schab [00:15:56]:

Do you mean like more holistically outside of just specifically the Amazon world?

Marshall Nyman [00:16:00]:

It could be the Amazon world or outside the Amazon world really anything performance marketing. I mean, obviously I know one of the challenges was being able to show Attribution for Amazon. So I think that’s probably what you are really tackling and that’s one of the big challenges. So maybe that’s something you could speak to.

Rob Schab [00:16:16]:

Yeah, I mean, certainly that is a massive challenge that I think we’ve solved is that a lot of people were losing a lot of their Attribution to Amazon. So media buyers, content affiliates, influencers, they go out and they promote these products and not only are they maybe losing Attribution to more downfall partners like coupon sites and loyalty sites, they’re also losing Attribution to Amazon. A lot of people are seeing these ads and these promotions and going and just skipping the click entirely and going and buying things on Amazon. And I think that that has led to an even more inflated problem in that influencers and content sites have traditionally had a hard time really truly benefiting through the affiliate channel because of all this Attribution leakage. And so that has caused a lot of these content and influencers to kind of inflate their prices. They’re looking for more flat fee deals and sponsored content instead of just purely working on an affiliate model and that’s incredibly challenging to scale. We’ve seen this slowly become a more difficult problem to address. And Marshall, you guys probably manage a lot of influencer programs as well.

Rob Schab [00:17:24]:

If I’m not.

Marshall Nyman [00:17:25]:

Yep. Yep. I think Attribution is probably the biggest challenge that we face and I think for influencer it’s probably the biggest challenge just because they’re not focused on driving people to links and articles, they’re doing everything on social and it’s not as actionable as maybe it is in other places. So I think Attribution is going to continue to be a hot topic and something that will evolve over the next few years, hopefully.

Rob Schab [00:17:48]:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s because of some of those challenges that people are facing with Attribution. It’s making influencer programs incredibly hard to manage and scale. So I would make a bold claim and say that affiliate agencies should consider shifting some of their focus away from forcing themselves to try to scale influencer programs and maybe think about focusing more on the Amazon side of things where Attribution now has actually become pretty easy and the programs are actually fairly easy to scale. I think there’s just as big of an opportunity here as there is with the influencer marketing field. And there’s a lot of, you know, just something to consider.

Marshall Nyman [00:18:25]:

Yeah, I think there’s definitely a bigger opportunity on the performance side for what you’re talking about. I think there’s always a big opportunity with influencer marketing. It’s just the performance side of things has definitely gone away over the last few years and it’s definitely gone to more of that pay for placement. So it takes away that performance element. But still, I am seeing still a lot of traction with influencers, but it should never be the majority of your program. It should really just be a small part of it.

Rob Schab [00:18:50]:

That’s great that you’re seeing a lot of traction though. It’s not something that’s easily accomplished. So I’m glad you’ve got a formula for it.

Marshall Nyman [00:18:56]:

Yeah, we find that focusing on the smaller publishers is better. You get away from having to pay these huge flat fees, maybe they’re happy to receiving products. So micro influencers are a little bit easier to work with in our opinion. And that’s kind of where we’ve focused on the last year or so. Okay, well, starting to get towards the end here. Any predictions on the future of performance marketing?

Rob Schab [00:19:18]:

Yeah, maybe a few. I do think that over the next well, maybe forever, we’re going to see a lot more influence from AI on influencer and affiliate marketing. And we’re already starting to see some of the shakeups within the AI space. So that’s no doubt going to influence the way content is created, but also just new types of affiliates that we’re going to have to get used to. I’m really excited to watch that one. And then, I mean, this one goes without saying. I think that a ton of affiliate marketing spend and focus is going to shift towards marketplaces like Amazon. Now that this is starting to gain some traction, don’t be surprised to see this come close to being the same size as the D to C affiliate world.

Rob Schab [00:19:57]:

So maybe not a bold prediction but something to watch out for.

Marshall Nyman [00:20:00]:

Well, with the volume that’s on Amazon, there’s definitely the ability to potentially reach that. And I think AI is obviously a huge topic for this space. And I’ve seen a lot of layoffs in the last couple of weeks, so I think there’s definitely some fallout. And the layoffs are with like editors and stuff like that. So if you’re seeing editors at Let Go, I think that’s clearly a sign that AI is coming in and trying to replace some of those people. So it’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens over the next few years, especially around AI for sure. And then my last question, what’s been your favorite part of working in the performance marketing industry?

Rob Schab [00:20:35]:

I think my favorite part of working in this world is that while from the outside looking in, it’s a pretty big space. But I do feel like it’s a very tight knit community. We all tend to know each other. If you’ve been in the affiliate marketing space, you tend to stay in the affiliate marketing space. I’m only six to eight years into this as a professional, and I feel like I know thousands of people at all the different agencies and platforms, and I don’t plan on working in a different space in my career. It’s just too fun. It’s a great group of people. Do you think you’ve had a similar experience?

Marshall Nyman [00:21:09]:

I think so. If I started my own agency and think I’m committed now, like you, you kind of start your own business in the space and you’re probably never getting out of it, so I’m committed. I definitely want to see this to the end. And when I got in the space, it’s almost 13 years ago, I just kind of fell into it. And I’m glad that’s happened because it’s really a great space to work in, great people, great opportunity. And I think my favorite part about affiliate now is really just the shift that I’m seeing, where it was really just a one off marketing channel, low value, nobody really focused on it. And now over the last 510 years, it’s becoming a legit channel. The other channels are taking notice, and you’re really able to run so many different types of marketing through affiliate, whether it’s paid search, Amazon, Social, so it’s just becoming a bigger opportunity.

Marshall Nyman [00:21:58]:

So I don’t see why anybody would want to turn their head away now. I think it’s just getting good.

Rob Schab [00:22:03]:

Totally agree.

Marshall Nyman [00:22:04]:

All right, well, a big thank you to Rob from Levanta for joining the podcast this week. Amazing background and great insights on how you can run an Amazon affiliate program. What is the best way for listeners to connect with you?

Rob Schab [00:22:17]:

Sure, you can reach me directly at rob at know. You can just as well come through our website, levanta IO. And it’s more than likely that either myself or my team will be in touch with you within a day. We’re pretty good about that. So, yeah, we’d love to chat with anybody who’s interested in learning more about the program. Feel free to give us a shout.

Marshall Nyman [00:22:38]:

All right, well, if you’re interested in learning more about Levanta or just want to connect with Rob, make sure to reach out again. Thank you, Rob, for joining today.

Rob Schab [00:22:45]:

Thanks a lot, Marshall. Really appreciate the time.

Marshall Nyman [00:22:47]:

If you’ve enjoyed this content, please give us a follow. Thank you for joining us. I am Marshall Nyman, host of the Performance Marketing Spotlight. Signing off. See you next time.