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It’s no secret that buyers are spending a lot of time online, and many of them are increasingly doing their shopping there.
Ecommerce has expanded explosively in the last decade, becoming a $3.5 trillion dollar industry. Growth projections only chart an upward course toward even more revenue and even more competition.
While behemoths like Amazon and eBay still own huge portions of the market (garnering 5.22B and 1.52B annual visitors, respectively), there are major shifts occurring as more brick and mortar brands establish an online presence and new ecommerce start-ups pop up.
Whatever your intended share of the market or big dreams are for making a splash in ecommerce, marketing is essential to capture the attention of online buyers.
But capturing the attention of people who are bombarded by choices requires some creativity. This guide will provide background and expert guidance for how you can implement ecommerce marketing that actually works.
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Ecommerce (or digital commerce) businesses sell things online. They do this through digital properties, usually websites.
To really succeed, ecommerce companies have to make strategic decisions as they set up their online presence, engage in digital marketing and ultimately, maintain and protect a digital storefront.
There are plenty of reasons ecommerce businesses succeed and plenty of reasons they fail. To succeed, it all starts with the right online presence and optimized ecommerce website.
An ecommerce website sounds simple enough: buy a domain, put up product information, configure a payment method, have customer service reps, package and ship goods or digital services.
While ecommerce websites might sound basic in theory, they are among some of the more complex kinds of websites to set up, maintain and protect from cyberattacks.
Today, ecommerce websites can be designed and built by anyone—including individuals with little or minimal coding knowledge. But, because of their complexity, it may be worth hiring a coding pro.
Whether they’re built by a pro or a novice, most ecommerce websites make use of pre-existing templates through services like Wix, Shopify, or Squarespace.
The basic elements for an ecommerce website include:
Ecommerce stores can be set up in many ways. The specific tactics used for setting up an online store will vary based on what is sold (price point, target customer, niche or industry).
Because there are so many ecommerce stores online, buyers have come to expect an experience that includes:
Building a great experience on your ecommerce storefront is fundamental to kick starting your marketing strategy.
Most people shop online at large-scale retailers, like Amazon or Walmart. Large ecommerce brands are successful because they have loyal buyers who return time and time again to purchase from them any time they have a need. These loyalists are creatures of habit, and to get them to change their behavior and buy from you instead is no small feat.
To compete, you need to grab their attention in meaningful ways through targeted marketing.
When it comes to ecommerce, you cannot “build it and they will come.” Instead, you’ll need a solid marketing strategy to get in front of the right buyers, stay top of mind, and inspire them to purchase from you—and developing such a strategy starts with understanding buyer behavior.
92% of American adults are online several times a day on mobile devices. Your customers are online and they are accessing the internet on smartphones. They also go online, “several times a day,” which means they are not just “doing business.” Going online has recreational components, check-ins and may include several site or platform visits in a single session.
To effectively push ecommerce sales to buyers who are using the internet this way, you need to be just as active online as they are. Most commonly, this means using targeted ad strategies and maintaining an active social media presence.
The following components will most likely need to be part of your marketing plan. While the specifics of these platforms and your related strategies will change frequently (even quarterly, due to algorithmic or systemic shifts), here are the basic components and approaches for each.
Google Ads: Google ads leverage the immense traffic of the most popular search engine in the world. To put that in perspective, Google dominates more than 92% of the market share for search engines.
Google gets two trillion searches a year, or about 5.5 billion searches a day. This vast audience can be reached through Google’s internal ad platforms. With your Google account, you can run pay-per-click (PPC) ads that include display campaigns, video campaigns, app campaigns, and search campaigns.
Facebook Ads: Facebook owns Instagram and the two platforms together boast more than 3 billion monthly users (Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly users and Instagram has 1.1 billion active accounts). Using Facebook Business Manager and Facebook Ad Manager, you can curate audiences and deliver targeted ads to people based on their shared or collected demographic information. This is a powerful way to serve the right content to the right buyers.
Social Media Platforms: While Facebook and Instagram are two of the largest and best used platforms for social media ads, there are others. YouTube, for instance, functions as a search engine.
Many ecommerce brands find great success marketing on YouTube, Pinterest, Tik-Tok, Snapchat, Twitter and a host of other niche social media outlets. Finding where the people you want to sell to hang out online is enormously important for deploying marketing strategies that work.
Affiliate Marketing: More popular than ever, connecting with Instagram influencers/YouTube influencers who get a kickback by recommending products is a great option for growing ecommerce brands.
Endorsements are seen in a totally different light when it’s done in this friendly, non-salesy way. Especially appealing to millennials and gen-Yers, affiliate marketing is projected to grow by 10% each year and is already worth $12 billion.
For each of these platforms or approaches, it is essential to know and curate your target audience. While it’s frequently bemoaned on a personal level, the fact that these platforms collect a lot of user data works well for digital marketers.
You can use the data on user behavior, as well as demographic information from user profiles, to deliver ads to the consumers who are most likely to buy from you.
You can also use retargeting pixels and other mechanisms to re-serve ads to people who have already visited your website or displayed an interest in your brand.
Developing a customer acquisition strategy for your ecommerce business is an essential part of an effective digital marketing strategy. Marketing professionals often refer to a “sales funnel.” This is a graphic mechanism used to sort incoming leads and determine the strategies for nurturing those leads to a point of conversion or purchase.
There are both short-term and long-term strategies for customer acquisition. In the short-term, businesses may try partnering up with a new influencer, boosting social posts or running promotions.
For the long-term, ecommerce businesses need to invest in clear, tested, and scalable paths for acquiring new customers. This will include things like lead magnets on your ecommerce site, carefully crafted clickfunnels and large-scale ad campaigns.
According to Smart Insights, here are the questions you should ask as you set up a customer acquisition strategy for your ecommerce business:
The answers to all of these questions are the way you will ultimately get a predictable stream of new customers to your ecommerce site.
At the end of the day, your ecommerce marketing strategy will be successful if it translates into real revenue.
All of the common issues that plague ecommerce websites—from abandoned carts to high bounce rates—directly impact the bottom line. How can you overcome these and build a healthy, growing ecommerce business that sees consistent growth in new customers, sales and income?
It all starts with attracting buyers to your ecommerce site.
Every business has a different customer lifecycle. Whether people buy from you once a year or once a week, you’ll need agile marketing strategies that create a constant flow of traffic to your site.
Knowing what success looks like is a good place to start. Here are five of the most important indicators of healthy performance for your ecommerce business:
We’ll discuss key performance indicators (KPIs) at length below. For now, consider how a healthy pipeline (the result of a successful digital marketing plan) can make or break your business. The importance of this analysis cannot be overstated.
And now to the nitty gritty.
Creating an ecommerce marketing plan is an essential first step for any ecommerce business. There are several components to consider, including:
Keep reading to dig into each of these in more detail.
For any ecommerce business, the first point of consideration is online sales. While this may seem obvious, there are several logistical components that have to be optimized to actually sell things online, with your website being priority number one.
A website without traffic won’t make any sales. This is why ecommerce businesses invest in search engine optimization (SEO) and paid ads. These dual strategies are the way to effectively get new customers to visit and purchase from your ecommerce site. Monitoring and boosting online sales is mission critical for “staying open.”
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a common term used to describe strategies and tactics that increase your website page rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Digital marketers and copywriters typically work together to select SEO keywords that will be used throughout the website. Measuring each word or phrase based on its monthly search volume, competitive difficulty and other metrics will determine how useful its inclusion is in the body or background of an ecommerce site.
When done correctly, SEO will increase the value of a website by increasing the volume of website visitor traffic.
Social media marketing is a strategic way to get into the buyer’s world.
The right social branding, invitations, posting and partnerships can increase awareness of your brand, drive traffic to your site, and generate both new and repeat sales, but your social strategy needs to be developed with the end in mind.
Many ecommerce businesses just assume they need a social media presence and take a “check the box” approach. The ecommerce brands that really see a return on their investment in social media have a comprehensive plan that includes an active presence on the channels where their buyers spend time, regular posting, and an approach that encourages both audience engagement and conversion (purchases).
Now more so than ever, there are a wide range of tools that can analyze and even predict customer behavior.
Ecommerce businesses can use tools such as these to identify how, when, and why a website visitor will click, stay or convert on their websites—all information that is essential to improving online sales.
Many ecommerce brands use tools that have artificial intelligence (AI) or other algorithmic calculations to evaluate and predict how users will behave on their websites. Gaining this kind of deep understanding of buyer behavior can help site owners increase the length of site visits and the likelihood that visitors will make a purchase.
Customer experience (commonly called CX) is crucial to the success of any ecommerce business. Unlike brick and mortar stores, your ecommerce business doesn’t have greeters at the door, people manning cash registers or associates walking the floor.
In the absence of these kinds of human interactions, you’ll need to ensure the right measures are in place to ensure your digital CX is as good, if not better, than the traditional in store experience..
There are a variety of things to consider when it comes to digital CX including site function, ease of use, customer support, and strong cybersecurity defenses to guard against customer data theft, and more.
Customers should feel welcomed, understand exactly what to do in order to complete their purchase, and leave happy. In addition to initial and repeat sales experiences, asking for feedback through automated surveys and following up after purchases can be a great way to secure repeat customers and improve your process.
How a product is displayed (when there is no store flow, endcap or impulse bin at the register) is very important to determining the likelihood that a visitor will make a purchase.
Just as people “eat with their eyes first”; they also buy with their eyes first.
What someone sees and how it is displayed will influence their purchasing decisions. High quality graphics, product photos or videos, professional web design, layout and more will all affect people’s perception of your products and their willingness to buy them.
We’ve discussed many of the strategies behind ecommerce marketing. Now it’s time to define the actual work that needs to be done to effectively market an ecommerce store.
Promoting an ecommerce business takes concerted effort and creativity, coupled with a professional online presence and a branding and marketing strategy that differentiates you from the crowded online space.. Here are some methods by which you can do that:
Landing Pages: Landing pages are generally built for a very specific purpose and may or may not be part of your website. The goal of a landing page is conversion. That conversion can take the form of data capture or an immediate sale. Landing pages play an important role in clickfunnel strategies.
A common sequence used by ecommerce marketers is:
This is a commonly used process because it is highly trackable. You can instantly measure your return on ad spend (ROAS) and return on investment (ROI) when you’re able to track a sale directly back to its point of origin, and having this data provides the insights needed to make decisions about adjusting your marketing strategy or maintaining a course that’s working.
Search Engine Optimization: There are various ways that you can continuously improve search engine rankings for an ecommerce website or page. Some of these include:
SEO is an ongoing exercise because the words and phrases that buyers use to search online are constantly changing, as are the strategies your competitors use to show up online.
It’s important to always be investing in SEO, as it directly impacts the success of your most valuable asset (your website).
Brand Awareness: Ecommerce is a crowded competitive playing field and unless you are Amazon or Walmart, you won’t be able to outspend your competition.
One way for smaller ecommerce businesses to beat the big guys at their own game is through branding. Establish a clear and differentiated brand and then use social media partnerships, influencer marketing, lead magnets, free resources, ads and more to get your brand in front of the right audience.
Marketing Campaigns: All ad strategies are best driven by campaigns. Marketing campaigns should be well-structured and measurable. The core components include:
Marketing campaigns should be launched with the buyer in mind. Your ideal buyers have online shopping habits and digital behaviors that can be mined to land on the most effective strategy. Campaigns are full-circle experiences. From deployment to data collection, they are a finite experience that should result in revenue.
While most ecommerce business teams have the best of intentions, there are common mistakes to avoid.
Whether you are an established ecommerce brand or just toying with the idea of launching your ecommerce site, these important aspects can help you make the right decisions along the way.
There are several popular website builders for ecommerce. If you’ve never built a website before, no matter how much a platform is marketing that it’s “beginner-friendly,” an ecommerce site isn’t the place to start learning.
Ecommerce sites are complex. They are especially prone to malvertising and cyberattacks. They deal with financial transactions and personally identifiable information (PII) that, if leaked, can expose ecommerce businesses to major liability.
There are some pretty significant coding elements that need to be intact for your ecommerce site to function properly. Out of any category of website, an ecommerce site should definitely be created by an experienced website developer.
That said, a good developer can use many platforms, some of which are specifically designed to make it easy to create eye-catching, engaging ecommerce websites.
Some of the best-rated ecommerce website builders are:
While many ecommerce companies go after new customers on social media or through ad campaigns, good old email still has a highly relevant place in any ecommerce marketing strategy. Email drip campaigns, if they’re carefully tested and crafted, can achieve high open and conversion rates.
Getting customers on an email list ensures that you get a valuable piece of information (their email address) and ongoing access to them through regular messaging.
Ecommerce merchants rely on email marketing to achieve all of the following:
Email marketing has the value of being the ultimate segmented messaging vehicle. As you curate specific lists of audiences, you can directly appeal to people who have never bought from you versus people who have bought once, or send special messages to your repeat customers.
This has the value of escorting leads through a tailored sales funnel and then “keeping in touch” with customers you can trust for repeat purchases.
Every kind of email (from welcome to transaction confirmation to lead nurturing) can be optimized to build ecommerce sales and increase brand loyalty.
Every ecommerce site can benefit from an array of marketing strategies. While it definitely requires more planning and effort, no one strategy or channel is going to work all of the time. Instead, a fully stocked tool belt will ensure the widest reach and revenue.
Every ecommerce brand should be thoughtfully engaged in clickfunnels, ad campaigns, SEO for their website, lead magnets, incentives/prizes/contests, social media engagement, text campaigns and email marketing.
The bottom line for every marketing effort is the actual bottom line. Every ecommerce brand needs to carefully assess the actual return on money spent on ads, for SEO, or for marketing efforts. Getting very clear about the actual cost per acquisition, customer lifecycle, customer value and more will provide the right metrics to guide success.
Ecommerce businesses are no different than brick and mortar businesses when it comes to the psychology of the sale. Comparison selling, discounts, coupons, giveaways, subscriptions and more should all be considered as viable approaches for improving sales.
Whether your ecommerce brand is new or old, influencer marketing is bound to come up. This strategy can be very effective if done right and begins with a determination of whether or not your target audience is connected to influencers.
If you’re going to make a serious investment in influencer marketing, it pays to hire an influencer marketing specialist to craft messaging, compensation and reach plans that connect you to the right influencers for the right return.
Fair warning: if done incorrectly, influencer marketing can cause major damage to your brand and bottom line. This can happen when the influencer with whom you are working does - or says - something that damages your brand reputation, or when that influencer engages in fraudulent behavior.
Influencer fraud is a real dynamic by which influencers manipulate their numbers and misrepresent their reach.
Fake influencers promote fraudulent data about their own reach (by buying fake followers) and even falsify purchases (through fake promotion code submissions, etc.). These issues can be avoided by hiring an influencer marketing specialist, knowing how to spot a fake influencer, and having methods for blocking the fraudulent use of affiliate promotion codes.
Every step of the way, from hiring influencers to verifying their actual influence, should be quantified with measurable, verifiable data.
How you analyze and measure the success of your ecommerce marketing strategy should be directly related to your defined key performance indicators (KPIs). For ecommerce marketing and sales analytics, this performance should be regularly tracked and reported on, and there are a variety of ecommerce KPI tracking tools that can provide easy-to-interpret dashboards.
This is the work that must be done to ensure that you’re not leaving money on the table, that your website is optimized to convert, and that you’re making the right amount of sales.
Here’s a breakdown of how to measure all of your efforts to support growth.
The beautiful thing about digital marketing is that all of the important data is also digital, making it immensely trackable and traceable. This means that every clickfunnel provides data down to the individual user. You know where they came from, what they did or didn’t do, where they clicked and whether or not they bought. The labor comes in aggregating and interpreting this data, but it is easily available.
Digital marketing KPIs include things like:
Some of the most common ecommerce metrics include conversion rates, cart conversion rates, bounce rates and customer feedback. There are plenty of granular data points within each of these categories, but here’s a broad overview of the information you should be collecting.
Gross Revenue: The most obvious (and important) metric for ecommerce is gross revenue. Because there are so many stats to analyze, this one should be prioritized and all other data interpreted in light of its impact on the bottom line.
Many elements of your ecommerce marketing strategy can erode revenue (from coupon extensions to poor coupon strategy) if not used properly, and therefore should be identified and neutralized as quickly as possible.
Conversion Rate: How many people who come to your site buy something from you? It’s important to know this data not just for every site visitor but to break it down further: what about first-time site visitors versus repeat site visitors? What is the behavior pattern?
Remember that vague metrics like site visits (even multi-page visits) don’t reflect money earned for your ecommerce business. You need them to fill a cart and cash out to truly consider that site visitor a conversion. This data should be traced back and connected to ad strategies, so you fully understand your ROAS.
Cart Conversion Rate: Abandoned carts are a more stark issue in ecommerce platforms than they are in brick and mortar stores because there are no judgmental eyes staring customers down if they ditch a full cart and run. The private and recreational nature of online shopping lends itself to cart abandons.
The average rate for shopping cart abandonment is nearly 70%. On mobile devices, this goes up to 81%. You need to know your cart conversion rate, as it will impact every other statistic you collect.
Bounce Rate: If a website takes more than three seconds to load, visitors generally don’t stick around.
Remember that the majority of your visitors are on mobile devices and possibly on the go and consider: does your website load fast enough to be seen during a stoplight? While walking? During a commercial break? These could be the occasions when people are heading to your site.
A high bounce rate (the number of people who get to your site and then leave without visiting a second page) is a crucial data point that can dramatically influence your revenue. Don’t ignore it. Fix it.
Customer Feedback and Product Ratings: Ratings are all-important in ecommerce. When was the last time you bought something on Amazon that had three stars or less? If your answer is “never,” you’re in good company.
Every ecommerce brand needs a consistent way to ask for, and publish, customer feedback and product ratings. Large brands collect photos and even videos from happy buyers. This “user generated content” may cross over into influencer marketing in some instances and is a great way to use social proof to convince visitors to make a purchase.
Knowing the stats for product satisfaction is vital to continued growth.
All ecommerce marketing efforts should have the final result of making a company money. Numerous revenue risks pose a real and ongoing threat to ecommerce businesses. Because all of the interactions with buyers occur online, knowing the ins and outs of digital engagement security, particularly the effects of coupon extensions, is absolutely essential.
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