Successfully Marketing an eCommerce Business
Starting an eCommerce business is made to look easy by YouTube gurus and affiliate marketers. There are thousands of videos promising an easy path to making millions, claiming you can get rich while spending only a couple hours a week on your business.
An eCommerce business isn’t something where you can set it and forget it. It requires dedication and a well engineered marketing plan to grow.
It’s estimated that there are between 12 to 24 million live eCommerce sites spanning the globe, meaning that there’s a lot of competition out there.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to start a business, it just means that you’ll have to put a solid marketing strategy in place. Plus, even though there are tons of eCommerce sites already out there, there is also a growing demand for eCommerce products across just about every industry.
The most exciting part of eCommerce marketing is its accessibility for small businesses and startups. It’s never been easier for people to share their brand with the world, no matter their budget.
With the right eCommerce marketing strategy in place, and a little hard work, you can take your brand to new heights. The benefits of a well thought out campaign are massive, as you can see your customer base increase drastically. Cutting through the noise can seem daunting, but when you have a good eCommerce marketing plan in place, you get to watch your brand grow.
What is eCommerce Marketing?
eCommerce marketing is the process of building an online presence for your brand that drives awareness, and ultimately leads to more sales.
Numerous promotional tactics can be used to drive qualified customers to your online store, and this can occur in different forms throughout the sale funnel. A successful eCommerce marketing strategy turns leads into paid customers, then encourages those customers to become repeat customers.
A holistic eCommerce marketing strategy combines all aspects of the business in order to drive growth. This includes bringing together the online and offline world that a business occupies. Especially if the brand has brick-and-mortar stores and they are trying to fuse their physical presence with their digital presence.
Benefits of eCommerce Marketing
There’s one thing that the YouTube gurus have correct, you can start an eCommerce business on the side while working a day job. It might not give you millions in revenue from day one, but an eCommerce marketing strategy can certainly help you grow your business over time.
Here are some of the inherent benefits of eCommerce marketing.
Lower Startup Costs
Compared to traditional marketing processes, it costs very little money to launch an eCommerce digital marketing campaign. There is no overhead to pay for, no rent or lease, and you don’t necessarily have to hire employees right away.
While it’s not completely free, eCommerce marketing is certainly a drop in the bucket compared to other marketing measures. The primary costs to get a site off the ground are web hosting, a domain name, and eCommerce marketing tools like WooCommerce or Shopify.
The internet is always open, which means that your eCommerce store can remain open at all hours of the day and week. Online stores can receive purchases around the clock, and you don’t even have to be awake in order to process each transaction.
This availability also spans across the physical realm, allowing customers from all over the world to buy your products. From Singapore to Toronto, you can sell products to anyone in any location with ease. You can also communicate with customers around the clock.
Improved Customer Service
eCommerce brands can actually provide better customer service online than many stores provide offline. With help from AI-powered customer service bots that are offered on some of the larger eCommerce platforms, you can quickly respond to website visitor inquiries and personalize your responses to the specific people and situations that arise.
You can also keep long-term communications open by collecting email addresses of past or prospective customers and reaching out to them at a regular cadence. These email addresses can be segmented and used for remarketing campaigns.
Find More Customers
In addition to serving your customers’ needs more personally, eCommerce marketing allows brands to discover more customers across the internet thanks to platforms like Amazon and Facebook Marketplace, plus paid services like Instagram’s Shoppable Ads.
While the goal is to own as much of that traffic on your own website, these third party platforms are so widely used that you’d be remiss not to list certain products there. While you are still in the early stages of growing your brand, it could be wise to lean on a tried and true seller like Amazon for exposure.
Measure each component of your eCommerce marketing funnel with help from data collectors like Google Analytics, Monster Insights or others. Get detailed reporting on user behavior starting at the acquisition phase and following users all the way through their actions taken on the website towards a purchase.
Spot the most efficient and least efficient channels to help beef up your eCommerce inbound marketing efforts. Collect different types of valuable analytics including age, location, interests, and time spent on certain pages across your site. You can easily segment these audiences and tailor specific campaigns to each group.
Share customer insights with your brand’s decision makers and make determinations for how to most effectively market to these groups.
Take things a step further thanks to heat mapping tools like Crazy Egg or Hotjar. These are data collection tools that can be placed on your webpages to see how users navigate your site and improve conversion rates. It’s a great way to gauge whether people are clicking on the right CTA buttons. If they aren’t, you can use this info to inspire design changes to improve your site’s conversion friendliness.
Showcasing Your Product Line
While brick and mortar stores are beholden to the square footage of their building and lot size, the internet knows no physical limits. You can create as many product and category pages to display your goods to the masses.
You can also display features that will make your products stand out even more, like reviews, ratings, and high-quality videos. Share as much information as you can about every product and give consumers all the information they need to make the best decision.
Any Shopify marketing strategy will include what are called collections pages. This is Shopify’s vernacular for category pages, helping you organize and track each type of product so you can showcase them to website visitors. Collections can easily be configured to list your top products for sale and you can create certain featured sections like Best Sellers.
The benefits of eCommerce online marketing are numerous. Whether you are in B2B eCommerce marketing or you are marketing directly to consumers, there are huge advantages to marketing your products online.
Types of eCommerce Marketing
eCommerce marketing can take place across a variety of channels and using different strategies of implementation. Let’s focus on the two primary methods of direct and indirect eCommerce marketing.
What is Direct Marketing?
Direct marketing is the process of selling items directly to the public. For an eCommerce company, this could manifest itself in the form of email marketing, SMS campaigns, or communications through social media groups.
Email marketing is one of the most popular forms of direct marketing, since it requires relatively low costs to launch a campaign and you can start interacting with users right away. Reaching prospective customers straight from their inbox allows for a more intimate relationship that you can nurture over time.
You can craft email campaigns around the latest product releases, company announcements, and other information that will help customers feel a stronger tie to your brand. Segmenting your email lists ensures that you are sending the right content to your target customers.
Along the same lines, SMS campaigns can be a great way to keep customers in the know. eCommerce brands of all sizes are using text messaging for an even more direct way to reach customers over email.
Be aware of the legalities involved with SMS messaging. People have to voluntarily opt-in to receive SMS alerts from you so there is no soliciting.
Like with email marketing, SMS campaigns can utilize bot software to send messages on autopilot. In fact, it’s a good idea to approach your SMS communications in the same manner that you do for email, relying on these messages to nurture relationships and send relevant product updates.
What is Indirect Marketing?
You may be thinking that direct marketing is the end all be all of serving your audience, but it’s important to supplement this with indirect marketing efforts intended to broaden your brand’s awareness. Indirect marketing is also a form of eCommerce inbound marketing, where you are creating content that’s intended to attract people to your website.
Indirect marketing is about creating content and materials that help your brand grow, without directly marketing your products to specific people. It can also be associated with building your online brand across different channels, including SEO, social media, and content marketing.
SEO and eCommerce marketing aren’t often mentioned in the same breath, since many marketers prefer to use paid ads over organic efforts. But search engine optimization is still a cost-effective, long-term way to generate traffic growth for any website. eComm sites are no different.
Ranking for products organically will save you thousands of dollars on ad spend and it can potentially give you a higher conversion rate. Searchers who land on your page when it is ranked organically will have a higher intent to buy, since they proactively found you on their own.
Plus, Google rewards pages that answer the search query better than others, so having a page 1 result means that your page is well-optimized and more likely to convert.
Social media marketing is essential from a digital branding standpoint, and this can indirectly benefit your SEO efforts. Google wants to see that your brand is active across the big social platforms which will add legitimacy to your business and help you rank higher for keywords.
eCommerce brands can use social media to further engage with their following through mechanisms like social posting, social ads, or social media groups. Facebook is a great example of a platform where the groups feature has helped companies bring people together. This feature allows people to communicate amongst each other over a common interest whether it’s a product line or brand.
Content marketing is closely related to SEO. The goal is to create pages, posts, articles, or videos that rank for certain keywords and get displayed in search results. Whether you want to rank a video in YouTube or a blog post on your website, you will need to create a quality piece of content that also targets your intended keywords.
Podcasts are another burgeoning platform used to inform and entertain your following. Record episodes that provide helpful information about your specific products and your niche at large. You can interview other influencers in your industry and have them share your brand with their audience too.
Make announcements regarding company updates, industry news, product releases, or current events where your company is involved. Press releases are a great eCommerce marketing tool to add legitimacy to your brand. Even if you are a small fish, you can still disseminate information across major PR platforms and get noticed.
Press releases are a positive brand signal for Google, and they can show up in search results for brand searches. This is also why it’s a good idea to share positive news only, ensuring that you won’t mess up your brand search results with negativity.
Which Type of eCommerce Marketing is Right for Me?
There isn’t a right answer here. When it comes to deciding on direct or indirect marketing methods for your eCommerce business, it’s best to dip your toes in each.
Most brands will acquire customers using both techniques. Indirect marketing typically occurs at a higher stage of the eCommerce marketing funnel—usually at the awareness phase—before your specific customers are established. As they enter your funnel you will add them to an email list, have them opt-in to an SMS chat, or communicate with them via another direct technique to nurture the relationship.
Both methods inform each other. For example, you may get specific customer feedback about a feature they wished your product addressed—this is a direct marketing communication. You could then explain this information in a how-to video or blog post—this is an indirect marketing communication.
eCommerce Marketing Strategies
The amount of eCommerce marketing strategies might seem infinite, but it’s important to focus your energy on the methods that have the greater chance of moving your needle.
Here are some eCommerce marketing tips when it comes to strategy.
What are your competitors doing well? In most niches, it will be obvious. You can determine this by a simple scan of their website and social channels to see what types of content they are sharing and how they are growing their customer base.
Search engine rankings will show you what keywords are most profitable to them and what pages or posts are driving the most traffic. You should use this data to inform your own keyword strategy.
Playing to Your Strengths
Consider where your strengths lie and pursue strategies that are conducive to your skill set. If you are good on video, create a YouTube channel, if you prefer connecting with customers through written content then focus on your site’s blog and writing engaging emails to your list.
Prospective customers can tell when something isn’t genuine, so make sure that you play to your strengths and pick the right channels to succeed.
Consider Each Funnel Stage
The ability to target people at different stages of the sales funnel is key. Understand what people are looking for at each stage, starting with awareness and moving down through towards the sale.
An eCommerce marketing strategy that focuses solely on the top of the funnel might produce a ton of great info content, but they won’t be skilled at converting those users into dollars. Conversely, a strategy that’s focused solely on the conversion phase will miss out on collecting new consumers at the top of the funnel.
Don’t bank on a single strategy outperforming the rest when you don’t test them. A/B testing should be done across your website and across your eCommerce strategy itself.
Compare different subject lines in email marketing campaigns, or different product placements across category pages. Your goal is to find the most efficient combination of marketing elements to improve your bottom line. Never be satisfied.
The best eCommerce strategy is one that makes you stand out above the rest.
SEO in eCommerce
Conventional eCommerce marketing wisdom used to say that paid advertising was all that mattered. Brands would rely solely on Google Ads or Facebook Ads to drive leads and customers to their website without considering a more economical alternative.
SEO, or organic search has gained massive popularity across the entire internet and eCommerce marketing is starting to take notice. Brands today are expected to try to rank their website for desirable keywords that will help them sell more products. It’s not just about gaining traffic anymore, SEO is about conversion-friendly traffic.
This is why it’s so important to address different parts of the sales funnel. You can rank for high funnel terms like “how to set up a camping tent” with good blog or video content, but you will ultimately want to rank for “camping tents” to get the most conversions. This requires an adherence to SEO principles from blog posts down to your product pages, including things like:
- Title tags and meta descriptions: you’ve probably heard of these before, but they are still worth reiterating. Title tags and meta descriptions provide strong on-page signals for Google, especially when it comes to title tags. The main keyword of a title tag should appear on the left hand side, as one of the first words used. Meta descriptions should focus on sales-friendliness, using persuasive copywriting to encourage users to click through to the website.
- Headers: proper header structures will improve on-page organization, including the use of a single H1 header that includes a target keyword followed by subsequent H2 and H3s that target subtopics down the page.
- Product Reviews: show reviews from satisfied past customers to encourage new customers to buy. You can also use product schema to get ratings stars showing up underneath your search results.
- Link Building: depending on your niche, you may need to build a lot of links to compete in line with others. Link building remains a critical way to increase authority and improve keyword rankings, especially when you can accumulate links that are highly relevant to your specific niche.
- Conversion Rate Optimization: although maybe not a direct SEO factor, conversion rate optimization is essential for increasing sales. But improving the call to action buttons and sales copy across your pages will also provide a better user experience (UX) which can indirectly influence keyword rankings. Using aforementioned heatmapping tools like Crazy Egg or Hotjar can show you user behavior across select pages of your site.
Scaling your eCommerce Business with Marketing Techniques
One thing the YouTube gurus are right about is that you can make money through eCommerce, but it requires more work than just publishing a Shopify or WooCommerce site and calling it a day.
It requires a sound marketing strategy. One that is influenced by your strengths as a business owner as well as a proper competitive analysis to learn what’s working in your space.
Platform doesn’t matter much when it comes to marketing ingenuity. A sound strategy could work just as well for a Yotpo eCommerce marketing strategy or a Shopify one.
Scaling your eCommerce store is a combination of strategy and having the right people in place, which is why hiring the right experts should be your first step.
When you have a great team in place, scalability follows.