eCommerce is a general term describing the actions of buying and selling products or services over the internet. Ecommerce marketing is the practice of using promotional tactics to drive traffic to your online store, converting them into paying customers and retaining those relationships post-purchase.
A holistic eCommerce marketing strategy is made up of marketing tactics both on and off your website.
You should start by identifying your eCommerce business model. This has further implications on marketing channels, audience personas, value propositions, and other areas of the digital marketing mix.
Anything you buy as a consumer: clothing, furniture, food, entertainment, etc. is done as part of a B2C transaction. The decision-making process for a B2C purchase is typically short term so the acquisition period is swift, and customer resistance is normally low. The simplest example would be fashion stores, which either exist entirely online and also have standalone stores like ASOS or Adidas.
A firm that sells its products or services to another firm. The B2B model generally means a longer sales cycle, but a higher-order value. Any online service fits this category (Drift - a conversational marketing platform for example)
When individuals sell goods and services to companies. For instance, a platform that allows people to post work they can provide and have companies bid for the opportunity. Affiliate marketing services can also be included in this category.
In this model, consumers exchange goods and services amongst themselves and typically make their money by charging transaction or listing fees. For example Craigslist and eBay.
There are additional eCommerce Models which have emerged with the continuous growth of eCommerce:
After identifying the eCommerce business model as your baseline you can proceed to create an eCommerce marketing strategy which should include a well mapped out marketing plan, defined marketing channels, and a clear marketing funnel.
Many marketing managers tend to skip or cut corners on this stage and end up blindly running a lot of ad campaigns, which produces a low return on their marketing budget and a big waste of money. This is just one of the mistakes owners make in their eCommerce marketing.
Here are the steps you need to take to create a cohesive eCommerce marketing plan:
The first step of your eCommerce marketing plan should be to define your goals. Use industry benchmarks to create goals that make sense for your team. You can use the SMART goals framework = specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based to help you succeed.
Main eCommerce marketing goals often include things like leads, clicks, conversion rates, and customer acquisition cost. You should also define specific sales numbers on each of your main channels for the next 3-6 months.
Competition analysis is a must. Not only is this a source of strategic information, but it also links in with your goals by providing benchmarks for them, which in turn can help you define your budget distribution.
Good segmentation will help improve your user's experience through personalization and will translate into your bottom line (your eCommerce goals).
Your eCommerce marketing plan should reflect the characteristics of your target audience. You can segment your audience based on the following criteria:
Audience segmentation will allow you to better match your offering to your customer's needs (personalization). This can promote customer loyalty and retention, allowing you to upsell and grow your sales even more. And once you identify what works and what doesn’t you can fine-tune your offer to attract new shoppers.
Now that you've gathered all of this data on who you want to reach it's time to select the specific ways of how you're going to meet these goals. Choose the marketing channels that you want to invest in (free and paid) and write down a few specific tactics that you want to use for each channel. Then break down these tactics into action items that you can delegate to your team.
You might have a lot of ideas about which channels you want to invest your energy and budget in, but again, this should be based on your competitor research and uniquely customized to your target audience.
Here are the main channels that you should look at:
Email is by far the most profitable marketing channel for any eCommerce brand. A lot of other channels (like ads) often bring traffic that then converts into email leads. The ROI from email marketing is at around $38 in sales for every $1 spent.
And the great thing about email marketing is how flexible it is. You can personalize your emails, segment your audience, and send the optimal messaging to each recipient at the exact time that they are more likely to make a purchase.
This channel is a must as it increases the ROI of all the traffic acquisition channels that flow into it, like Facebook ads and Google ads for example.
Here are some of the best email flows you need to have:
Cart abandonment - targeting users that have added something to their cart and then left.
Welcome flow - sent to new subscribers or new customers welcoming them to your online community.
Upsell / Cross-sell - dynamically display the latest items that the user has looked at or added to their cart. You can also display similar or complementary products.
Shipping / delivery notifications - sent each time the order is shipped or delivered. This is a super important touchpoint along the customer journey that will help you build loyalty and dramatically improve the user experience.
Combine your email marketing campaigns with other channels - text messages, chat messages, push notifications - to provide a more cohesive user experience and increase your sales. So for example, send a push notification in the morning, a chat message blast at noon, and your email campaign in the afternoon, all with the same messaging and same promotion. This can grow your sales 10X.
We cover all of these flows in depth in the email marketing chapter of this guide, so check that out to learn more best practices and top tactics for your marketing campaigns.
Once you've set up your flows the next marketing channel to focus on is social media. It's a super powerful channel for any eCommerce brand. It allows you to connect with audiences for free and bring more clicks and sales to your site.
Ecommerce sites are highly visual and need to pick the best platforms that help show off their goods in the best possible way. It's best to post Instagram and Pinterest to target those audiences with the highest purchase intent.
A really good eCommerce strategy doesn't just throw designs that looks nice together. It gathers data about their audience and then uses that to create social media content. And that's what helps them optimize, increase the engagement, and get better and telling their story.
Like Neil Patel once said - the foundation of your marketing strategy is to understand who your target audience is and why they use social media. To do so, we need to utilize demographics and psychographics.
Advertising is the number one way to get more sales to your eCommerce store, and there are many ways to advertise. Most marketers still spend a majority of their advertising budgets on Facebook because they have the best ROI. Data shows that an average Facebook user clicks on 12 ads per month and Facebook has by far the largest audience at 2.14 billion people.
There is a lot of software that you can use to improve & automate your advertising campaigns. You can use Taboola or Outbrain to run native ads on large publisher sites. You can also use Mayple to display all of your advertising data in one place and make sense of it better.
The next channel you should use is organic search. A study that analyzed over 18,000 eCommerce stores in the United States found that 30.5% of all traffic was coming from organic searches on Google, Yahoo and Bing. That's almost a third!
SEO breaks down into two critical parts.
On-page SEO - optimize your site for Google, especially the category and product pages for search engines. That means adding more keywords into the URL, title, headers and descriptions. Also, make sure that you have all the different aspects of your items that searchers are looking for like dimensions, weight, warranty, color, and other important attributes.
Off-page SEO - acquire more backlinks from reputable sites in your industry to improve your keyword rankings. This could be partnerships with other blogs, writing blog posts that gets shared and linked to from large publishers, or getting an included on gift guides. This can also help your PR efforts. Use Ahref's free plan to manage your backlink campaigns.
There are a lot of free SEO software & tools that can help you optimize both your on-page and off-page elements of your SEO strategy.
Now that you've set up your various acquisition channels and you are getting a steady flow of shoppers it's critical that you focus on your conversion rates. Every successful eCommerce brand is built on data and utilizes heat maps and/or surveys to collect data on what works and what doesn't.
You can also get live recordings of participants going through your site and trying to check out, and then optimize or test things according to what they said was most problematic or unclear.
What are some of the most important things to test?
Here are a few.
Evaluate whether it's easy for a user to complete your order, to something to their cart, to even find the item that they are looking for. Browsing your website should be intuitive, with high web speed, interesting high-quality images, clear calls to action, and easy checkout.
This is one of the top tactics that Amazon used to grow to be the largest eCommerce platform in the world, so use it!
Content has long been considered a cornerstone for digital marketing success. Good content helps “educate” your audience and encourages them to buy. Most marketers focus on sending out promotions, offering gifts, 2and writing salesy posts. These are powerful techniques but they only help convert the bottom of the funnel visitors, those visitors that are ready to buy and just need that extra incentive.
You should focus on all 3 parts of the marketing funnel - the top, middle, and bottom. That means writing posts that educate those visitors that aren't ready to buy yet, writing shopping guides for people that are comparison shopping, and including promotions whenever it's most appropriate.
If you focus on writing long-form guides that educates the consumer and genuinely try to solve their problem, provide answers, and tell stories - then you can receive a lot of high-quality leads from people looking for this information on Google.
Here's an example of a super comprehensive beard-growing guide from BeardBrand:
Shoppr did an interview with Eric Bandholz, the CEO & Founder of BeardBrand, where he said that they put most of their emphasis on content marketing and only spend 10% of their revenue on ads.
Public relations is another form of content marketing it's just published on large publisher sites. This is a great way to gain exposure to an already engaged audience. There are a lot of software & tools for finding the right journalists to reach out to such as PressHunt where you can access over 750k journalists, reporters, and podcasters.
A lot of publishers have stores where they can create a page for you and promote your brand. They can also advertise your goods on their newsletters and send out custom promotions to their audiences. PR can be expensive but if you do it right it could create massive growth.
Here's an example of the online store at Entrepreneur Mag. It features gadgets, subscriptions and goods from a variety of categories.
How do these online publishers make money you ask?
Through affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize relationships and partnerships with blogs and publishers.
You can set up an affiliate program very easily either by setting up your own using a tool like Referral Candy or joining one of the large affiliate networks such as PepperJam, Share-a-sale, Rakuten, or Refersion.
The advantage of joining a large affiliate network is that you can get access to thousands of publishers, blogs and coupon sites on these platforms. And a lot of external relationships you build with publications are then managed through one of these large affiliate platforms.
Another great channel for eCommerce growth is influencer marketing. These are people that have built engaged audiences and can promote your brand to them. You can find the right people to work with by searching through your own followers, doing a hashtag search or using a tool like Heepsy.
One of the most powerful influencer tactics is launching a giveaway campaign with a group of influencers. Take a group of influencers that have really engaged audiences and run one big giveaway with them.
Here's an example of a Tory Burch giveaway that got over 4k likes.
Here's another one from Milk Makeup:
Pro tip: offer prices and extra entries for users that post images or videos of your product.
This is called user-generated content (UGC) and it's a super powerful way to make your campaign go viral.
Frank Body, an Australian beauty company used UGC and influencer marketing to make $20M in sales in their second year. They did all this through really creative content and running giveaways around the hashtag #letsbefrank.
Now remember, these influencers won't work for free. Some may want a free product but the majority will require a fee for their work. Check out the interview we did with Neal Schaffer where he teaches how to know what to offer each influencer.
Most marketing funnels follow the same stages to get prospects from “strangers” to “loyal customers”. The transition from one stage of the flow to the next is facilitated by the e-commerce marketing channel mix.
Here they are:
Awareness - Buyers are interacting with your website and at this point, visitors are interested in what you have to offer but aren’t familiar with your brand. Your task is to educate them start building trust (hopefully also getting them into your email lists to further contact them). This is a great time to offer a free guide or lead magnet.
Interest - these are people that are shopping. They have recognized your solution to their needs, and your task is to keep them engaged by offering them to join your newsletter list, download a helpful freebie and/or join your following. They are ripe to continue to the next part of the funnel.
Purchase - Buyers who are ready to complete a purchase. At this point, they are aware of you and how you solve their problem or answer their needs, and now need that nudge to go through the checkout. Your task is to make this transition easy with minimal friction points for your buyer to back down (easy and secure payment for instance). You can seal the deal with extra complimentary offers or first-time purchase discounts etc.
Repeat - Buyers who have completed a purchase are a great resource to nurture towards repeat purchasing (especially if they are pleased with you). Your task is to keep them happy and offer them additional purchases and incentives to become your brand’s advocates, further feeding potential new buyers into the top of your eCommerce marketing acquisition funnel.
Now that you have mapped out a clear eCommerce marketing plan it’s time to put it into action. The question that arises is whether to hire someone internally or to outsource by hiring an eCommerce marketing agency.
There are pros and cons to both.
Complete customization and control - since you hold the reigns you know your marketing will remain focused and aligned with your needs.
Accessible manpower - you have a dedicated employee executing and monitoring the process. And any issues, should they arise can be handled swiftly and on-premise.
Cost control - outsourcing usually costs more than hiring your own team. This can be easier to do for small or new companies who are not going to see an immediate return on such a large investment.
Time-consuming - building your own eCommerce marketing team and managing an online store requires development, tech support and more time spent that might be better allocated elsewhere towards improving your core offering.
Lack of expertise - eCommerce is becoming increasingly complex, especially if you are expanding globally. Payment processing, taxes, shipping are all key areas that need to be properly managed. In fact, failing to do so can be detrimental to your brand. So, if you don't have the expertise on your team, you will need to put in the effort to hire someone.
Knowledge and experience - Outsourced eCommerce marketing teams have accumulated useful experience and top eCommerce marketing tactics that can help you achieve your revenue & sales goals much faster.
Time-saving - The flip side of the above mentioned. Hiring an external eCommerce marketing firm enables you to launch an online store quickly without having to invest your own precious time to create your own solution.
Security solutions - large eCommerce platforms comply with payment and security standards providing trust on your behalf.
Hiring with confidence - The always existing uncertainty that you have made the right choice and that your new partner has the skills and technical capabilities to support your brand's needs and keep up with the latest eCommerce marketing trends.
Budget constraints - It can be tricky to keep the eCommerce marketing agency adhere to a limited budget. Concerns that you must share if you do decide to hire an outsourced team.
You’re not their priority - Agencies have more than just you as a client, so you should rightfully be concerned whether they are dedicating all their possible efforts to managing your account.
Here are some of the best eCommerce growth hacks to grow your brand:
Social proof plays a main role in the success of your eCommerce marketing plan. Potential buyers rely heavily on the testimonials of others when approaching a purchasing decision. To achieve this make sure to generate plenty of testimonials, positive reviews, and success stories. This should be placed throughout your store at strategic decision tipping points. The best part is that you don't need to offer any incentive, a lot of your customers will leave reviews for free.
Marketing is extremely dynamic, and you should continuously check how modifications to layout, messaging, user experience, and other factors could influence your marketing KPI’s for the better.
As Jeff Bezos once said - "Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day..."
Take advantage of a consumer psychological truth a.k.a “FOMO”. Fear of missing out is a primal instinct for buyers. Display special conditional offers, limited time offers, limited edition products and bundles to improve your conversion rate and get more sales.
Just be sure to base your FOMO offer on your users behavioral patterns and expectation, namely, you need to think about what will be considered a high-value offer in their mind and limit its access.
Use dynamic notifications to display when a user recently bought your product or the remaining quantity of a product. These will increase your user's sense of urgency and grow trust in your brand.
One of the top Shopify software plugins is also called Fomo, and it lets you create these notifications on the spot and launch them within minutes. Here's an example.
If at first you don’t succeed you must try again. Many times our potential buyers are not quite ready to complete a purchase, either because they are still unsure, don’t have time to complete payment just this very moment, still want to compare their options and dozens of other reasons.
Therefore, you want to remain on their radar and present your offering encouraging them to return. Remind them of the items they were checking out, or remind them to finish purchasing their existing shopping cart item with retargeted Facebook ads. You can upsell with additional similar offerings to what customers have purchased in the past.
This is a perfect tactic for users that are still comparison shopping. Create a guide that compares your company with your competitors and highlights all of the key advantages or
things that your audience would consider as "deal breakers".
Guides have a dual purpose. You can use them to convert the users that initially looked into your competition and then saw you as an alternative worth checking out. You can also offer these guides as free lead magnets to generate leads.
Another great way to engage with your audience and improve your conversion rate is by launching an interactive quiz. You can display it on your home page and it provides a quick and creative way for your users to learn about your offering and start checking out.
Here are examples of two quizzes from Care/Of, the vitamin brand, and Ellie, the pet brand.
Referrals and word-of-mouth is the secret sauce behind long-term growth. You can't be throwing your money into Facebook ads forever, at some point your audience has to get excited enough about your product and start referring their friends for free if you want your brand to grow.
As a famous marketer and entrepreneur once said:
The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven't given them anything else to care about - Seth Godin
Frank Body did this from day 1. They created a unique hashtag - #thefrankeffect and started offering their users monthly prizes for the most creative photo/video posts. This tactic encouraged users to create user-generated content (UGC) in the form of images and videos and helped the brand get over 100k+ pieces of content using their hashtag.
The subscription model is what SaaS software companies so successful and it can be used for eCommerce to increase loyalty and referrals and drive repeat purchases. The common misconception is that your entire business needs to be subscription-only and that's simply not true. There are plenty of companies (like Gillette) that have launched separate subscription products.
If you don't currently offer a subscription product it's a great time to create one. There are 3 basic subscription box types that you can choose from - replenishment, curation or access.
Replenishment - offer items that shoppers tend to re-purchase regularly. Think: razor blades, soap, pet food. Start with local delivery to optimize your shipping costs. So if you're based in the United States, start selling to specific states, and then slowly expand as you go along.
Curation - offer super-targeted product suggestions and combinations that provide a variety and the convenience of saving people time. Think: ThreadBeast's CTA - "One less trip to the mall".
Access - provide products that are difficult to find anywhere else. This could be a subscription service that offers shoppers to "rent" $3k+ worth of jewelry, and wear new pieces every month.
The search is one of the most overlooked places on any eCommerce site. What most marketers forget is that the people that use the search have the highest purchase intent and are ready to buy. So make it easier for them to use the search by making it interactive.
This can mean a few things. First, you can display images of your products as they type in their search query. You could also improve your filters to let your users search by attributes like color, size, design, and more.
Here's an example:
Wishlists are super powerful. They let your users save an item to a list, (read: you receive the user's email) and you can later retarget them with an email campaign. Etsy has this feature and it's been widely successful to lure shoppers back to the site.
Chairish, the home decor brand, uses wishlists as social proof and as conversion tactic. You first have to sign up on their site to be able to save a item onto your wishlist. And then you receive an email with the item you favorited asking you to buy it. And that irresistible line says it all- "160 other users favorited - act fast!"
Reviews are another great way to improve conversions and you should display them in as many places as possible. You should use them in your email marketing campaigns, on your PDP pages, home page, category pages, really in any aspect of your marketing.
Here's an example from the home decor brand Brooklinen:
Nectar, the innovative mattress company, displays reviews several times throughout the page.
Speaking of Nectar, this is an iconic home decor brand that grew to be an industry leader in just under 5 years. One of their secret sauces is making the product page tell the entire story. They pack all the information that a shopper would want to see on one page so they don't have to go browsing the rest of the site.
The one-stop-shop product page consists of - a promotion, bundle pricing, the product story, the company story, UGC + reviews, PR mentions, specs, unboxing instructions, competitor comparison chart, and FAQ's. Oh, and a sticky menu.
Text messages are a much more personal way to interact with your audience. But you're probably asking yourself - who has the time for that?
So instead of just sending these one-off promotional text broadcasts get a tool like LiveRecover that lets you send automatic cart abandonment messages and get your own team of live agents. Once the user responds the team at LiveRecover actually starts a conversation with them, solves their issue or concern, and helps them checkout.
Another advantage of using LiveRecover is that it lets you store all the information on a sheet and filter by the top concerns of your audience. That way, you not only get to recover abandoned carts but you also get to fix core issues and continue to improve your value proposition.
There are endless opportunities to grow your eCommerce brand.
If you want to succeed you have to pay careful attention to user experience, publish relevant and valuable content, continuously optimize your website, launch paid media campaigns and of course, create unique messaging.
Now, remember, don't launch too many marketing campaigns at once. Start with the most important ones - post on social media, use paid advertising (Facebook and Google ads), SEO, and email marketing. Then as you win on those, strategically choose your influencers, run UGC campaigns, gather more social proof, and you're off to the races.
One really important aspect of any successful strategy is the focus on data and a company culture that's conducive to testing ideas and optimization. That means, surround yourself with people that aren't afraid to A/B test every marketing change and optimize the site and marketing campaigns based on that data (and not on based on their opinions).
A successful eCommerce marketing strategy is one that builds trust, loyalty, and creates ‘word-of-mouth’. If you don't have the resources on the team to manage these marketing channels properly you can always either outsource your eCommerce marketing plan or find a top-notch marketer through Mayple 😉.