As the industry grows, so does the competition. So if you are going to stay competitive in the eCommerce space, a coherent a strong eCommerce marketing strategy is essential.
The days of eCommerce playing a niche role in the greater economy are long over. Endless statistics demonstrate the explosive growth of eCommerce since the turn of the century, but simply looking at sales volume is enough to get the picture. According to Deloitte, eCommerce sales were measured at $27.6 billion in 2000 – and $343 billion in 2015.
And in the years since 2015, the pandemic has placed an even greater emphasis on the value of eCommerce. Of course, that means even more competition.
In this article, we’ll dive into the key fundamentals of eCommerce marketing and explain how you can apply them to drive growth in your organization.
Set Marketing Goals
Marketing for eCommerce purposes is no different than general marketing in many ways. Setting SMART goals will be a critical component of your eCommerce marketing plan. Every marketing initiative needs clearly defined goals to guide it forward, and eCommerce marketing is no different.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining all of your goals in terms of dollars and cents, but there are other types of goals that will help you reach those revenue targets in the end. Specifically, we are talking about creating different types of objectives for different types of marketing campaigns, depending on where you are with your business and what you need to accomplish to grow. Here are some examples.
This is a high-level marketing goal that is aimed more at getting your name known by as many people as possible than it is at making sales.
Of course, you won’t turn down any sales that happen to come from an awareness campaign, but that’s not the primary target here. Instead, you are going to use marketing channels that allow you to reach as many relevant people as possible for the lowest possible price.
You’ll be willing to pay more in other types of campaigns when you are acquiring targeted leads that you hope to convert, but awareness marketing is all about exposing your brand to a wide audience while keeping the cost of that campaign down.
Another potential goal you could have in mind for your marketing activities is to increase web traffic to your site.
If you have built a robust, detailed site that has plenty of resources for your potential customers – in addition to sales pages – getting people to your site could be a valuable first step as you aim to forge a relationship with each visitor and turn them into customers.
At this point, we are getting closer to the bottom of the funnel where you are actually trying to make sales. Picking up leads through a marketing campaign can take on many different forms, and it will depend largely on what you are selling and how much it costs.
For example, you could gain leads by creating a campaign that is attempting to get sign-ups to a mailing list that can be used to promote offers and make sales in the future. If you know how many of your leads usually turn into customers, you can work backward and do some basic math to determine how much you are willing to pay for those leads.
Finally, we get to the most obvious of all marketing goals – selling goods or services. Some of your marketing activities are going to go right after this ultimate target. You’ll craft ad messages that speak to the benefits and features of what you sell, and you’ll direct traffic straight to a landing page on your eCommerce site.
These types of campaigns are exciting to build because of the potential for immediate revenue, but the other campaigns are necessary to get prospects to this point.
Diversify Your Marketing Plan
Keeping your business in one specific channel when doing marketing for eCommerce is going to severely limit your potential moving forward. One of the great things about eCommerce is the diverse number of ways you can market your business and reach new customers.
There are plenty of different channels available across the web today, so there is no reason to stay in just one lane. If you are open to experimenting with multiple options, you can find which paths work best for your brand and then focus on those winners over time.
That said, it’s important not to do too much at once. Try one or two channels at a time to see if they’re scalable, then try new tactics.
Some of the different marketing platforms you’ll want to test out in the pursuit of eCommerce growth include:
Pay-per-click ads are perhaps the most direct form of eCommerce marketing. You create ads, display them to internet users in a variety of places, and pay a certain amount each time one of those ads is clicked. PPC ads are fundamental to online marketing because they are a stream of traffic that you can turn on and off at a moment’s notice.
Want to test out a new landing page? Turn on some PPC ads and spend a bit of money to bring real human visitors to the page and see how it goes. Some eCommerce businesses lean on PPC ads more than others, but virtually every player in this space will need to use PPC at least to some degree.
The world of search engine optimization is another one that is nearly a prerequisite for anyone who hopes to have long-term success in eCommerce.
Building up a base of organic search traffic through various SEO techniques is something that can help bring down your cost of customer acquisition, helping to push your bottom line further into the black.
Content marketing is often at the core of a quality SEO campaign, meaning you can use an active blog or collection of web pages to target specific keywords and work your way up the rankings.
We’ll talk about this more later, but SEO should always be seen as a long game – quick results are rare, but the long-term outcome can be powerful if you stick with it.
Social media marketing. When used correctly, social media can be a powerful marketing tool for eCommerce businesses. It is important, however, to use it in a strategic, targeted way, as you can easily spin your wheels on social media without any direction or purpose.
Building up a following and generating quality leads through social channels can take some time, so it should be seen more along the lines of SEO as a longer-term strategy rather than an immediate boost.
Know Your Customers
Perhaps the most important ingredient in eCommerce marketing – yet the one that is overlooked most frequently – is having a detailed understanding of your ideal customer.
Who are you selling to? There are virtually no products or services on the market today that are a good fit for every buyer. It’s just too difficult to create something that suits everyone’s needs.
So, as you work toward building a strong marketing presence that brings a consistent flow of leads into your funnel, you need to make sure those various marketing efforts are pointed towards the right people.
The best way to build up a profile of your ideal customer is to look at the demographics of your past customers.
Even a relatively new business likely has at least a few past customers to use as the basis for an outline of what your ideal buyer looks like. You might want to consider sending out a survey or questionnaire to ask for info from past customers that you can use to create the clearest possible picture of the customers you need to find.
Once you have this picture created, it’s relatively easy using online marketing channels to find the right audience. Facebook Ads are a great example of how you can easily put your advertisements in front of people who match your market.
You can run ads that are filtered by age, gender, interest, location, and much more.
Spending just a few minutes to strategically organize your campaign will ensure that the right people see your ads and you don’t waste money promoting products to people who won’t be interested.
Seasonality can be challenging for many eCommerce businesses. By its very definition, seasonality means that you are going to have some periods of the year that are better than others – and that’s not something most business owners want to accept. Instead, you want to think that every month can be a great one, with sales growing steadily as your business climbs higher and higher.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the reality of how business works in most cases. You’ll likely face ups and downs based on the realities of the market and the customers you are serving.
So, when it comes time to organize a marketing plan, it’s a good idea to embrace that seasonality and allow it to give you focus and purpose with your campaigns. Let’s talk more about how that can work in the points below.
Boost and Cut Spending
Rather than spending a constant amount on marketing campaigns throughout the year, consider budgeting for periods where you invest heavily and other times when you cut back and prepare for the next round.
For example, you might want to lean into PPC ads in advance of a sale or special event, only to cut back on that spending when you don’t have as much going on. This will allow you to make a big impact at the right time without blowing through your marketing budget on an annual basis.
Get Ahead of the Season.
If you run an eCommerce business that sells goods typically used in the summer, you might want to target spring as your prime selling period.
Your customers are looking forward to the summer and will be primed to make purchases before those summer months arrive. Then, when fall comes, you can slow things down and make plans for how you’ll make the next selling season even better.
Seize Every Opportunity
No matter what you sell, the holiday season is important for every eCommerce business. The weeks leading up to Christmas should be a top priority for your marketing efforts, even if you sell things that are typically used in the warmer months. Getting the holidays right can make your whole year, so don’t sleep on the importance of this period.
Plan Short- and Long-Term Marketing Initiatives
Another important factor to consider as you build a marketing strategy is how you will blend both short-term and long-term tactics to create a powerful promotional engine.
We’ve talked about this a little bit already, but let’s take a closer look here. For most businesses, it’s important to have activities in both of these categories – neglecting one entirely in favor of the other is likely to backfire in the end.
Short-term marketing methods are those that are designed to bring you sales immediately. Often, this means PPC ads that you run to drive traffic to landing pages on your eCommerce site.
Another example of a short-term marketing tactic is an email blast that you send out to your list to drive sales during a promotion. Of course, you will have built that email list over time, so that one is something of a blend of the two.
Search engine optimization and social media marketing fall firmly into the long-term category.
If you get on a consistent schedule of publishing content on your site that is aimed at specific keywords, you will hope to see growth in traffic over time – but you aren’t going to see that growth tomorrow. Similarly, social media accounts can gradually pick up followers and grow their reach, but that rarely happens quickly.
The reason it’s so important to blend these two types of eCommerce marketing is that you don’t want to forever remain attached to the cost of PPC promotion. There is a lot to like about pay-per-click, but it is extremely competitive and can get very expensive.
Blending it with methods that have the potential to offer a far greater return on your dollar will leave you in a better marketing position down the road.
Start Building Your eCommerce Marketing Campaigns Today
As you can see from the range of topics and ideas we’ve covered above, the possibilities are endless when you are ready to promote your eCommerce business.
And, while you can certainly spend a fortune in these pursuits, that’s not at all necessary to get started – you can use a very modest budget to create your first campaigns and test the waters.
Get to work today assembling an overall plan that will meet your marketing needs and then dive into the details to begin executing that plan one step at a time.