What Makes a Great eCommerce Marketing Strategy?
What is eCommerce Marketing?
Let’s start with an exact definition of eCommerce Marketing:
"eCommerce marketing is the act of driving awareness and action toward a business that sells its product or service electronically. eCommerce marketers can use social media, digital content, search engines, and email campaigns to attract visitors and facilitate purchases online." (HubSpot.com)
So what does this mean for you?
As an online retailer, you have access to a variety of digital marketing tools and channels that help drive traffic (and conversions) to your eCommerce website. The trick is qualifying that traffic and nurturing it with an inbound methodology.
Translating for the Real World
In this section, we will cover a variety of channels, tools and tactics that can be used to create an overall eCommerce marketing strategy. At the end of the day, you'll need to set goals based on your business benchmarks and utilize the tools that work best for you.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to not just “put all your eggs in one basket.” When creating a successful eCommerce marketing strategy, you should use a variety of techniques to maximize your digital presence.
Let’s take a look at some common marketing channels and how you can use them to drive traffic to your online store.
Knowing How to Create Content That Resonates
The internet looooves content. However, despite the influx of videos, blogs and articles, many retailers wonder if they really need these content elements to sell their products online. The short answer is yes.
Relevant and consistently published content can help improve your website's ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) and answer questions related to your industry.
Knowing How to Be Discovered
Make sure that your product pages are optimized for long-tail keywords that include the name of your specific products.
For example, if you sell golf shoes, a Google search for "spiked golf shoes" is more likely to rank your page if you’ve included that term in the headings and image alt text.
If your page titles, headers and image alt text all focus on the right keywords, search engine crawlers will know to return your eCommerce store for the right queries and show your store in their search results.
Knowing to Leverage One of the Most Powerful Digital Marketing Tools
Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing. However, it’s one of the classics for a good reason – it's often the highest-converting channel for many eCommerce businesses.
eCommerce email marketing is often automated, meaning you can set up specific drip campaigns and workflows. These elements are often segmented by interest or a particular stage in the buyer’s journey.
You can even (and you should) use email to engage with customers post-purchase or would-be customers who never pulled the trigger (the abandoned shopping cart, which we’ll get into later).
Knowing Not Every Platform is a Good Fit
Growing businesses, established brands, contractors and freelancers all have pages on today's most popular social networks. It helps them connect with their audiences and post content that their prospects will find interesting.
Social media makes sense for most eCommerce websites because they are highly visual platforms by nature. Your success on social media is dependent on your use of high quality imagery and messaging to drive attention and traffic to your website.
Instagram is by far one of the highest-converting platforms for eCommerce businesses because it enables you to post sharp product photography and expand your product's reach beyond its purchase page. Users can view, interact with and share your product before ever visiting your eCommerce store.
Social media platforms are able to help your eCommerce business grow with product ads that can show multiple images or videos of a product, service or process. This enables viewers to discover and be inspired by your brand before even visiting the store.
Examples of this functionality include products tags in posts, shopping ads in social feeds or “Swipe Up” calls to action. These social media methods help you eliminate friction from the buying process and allow users to engage directly with your products.
We’ll dive more into social media later on, but at a high level, remember to consider your business audience and KPIs when considering social media options.
Knowing How to Write Content Relevant to Your Website Visitors
Blogging and content creation can help businesses increase organic traffic and attract relevant visitors to their websites. Marketers accomplish these results by crafting content that targets specific phases of the buyer's journey.
To start, we recommend writing top-of-funnel content to attract a broader audience. As visitors return to your website and become more engaged, you can create content that helps move them into the consideration and decision stages. This process of tailoring content will help your eCommerce business cater to specific user needs and nurture them through the buying process.
Knowing Who Can Advocate For Your Products
Influencer marketing focuses on brands or individuals that have a following that aligns with your target audience.
The term “influencer” is commonly used to denote Instagram accounts with several thousand followers or more. However, it could also refer to a celebrity persona or communities of influence that interest your target audience.
Influencers build communities of people that know, like and trust them. Therefore, it’s easy for them to garner attention around your online product through a recommendation or “sponsored post.”
Knowing How to Leverage Video
YouTube offers a massive audience. If you utilize highly searched keyword terms to determine your topics and share videos that are related to your product, you’ll put yourself in a great position to be discovered.
Tutorial videos, product reviews and “unboxing” videos are all video formats that show current customers how to use your product and exactly what they will be getting if and when they purchase.
Successfully implementing YouTube as a part of your eCommerce marketing strategy will help to increase customer satisfaction and build long-term relationships with website visitors.
Knowing What Your Customers are Asking
If your audience is asking questions related to your product, you’re the best one to answer them. So, if you’re hearing the same question over and over, create an FAQ page on your website and include questions that match high volume, long-tail keyword searches to get more users to your site.
You’ll be building both authority and traffic — two crucial components of a successful eCommerce store, in addition to keeping your customers happy by giving them a resource to answer their product and brand related questions.
Knowing Where Your Customers Are
Don’t overlook this powerful tactic for eCommerce businesses. Local marketing allows you to capitalize on the areas where large numbers of your current and potential customers are and allows you to offer specific local incentives to this customer base.
A good approach to local marketing would be to use tracking cookies on your website to determine where your prospects are located and then offer a promotion like discounted (or free) shipping to potential customers.
So, what makes a great eCommerce marketing strategy? It’s knowing these tools and techniques and how they impact your audience and digital presence.
It’s knowing the combination of these tools and focusing your efforts on them to drive more transactions in your store. Pick what works for you and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Components of eCommerce Marketing
No eCommerce marketing strategy can be deemed successful without having goals in place for how to measure. But how do you know what to measure against?
Your industry, location, business size and a variety of other influencing factors help determine what standards you should use as baseline to analyze how your goals and key performance indicators (KPI’s) are performing — those standards are called industry benchmarks.
Consider goals that can be measured with KPIs like conversion rate, website visits, click-through rate, time on site or customer acquisition.
Break Down Your Strategy Into Smaller, Achievable Steps.
When building out a marketing plan for your online store, there are multiple paths you can take and it may be tempting to chase after every single one. But that plan will almost assuredly guarantee you will not be truly effective at any of them.
We strongly recommend that you start with a couple of strategies that you believe will have the most return on your investment (ROI) for your budget and create simplified action items for each.
For example, say you decided you want to focus on a paid ad strategy that drives users to your store using Google Search. A few of your action items would be: set up a Google Ads account, determine your total budget, research and create an ad group strategy based on your target keywords, and monitor your account daily.
This is intentionally oversimplified because you don’t want to get lost in chasing the next “great eCommerce strategy” without executing on one thoroughly and allowing it to work for you.
Nurture Your Customers
Marketing doesn’t stop when you have made a sale. Once a potential customer transitions into an active customer - you should focus on engaging and nurturing them.
By turning customers into brand loyalists you’ll have customers you can use for testimonials and case studies, you’ll receive glowing reviews about your product, and you’ll have the power of word-of-mouth marketing behind.
You can also segment these customers into long term email campaigns with target goals for repeat and new product purchases.
Creating a Strategy
One of the most important things a company can do when developing their eCommerce marketing strategy is to research their customers to get a better understanding of who they are, how they think, and how they behave online.
The first step is to create your ideal buyer profile and then buyer modalities (which is a more specific method for segmenting buyers).
We like to look at the recency, frequency, and monetary value across a customer base to create these buyer profiles and modalities. That means answering:
- How new are the buyers?
- How often do they buy?
- How much are they spending?
You'll begin to understand who your ideal buyer is by analyzing these data points and building a baseline set of metrics. Your ideal buyer profile might also include other customer data such as:
- Age Group
- Geographical Location
- Job type
Buyer modalities are based off of research into who your customers are as a person and what solution your product or service solves for them.
Effective modalities consider and define individual human behaviors and go beyond profile data to extrapolate actual customer intent. A few sample questions around intent might include:
- How do you use the product?
- What problem is this product solving?
- What are your goals for using the product?
Two users with identical demographic data can be motivated and influenced in totally different ways through their interaction with your product. As a result, savvy eCommerce marketers will need to persuade them differently.
Different people have different motivations for buying; they purchase different products types in different ways, and for different reasons. For this reason, we like to group our buyers into four buyer types: fast buyers, slow buyers, logic-based buyers, and emotional buyers.
Within those groups you have competitive buyers, spontaneous buyers, methodical buyers, and humanistic buyers. You want to make sure you’re catering different campaigns to reach each different modality, since as we stated above, they purchase different products in different ways for different reasons.
There’s no one-size fits all approach, but a good strategy addresses different buyer modality during each phase of the sales funnel. And a good strategy uses these modalities to create content that customers can relate to, on the digital platforms they use.
Speaking of platforms, at this point in creating your strategy, it is time for planning for implementation:
- Planning & scheduling content/offers
- Identifying and implementing automated workflows.
With this plan, you should be able to map out 80-90% of your store's campaigns and editorial schedule for the next 12 months.
12 eCommerce Marketing Strategies
Now that we have gone in depth into what makes a great eCommerce marketing strategy, let's look at the elements that go into the strategies we've just described.
Note that none of them are mutually exclusive; they should be used in tandem to help position your business in a way that allows new customers to find you and existing customers to be delighted with you.
Here are 12 eCommerce marketing tactics to drive conversions and sales.
Make yourself discoverable to crawlers. Sure, you’ve heard about the importance of SEO before, but now more than ever, a good SEO plan is essential. It is far more important than just making sure your homepage and about page are optimized.
Your product pages often get overlooked: make sure that meta descriptions and tags are optimized, there is no duplicate copy, and the page loads quickly on desktop and mobile. Having SEO optimized product pages will not only make your customers happy, but search crawlers too.
We mentioned it earlier, but we'll say it again, email is a very powerful tool for eCommerce store owners, especially email automation through the use of a CRM.
Send announcements of specials and discounts, incentivize subscribers and use smart lists to segment your contact list so you can send customized content at a specific stage of the their buyer journey.
3. Inbound Marketing
A truly successful inbound marketing for eCommerce strategy consists of a variety of smaller content initiatives that on their own may not be anything remarkable, but when combined can create something powerful and moving.
These tactics work because customers are often drawn to brands because of the quality of their content. Customers want to see products that enable them to picture themselves using a product.
A good way to approach inbound marketing is to look at your content through the lens of a sales funnel that attracts, converts, closes and delights. To move customers through this funnel at a quicker pace, you'll need to develop "micro-campaigns" (a series of small, ongoing activities that are part of a larger strategy).
4. Social Media
If you do it right, social media (especially Instagram) can be a HUGE driver for eCommerce sales and conversions. As the platforms have matured, they’ve essentially become another digital storefront for your products and can lead viewers directly to pre-loaded shopping carts.
The best eCommerce social media strategies include posting at least three times a day, engaging with followers (follow-backs, liking photos, comments and responses), and personalizing the buying experience.
Here are a couple tips to help maximize your ROI on social media:
- Post the highest quality content that you can
- Respond to comments and DMs
- Utilize shopping posts - lead viewers directly to your product pages
- Run a giveaway
- Streamline the buying experience
5. Influencers and Testimonials
People trust their peers and can relate to them, which is why people are heavily influenced by reviews, testimonials and influencers.
You can use customer testimonials to tell the world how great your products are. You can leverage influencer personalities on social media to endorse your products and help you gain exposure to new audiences. Their testimonial about your products will have a large impact on their followers.
6. Paid Search Advertising
Google Ads, Google Shopping and Bing Ads
Nine times out of ten your competitors are utilizing some form of paid search ads. That's because paid search ads target customers when they are closest to conversion.
Paid search campaigns allow you to bid for top ad placements on search engine result pages (SERPs) like Google or Bing. This gives businesses the opportunity to be first seen by customers looking for their type of product or service.
You have already gotten a potential customer to visit your website, now what? Make them remember why they went there in the first place (politely of course) with retargeting ads and emails.
We’ve all seen the ads, you look at a pair of shoes on zappos.com and then all of the sudden you see the same pair of shoes in a banner ad on a website you visit next, then on Facebook and then on Instagram.
What the heck is happening here? You’re being followed by a retargeting campaign.
The good news is, you can do the same for your store. Many platforms can enable retargeting campaigns (think Facebook, Google Ads or HubSpot). The success of retargeting campaigns begins with the strategic placement of cookies (pieces of code) on specific pages on your website. Retargeting ad units use that information to track those visitors to other websites with ads showing product(s).
It’s also best practice to have a ‘burn cookie’ and checkout pages so that you can be sure to exclude current customers from seeing an ad for a product they’ve already purchased.
8. Landing Pages
This is a must, must, must! When using digital paid ads it is 100% best practice to send visitors to a tailored landing page that provides more information on the ad that they clicked.
People get lost when your ads navigate to your entire site, so be sure your landing page is clean and concise with a clear CTA that ties back to the ad that they discovered you on.
9. Post-Purchase Email Follow-Up
If a customer has purchased a product from your website — and has opted to receive emails from you — send them a follow-up email a few days after the product is delivered to keep conversation going.
Post-purchase follow helps you gauge a customer's future interest in your product line and offerings and shows that you care about them beyond a one-time sale.
And be sure to ask them to write a review of your product and/or fill out a survey so you can continually improve the customer experience.
10. Abandoned-Cart Notifications
Shopping carts are constantly abandoned for any number of reasons, but that doesn't mean that customer you have missed a possible conversion. The right kind of email campaign can make the difference between a lost customer and sale.
When a potential customer fails to complete a transaction while they’re in your shopping cart or checkout process, send them emails to remind and entice them to come back, or to simply help answer any questions they may have.
11. Optimized Cart and Checkout
We can’t tell you how many times we have come across a less-than-ideal shopping cart and checkout experience with a business owner wondering why their website isn’t making sales.
A poor checkout experience is one of the quickest ways to lose a would-be sale. Be sure to make things as easy as possible for shoppers:
- Show shipping costs - offer free shipping if you can
- Offer ‘Guest Checkout’
- No surprises in the checkout process (high tax etc.)
- Make sure everything loads quickly and is mobile optimized
- Auto enroll people in your email list when they make a purchase
- Offer multiple payment gateways like PayPal and all major credit cards
- Have as few barriers as possible
12. Product Reviews
We spoke about how beneficial product reviews can be, but let's look at this tactic a little closer.
Reviews provide credibility to your products as well as allow people to voice their concerns. Good reviews allow you to capitalize on user generated content (UGC) and bad reviews may lead you to reevaluate a product or buying experiences.
Another reason to allow reviews of your products is that Google loves seeing reviews - integrations with Yotpo and other review platforms now show reviews now in SERPs.
Take your review strategy one step further and use a Facebook Business Page to allow your customers to share their products praises.
eCommerce Marketing Success Story
Final Draft is the #1 professional screenwriting software for professional screenwriters and filmmakers. It's used by 95% of film and television producers and is the considered to be the industry standard around the world.
When the latest upgrade, Final Draft 11, was scheduled to be launch in September 2018, Final Draft turned to Groove Commerce to ensure the launch would meet and and exceed previous year's successes.
Their revenue goals for the launch and campaign were very aggressive. And the campaign would take place over the Black Friday holiday, the busiest and most crowded marketing time of year.
In addition to revenue goals, Final Draft was looking for an interactive and engaging way to showcase the features of the product. The catch? The upgrade had three different versions for three distinct audiences that all needed very specific content.
Three primary Final Draft 11 versions:
- Final Draft 11 for new customers
- An upgrade to Final Draft 11 for current customers
- Final Draft for teachers and students
Personalization and Automation
The first step was to evaluate Final Draft's contact database to establish personas that could be matched to the appropriate version of Final Draft 11.
We used HubSpot to create smart lists that segmented the contacts into three personas based on their next potential purchase:
- Current customers (v. 10 or earlier)
- Potential net new customers
- Educational customers with an .EDU Email Address
Content was created for each persona based on their specific motivations and pain points. Tailored content was paired with send-conditions to enable the right content reached the right persona at the right point in their customer journey.
A/B testing was a very important part of this effort - in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, we aggressively A/B tested marketing correspondence.
Email subject lines were tested until each segment received a 30% open rate or higher. CTA placements within each email were tested next. Because each segment related to different messages and formats, we were able to tailor future marketing outreach to better identify with their preferences.
Final Draft wanted to use multiple campaign touchpoints, to reach customers throughout the sales funnel, but also as an opportunity to connect with customers in a thoughtful and helpful way.
Workflows were a large part of what made this tactic so successful. Contacts were enrolled into specific smart lists based on their stage in the funnel and persona. Following an initial promotional email, we set a 4 day delay and evaluated additional engagement criteria to consider if a contact should continue through the process.
We used email opens and link clicks to measure and evaluate purchase intent and evaluate what marketing assets they were finding to be valuable.
As a result, contacts who met certain criteria received another email with alternate imagery and messaging to address specific needs and pull them through the funnel faster.
Ultimately when contacts purchased a product, they were removed from the workflow so they would not continue to receive promotional correspondence.
This is important to note: customers should be nurtured after purchase, but not with the same promotional content. No one enjoys seeing an ad for a product that they have just purchased.
HubSpot Ads Tool
The last important part of this strategy was the HubSpot ads tool. This tool enabled us to create custom audiences and retarget ads based on the smart lists we created.
Custom audience targeting allowed Final Draft to reach customers with ads relevant to their needs and retargeting enabled Final Draft to connect with users who previously visited their website but did not make a purchase.
The Black Friday campaign for Final Draft generated significant results. A comparison of key metrics from the Final Draft 10 Cyber Week in 2016 showed:
- 108% increase in revenue
- 69% increase in eCommerce conversion rate
- 151% increase in transactions
- 30% average email open rate
- 3% average email click-through rate
Final Draft exceeded both the product launch and Q4 revenue goals.
In 2016 during the product launch of Final Draft 10, Final Draft did not use HubSpot or a marketing automation tool. Our work helped them fully utilize the tools at their disposal and streamlined their process through automation.
Final Draft was also able to accelerate and automate their marketing outreach to better relate to customers. They were now positioned to continue a personalization strategy based on their needs and solutions and reach their customers with more relevant content.
Lastly, the revenue growth generated from this campaign helped them allocate more resources for growth in 2019 and set them up for a strong Q1.
We touched on a lot of strategies, tips, and techniques in this here, but don't be overwhelmed! When creating your marketing plan remember:
- Goals and KPIs are the foundation of an eCommerce marketing strategy - know how to analyze your campaign for more growth and success
- Utilize social media and SEO best practices - allow your store to be discovered
- It’s all about the customer - make things easy for them and make them happy about their purchase
- Automation is your friend - leverage technology to do the heavy lifting for you
Be willing to try new things - successful eCommerce doesn’t happen overnight, if your first strategies don’t work, try some more! The internet is a big place and your customers are out there waiting to find you.