E-Commerce Marketing 101
The online shopping panacea reached its height in 2020, for obvious reasons.
E-commerce counted for 18% of global retail sales. American online sales, already at 4.28 trillion dollars (USD), positioned themselves to grow another trillion dollars between 2020 and 2022.
In this blog, we’ll give you an overview of the different strategies you can implement to increase engagement and your e-commerce presence. These are proven ways to gain attention, traction and sales for your brand, using online channels.
Whether you’re just starting out or already have an online presence, we hope you’ll find something to begin organically growing your e-commerce business in no time.
The greatest tools you have come for free. It all starts with messaging, where the best marketing techniques lean into clarity and consistency.
Messaging is how you speak about your brand; be it through, for example: taglines, product names, logos, color schemes or tone.
Be clear about your message, your audience and your image. How do you really want to represent your business? Seek feedback from professionals or those you trust. If you have the resources, run a blind test group with participants who match your demographic.
Be consistent in your messaging, across all platforms, in all mediums.
Treat your audience like people, not prospects
Simple is always greater than complicated
The market is saturated with messaging ‘trends’. If you want to take a risk and do something different, do it! Just be intentional
Laying the Foundation...
So, you’ve figured out what you want to say and how you might like to say it. Now you have to decide where you want to do so. This could be on a website, an app, social media, or as a third party vendor on someone else’s site.
Let’s look at a website or app first.
We won’t go into building either of these platforms here, but a great place to start for websites is Wix or Squarespace. Shopify is also a dominating market player for e-commerce. Alternatively, you can always work with experts (like Synic) for custom projects.
When it comes to online infrastructure, so many businesses get the behind-the-scenes wrong. Just having an app or a website doesn’t improve your presence. In fact, when done poorly, it can backfire and drive prospects away. In the US, 17% of clients will walk away from a brand after just one ‘bad’ experience. The competition is too good to compromise on the basics. So what are they?
Yes, we’re talking about how it looks, but we’re also talking about how it works. Whether or not you like it, seamless functionality on websites and apps is now a baseline expectation of consumers. If they find it hard to navigate, seek information, or if something isn’t pleasing to look at, they’ll just go somewhere else. Users might not consciously register your color scheme, but they do expect a maximum 2 second loading time.
Unfortunately, it’s the hitches that grab their attention.
Prioritize smooth functionality and flow through your interface. Make it easy to navigate and pleasing to look at. Crowded menus and typos should be vetoed. The bounce rate of websites with poor spelling and grammar sits at 85%.
Visually speaking, I’m not here to tell you which designs are outdated and don’t work. Some of the coolest websites are total throwbacks, subvert minimalist trends and embrace bright and crowded. What I can tell you is to be intentional in what you put together; don’t do what’s expedient, do what’s meaningful.
If you’re working with an app, or just with the mobile format of your website, you need to make sure it’s responsive. Websites built on a browser can distort on a mobile view if not formatted properly. Hybrid apps might work well on one operating system, but less so on another. Here’s what’s at stake: 57% of people who visit you on mobile won’t recommend you if it’s a poorly designed site. Besides that, a third of e-commerce sales come from a mobile phone.
Consumers are past fine print. They want authenticity, and they want ease of communication. If you’ve got a dodgy chat bot and horrendous wait times, you’ll be sure to turn off prospects in a very short span of time.
Make sure contacting customer service or asking questions is easy. Return policies and shipping costs should be made clear ahead of time. Shopping cart abandonment is at 69.57%; the number one reason is that extra costs aren’t disclosed until it’s time to pay. Nix the hoopla. Be clear, be fair. It’ll stick.
However you do it, give your customers a route to let you know how you’re doing. It could be a brief survey at the end of a purchase, or an email follow-up after a site visit. Having a process to sift through and analyse this data can give you insights on any trends that need to be addressed. Plus, it just makes them feel valued.
In the same vein, asking your clients to leave reviews on credible sites is a great way to build word of mouth. Doing everything you can to make it simple and easy will make them less hesitant to take the time.
Now we’ve looked at best values of approach, let’s turn to some tactics and channels. You’ll notice that with many of these options, you have to give to get. Earning interest with an offering of value.
Search Engine Optimization
Traffic gives you people. People make purchases. It stands to reason that out of the millions of search results out there, you need to align yourself with what people are looking for.
Search terms are used by Google, in combination with other factors, to generate a list of search results. For best results, you’ve got to think like a Googler, but also hit the other criteria:
Relevant, useful information
How long people stay on your website once they land
Loading speed & mobile format
Unique content vs. regurgitation
Ok, so you named one of your cast iron pots ‘Evan.’ Congratulations, very on-trend. That said, when people are looking for products, they aren’t searching ‘Suzy’ for a spatula or ‘Patsy’ for a bath mat.
Complement your whimsical naming with tags or descriptions that make plain sense. Plus, localize your content. Speak to where you’re situated, which will work as local advertising for those in close proximity searching for your services. If someone searches for ‘toilet seats in downtown Vancouver’, and you have ‘toilet seats’ but not ‘Vancouver’, you may miss out on an opportunity for prospects at your doorstep to come knocking.
Now of course, how could that be enough? There are millions of businesses out there, all vying for traffic, all perhaps including the same keywords you are!
It’s tough; there’s no magic wand. However, including relevant blog posts that genuinely help readers is a great way to up your rep with search engine algorithms.
A great blog post isn’t about just repeating your SEO ‘til the cows come home. By incorporating content that is genuinely useful for readers, you’ll be doing a public service AND generating traffic. That’s a win-win.
Writing guest posts for other websites is another good tactic. It can help drive traffic back to your website, although this should never be your primary goal; saturation for saturation’s sake is usually frowned upon by Google. Do your research on sites or blogs that align with your expertise or niche. The ideal partner will be active on social media (so you can be sure they’ll share your information on those channels) and receive reasonable comments and engagement on their posts. When pitching ideas, be sure to incorporate your understanding of their content, particularly the best-performing topics.
Keep your focus on what you have to contribute, not what you have to gain.
Consumers tend to engage more frequently with video than any other medium. At least half of them want to see more online video content from brands they love. From star-studded Gucci campaigns to iPhone-filmed product demonstrations, there’s a bandwagon, and it’s relatively easy to get onboard.
You can host videos on your website, on a YouTube channel or posted on your social platforms. You really need very little to get started - basic equipment and a solid idea. Even if you don’t have a big budget or Harry Styles to demonstrate your floor cleaner, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a funny and engaging story to film and share.
Ideas for video could include: product demonstrations; tutorials; interviews with experts; ‘a day in the life’; short narrative films or straightforward marketing
Check out this video about customer service. I think we can all agree it’s not high production value. But it’s no less engaging.
Solidifying your presence...
We all hate junk mail. You never ticked ‘subscribe’ and yet suddenly you’re flush with errant emails with eggplant and sun emoji subject lines.
It’s annoying. It’s redundant.
It makes you resentful.
The best email campaigns are those which are useful, engaging and fresh, targeted to those who may actually benefit from its content. It could be expert advice; an invitation to an event; an exclusive offer, or information on your latest offerings.
Don’t use attention grabbing subject lines that don’t deliver in the body of the message. Keep it concise, using only as much text as you need to, and avoid too many images; they slow down loading time and therefore act as deterrents for engagement. Include a call to action, and the legally required mailing address.
Using a platform for email subscribers is the most facile way of organizing campaigns. Many have personalization and automation software. You can create and schedule, target specific audiences and create templates, going nuts with design edits.
Many platforms allow you to integrate with other software, automatically pulling data from other sources (for instance, Eventbrite), to generate an email subscriber list. They’re also just fun to use, with lots of tools and intuitive features. Pricing is often done based on your audience size, which is also a huge help. Check out Mailchimp, Constant Contact or ConvertKit.
Influencer and Affiliate Marketing
Because many operate on commission, engaging an affiliate or influencer can be a great no-upfront investment for your business.
Affiliate marketing is engaging a third-party to drum up leads, make connections and disseminate information on your product or service. Rather than a big agency, it’s usually a freelancer who works from home and is really good at what they do. They’ve built an audience with specific interests, to whom they provide information of value. They’ll post and share your product or service, talking up its benefits.
While affiliates can post about competing products, influencers have to maintain exclusivity. Affiliates’ work relates to wangling, data analysis and creative approach. An influencer puts work into building their personal image and following. They then post about your product or service, weaving it into their day-to-day life. Their marketing revolves around their personal brand identity. Affiliates tend to earn from conversion; influencers earn from impressions.
You can use an affiliate agency, reach out to someone you admire directly, or even ask a loyal customer with a strong following if they’d be interested. When it comes to influencers, choosing the right personality with the right scale of followers is important. You don’t go straight for Chrissy Teigen if your only clients thus far are your parents and your cat. Check out what Parade did to promote their underwear brand when they were starting out. Ingenious, sensical and… it worked.
Social Media Marketing
Establishing a business page on Facebook is easy and free. Not only is it a great way to provide basic information about your brand, you’ll have access to analytics on those who are engaging. Super helpful when trying to hone your approach.
You need to post regularly, so if it’s taking too much time doing things piecemeal, making up posts and scheduling the drops may be the way to go. Try Buffer, Hootsuite or Loomly; not only can they handle this, they’ll also give you insights on engagement. Giveaways, contests and events are all strong tactics to up interest -- even if it’s temporary, it improves your visibility on the platform. Facebook ads, while costing money, can be targeted by demographics and provide even more feedback on your approach.
Shoppable content is another huge boon for social media platforms and business owners. On Facebook and Instagram, you can set up a Shop tab, import your inventory and tag your products in posts. This allows customers to click directly on something they are interested in buying, rather than faffing about to find details, prices or close a sale.
There are 2.85 billion monthly active users on Facebook, so set up your page, make sure to engage with anyone messaging you, and improve your click throughs.
Like Facebook, you’ll need a personal Instagram account before you can set up a business one, unless you’ve got a colleague willing to be the admin. You’ve also got to post regularly.
It’s good to look both at what you’re posting individually as well as how your feed looks collectively. Some are curated to be perfectly symmetrical. While it’s not necessary to go that far (although power to you), continuity and a clear aesthetic is key. Make sure your audience knows what to expect, be it humor, subversive art or stunning imagery.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out competitors whose approach you love, or have a Google for some of the most followed accounts in your industry. You can post about products, your ethos, inspiration, how-tos, sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes.
User-generated content is also a great way to drive traffic and build a following. Giveaways that reward select followers for reposting or sharing your content can be more valuable than asking them to buy. From a customer standpoint, it’s free, easy and can result in reward. From yours, it’s a low-output way of getting more eyes on your brand. More eyes means a greater likelihood of increasing your e-commerce traffic. Get inspired by this post on some of the best UGC campaigns of the last few years.
Insta is a primarily visual medium; posts do better when they’re short and sweet - keep the longer ones fewer and far between. Hashtags, once you’re established, should be used deliberately, not willy-nilly. It’s not a great look to use thirty hashtags in a post (needy vs. self-possessed); that said, when you’re new, it’s kinda necessary. Choosing hashtags that correspond with between 4 and 6 figure recurrences are the best way to go. You won’t get as lost in the shuffle of #love, which currently has two billion uses. Good luck with that.
The medium works because it’s fast, free, digestible and highly entertaining. Your content gets pushed to the top because it’s funny, eye-catching or fascinating. There are so many how-to videos out there that help you make best use of the medium; just make sure your content has a point other than ‘buy my brand!’. The biggest challenge with TikTok is that to really gain traction, you usually need to post several times a day; therefore it’s a relatively big investment.
Don’t make the mistake of focusing the brunt of your effort on engaging new clients. As many businesses have found, there’s nothing to stop prospects taking advantage of a newbie offer, then hightailing it out of there. Issues of ‘churn’ are besides the point. Once you’ve got their attention, your focus should be on making it worth their while.
Diversify your approach; sure, customers should be rewarded for spending money, but an even greater possibility for conversion is word of mouth. Giving them incentive to refer or share what you have to offer can lead to greater ROI in the long-term.
Remember too, that your longest-standing customers are your most valuable. 20% of them will amount to 80% of your long-term revenue. Rewarding them for engagement is key, so consider benefits that accrue.
Remember that establishment takes time; if you’re new, it’s easy to lose steam after a month, or three months. As we know, most start-ups fail in the first five years and don’t turn profit for quite some time. Be aware of that from the get-go, and you’ll have nothing to disappoint you. Persist with laying the building blocks right. Traction isn’t linear; it compounds over time.
Time and time again, you’ll hear that the most important ‘technique’ isn’t making noise, it isn’t being of-the-moment; it’s providing value. If your blogs are useful; if your Instagram page is interesting, aesthetically pleasing or funny, you’ll organically attract attention. Serve your client before you expect them to serve you.
If you’re looking for professionals to support you in e-commerce marketing, Synic Creative Marketing is an excellent point of contact. We offer 1 - 3 month packages which are perfect for getting you started, or giving you a refresh mid-campaign.