How do you bring the right people to your online store? How do you get them to stay? What sets you apart from competitors? Your e-commerce marketing strategy should answer these tough questions.
Many e-commerce sites take advantage of pay-per-click advertising, social media channels, and search engine optimization to boost site traffic and sales. But on top of these tried-and-true strategies, what else can you do? I spoke to online store owners to get their advice on e-commerce marketing opportunities you don’t want to miss.
E-commerce marketing idea #1: Diversify your channels
Increase your store’s exposure by utilizing multiple storefronts like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, Shopify, ClickFunnels, and Rakuten.
“The more people see your products, the better your chances of making a sale,” says Najeeullah Babar, president of specialty computer company interloper.com. However, he warns, “it can get very cumbersome and time-consuming to synchronize inventory across multiple marketplaces. Use a service like UploadMyProducts.com or ChannelAdvisor.com. You will breathe easy.”
Adele RG Boese, owner of Etsy shop DerBayz Vintage, recommends Tweet Eye. “The site uses the RSS feed from my online store and schedules posts on Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest,” she explains. Overnight, she went from 10 visitors to over 300. “My sales started increasing and the traffic continued. I’ve introduced the channel to a number of other Etsy shops, and they all reported the same results.”
Idea #2: Maximize your content
“Rather than casting our products onto marketplaces and social sales channels to see who bites, this year we’re focusing internally to convert our respectable content traffic (about 15k-20k unique visitors/mo.) into buyers,” says Krista Fabregas, formerly a staff writer for Fit Small Business. “I think a lot of small businesses (like us) look outward to get more people in but forget that many opportunities are lost if you don’t turn 10+ years of traffic-driving content into selling tools. I guess you can say we’re making the most of our channel before focusing on other sales channels.”
The vast majority of the site’s traffic comes from blog posts, so the company’s e-commerce marketing efforts have been to align content and product strategies — updating top blog posts to include targeted products.
“Using WordPress with WooCommerce and Divi,” Fabregas says, “this is easy to do. So far, we’ve seen immediate upticks in sales in the target categories.” You also want to ensure that your content tailors to the right geographic audience.
Don’t forget the power of user-generated content (UGC), either — that is, content generated by customers, collaborators, promoters, and others in your industry. Research has shown that consumers trust and respond to UGC more so than brand-created content. Running a user-generated ad campaign helps build social proof and consumer trust.
Idea #3: Video is content, too
“I run my family’s jewelry business and we do quite a bit online,” says Jeff Moriarty, digital marketing manager at Moriarty’s Gem Art. The company’s efforts include banner ads, SEO, and email marketing.
But the secret sauce? “Something that has paid off very well for us is video,” he says. “We do a lot of videos on YouTube to educate our buyers about gemstones and jewelry. While not exactly pushing to sell, it has turned into sales for us. It helps build trust, and then ultimately viewers decide to make their jewelry purchase with us.”
Idea #4: Guess what? Photos are also content!
“One of the easiest ways for e-commerce businesses to market themselves online is to take lots of original imagery and allow others to use it,” advises Sam Williamson, marketing executive at A Hume Country Clothing. “If you take a look at our site, you’ll see that we use original imagery for almost every single product that we have on our website, something that is very unique for an e-commerce website of our size.
“This in itself sets us apart from our competitors, but we also go a step further by allowing the images to be used elsewhere (provided that some kind of attribution is given back to us). This helps our images spread across the internet, gaining us more exposure.”
Consider adding your original photography to Flickr or other Creative Commons sites.
Speaking of photography, remember that a great image can dramatically affect sales. In a previous blog post, I interviewed Steve Chou, who found that changing the featured photo on one of his listings increased sales by 209%. Experiment with different featured shots to see if and how the needle moves. Use PickFu to poll audiences about what photos they find most attractive. In just minutes, you’ll have valuable feedback on how target customers react to your product photography.
This also works great for Amazon testing, so consider split testing your Amazon images.
E-commerce marketing idea #5: Engage with customers
Another tactic to maximize your own audience is to be proactive with customer support. Send tracking info and delivery status messages, and follow up after delivery to make sure everything is okay with the product. You can use software like Gorgias for Shopify to centralize all your support channels.
By connecting email, live chat, and messenger tickets into one help-desk platform, your customers will appreciate the personalized attention while your support team avoids duplication. You’ll also be able to find out more about them and build a behavioral understanding of how your users shop.
Don’t forget to ask satisfied customers to leave product reviews, which can become some of your best marketing assets.
Idea #6: Influence the influencers
Stefanie Parks, founder of DermWarehouse, recommends providing free product samples to the right people. “We used Instagram’s hashtag search to find influencers. We knew our niche was people on Instagram that had between 5,000-20,000 followers,” she said.
Using search terms like #beautyblogger and #parenthood to find people who would represent her brand well, the company sent direct messages to solidify the relationship. Once partnerships were established, the influencers spread the word about the company to their respective audiences, and DermWarehouse was able to use images of these influencers for online advertising campaigns.
But influencer marketing doesn’t just mean millennials with mirrors. Mark Tyrol, president of Battic Door Energy Conservation Products, says his company targeted building code officials and architects.
“We exhibited at a Building Code Officials trade show and expo and at an American Institute of Architects trade show and expo. We did this for two consecutive years. In addition, we contacted architects by direct mail with product literature and requested them to specify our products,” Tyrol said.
He reports that “as a direct result of our influencer marketing program, our sales have increased +50% in each of the last two years. We picked up dozens of new accounts that continually purchase products. Many customers tell us they were referred to us by their architect or code official, confirming the success of our program.”
Idea #7: Recommend replacement links
“Every day, millions of pages on the internet are deleted, outdated or lost,” says Max Robinson, Marketing Executive at Precious Little One. “A lot of these pages are product pages on e-commerce websites, which presents an opportunity for other e-commerce businesses to find these broken links and to offer their own link as a replacement. There are a few ways to do this – the way I do it is to find a competitor website and frequently run it through link checking tools like Xenu’s Link Sleuth to check for broken links. Any broken links I find, I then run through a tool like Ahrefs to see if anyone else is linking to them. This works very well!”
E-commerce marketing idea #8: Don’t leave out the low-tech approach
Colleen Lloyd-Roberts, owner of Top Notch Nail Files, offers this simple strategy.
“Stickers go on the back of all our products, and it’s company policy that no product leaves the shipping area without one! The sticker has our website and toll-free order line on it. Those tiny stickers have proven to be a huge marketing tool over my 10 years of business, as we have received so many referrals and new business from people showing that sticker to friends and family who then go to our website and buy.”
E-commerce marketing idea #9: Do something warm and fuzzy
“When your customers know you are engaged with helping their community, they become more loyal and in some cases feel the obligation to give back themselves,” says Marc Joseph, CEO and president of DollarDays. “Our strongest give-back effort is through Facebook.”
Each month, the site’s Facebook followers are encouraged to nominate a deserving organization to win a shopping spree. These monthly contests have revolving themes, like animal shelters, veterans’ groups, and teachers. DollarDays also offers a program similar to Amazon Smile, whereby customers can designate 5% of their purchase dollars to their favorite charity.
“We believe that giving back is a win for our e-commerce business in creating a loyal following while at the same time helping to support their causes,” Joseph says.
To add to that loyalty, you can also visit our coupons and discounts page to see if we have any promotions on the go!
What other e-commerce marketing strategies do you recommend? Tell us in the comments!
FAQs about e-commerce marketing
An e-commerce marketing manager helps a company or organization promote and sell its products and services online. It all starts with a strong e-commerce marketing strategy. From there, the manager keeps tabs on a company’s online presence, website performance, consumer behavior, and market trends, continually finding ways to attract customers, get clicks, and boost sales.
The steps to a successful e-commerce marketing strategy hinge on understanding your customers and your company’s goals. Email marketing campaigns, paid social media ads, and search engine optimization are all facets of a well-developed e-commerce marketing strategy that you can use to drive people to your online store.
Affiliate e-commerce marketing is when an affiliate — a person or company — promotes another company’s product online. Affiliates earn a commission on every sale of the product they are helping to market. For a e-commerce business, affiliate marketing is like icing on the cake — the cake being traditional e-commerce marketing. There are obvious benefits for both sides in affiliate marketing. A company can tap into the affiliate’s audience and expertise to gain customers and generate sales, and affiliates can grow their own audience while earning revenue.
There’s a wealth of resources online for those who want to learn e-commerce marketing. While you could easily get lost reading article after article, a better approach for beginners might be to enroll in a virtual class such as HubSpot Academy’s 10-video training course (it’s free). For more specific needs, learning sites like Udemy and Coursera offer courses that cover various aspects of e-commerce marketing, including email marketing automation and Instagram marketing for Shopify.
Also published on Medium.