How To Build an Ecommerce Marketing Strategy
By: Chris Caesar
JANUARY 19, 2023 | 9 min read
Marketing campaigns have been around in some form or another since at least the age of antiquity (starting with fish sauce in 35 B.C.).
However, what a successful business approach to market looks like — to no surprise — has had to evolve with cultures, technology, and customer expectations.
Of course, the 21st-century economy is no stranger to evolution.
Thanks to rapid changes in technology, data collection, and media consumption, marketing has become a more specialised science than ever — especially ecommerce marketing.
From pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to email and social media marketing, an effective ecommerce marketing strategy should incorporate a number of fast-moving parts to maximise its potential. Keeping up with all of these changes is far from easy (and even harder still to start from scratch).
Understanding the basics can help position brands just starting to dip their toes into ecommerce marketing to create a winning digital shelf plan.
This post provides an overview of some basic concepts and helpful first steps to help you get started.
What Is Ecommerce Marketing?
Ecommerce marketing refers to the practice of strategically promoting product sales in digital spaces.
Those channels may be your own (e.g., a store on your company’s website) or under the control of a third party (e.g., Amazon, Walmart.com).
With its focus on online sales, ecommerce marketing strategies rely primarily on digital touch points, both to make positive consumer impressions and collect customer information at all stages of the sales funnel.
Here are several examples of tactics that bucket into ecommerce marketing.
Content marketing refers to the development of online content and multimedia like blogs or videos that aren’t necessarily aimed at explicitly promoting your brand but providing a genuine service — often in the form of relevant, valuable, and helpful information for your intended audience.
These assets can help build awareness and affinity for your brand while also assisting with organic search engine optimisation (SEO) — which will help increase your sales in the long run.
Search Engine Marketing
While content marketing is a great way to improve your standing in search engine results, search engine marketing (SEM) refers to campaigns like pay-per-click (PPC) ads, banner displays, or other product-specific efforts that allow brands to pay for greater visibility in search results.
As you can imagine, the more folks who find your products while searching for them, the more likely they are to buy.
Email marketing campaigns have some overlap with their content marketing counterparts. However, these campaigns are more likely to include promotional information about your brand or products.
In particular, email campaigns can be segmented and personalised based on individual customer behaviours (e.g., cart abandonment, a visit to your website, a new purchase), which makes the approach an especially effective way to both attract and retain customers online.
KPIs for Ecommerce Cheat Sheet
Learn more about the 12 most common key performance indicators (KPIs) for ecommerce and which ones to track to help you reach your business goals.
5 Steps To Developing an Ecommerce Strategy
If you’re ready to start making your first moves, here are some points to keep in mind while developing your approach.
1. Identify Your Unique Ecommerce Marketing Goals
Establishing explicit, foundational goals for your ecommerce marketing campaign will not only help your team formulate their initial ideas but will also help you determine key performance indicators (KPIs) and other means of guiding your campaign.
Naturally, goals will vary from company to company based on industry, size, and other factors. When starting out, consider aiming for improvements in metrics like website visits, conversions, and clickthrough rates. You can also aim to reduce elements such as your churn rate, instances of cart abandonment, and other signs of a negative customer experience.
At the end of the year, review your progress, and create new goals based both on what worked — and what didn’t — for each of your campaigns.
2. Develop a Concrete Understanding of Your Unique Audience
Providing value for your audience is an essential element of any effective ecommerce marketing strategy. As you likely realise, it’s much easier to cater to a group of well-known friends than a room full of strangers.
As such, it’s time to conduct some market research.
Some questions to help you develop an understanding of your audience can include:
- What problems are your customers facing?
- How are your competitors addressing those problems, and where have they fallen short?
- What are the different kinds of general personalities that comprise your customer base (i.e., buyer personas as outlined by Hubspot)?
- Are there ways to not only meet general customer expectations but exceed them?
You don’t necessarily need a comprehensive market research report from a third-party vendor, either — even familiarising yourself with typical complaints in online reviews and other comments can provide some actionable insights as you develop your strategy.
Outlets like Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker are great examples of brands that took the time to understand their customers’ pain points, ultimately revolutionising the way otherwise ordinary products are bought and sold online, as highlighted by The New York Times.
3. Determine Your Marketing Activation Channels
With an educated, data-backed understanding of both your customers and campaign goals, you’re ready to consider which channels to tackle first in your ecommerce marketing strategy.
Again, the best decisions for your specific brand will likely depend on a variety of factors — your target audience is a major one, but other details, like your company’s size, industry, and location, are also important elements to consider.
You’ll also need to have a grasp of each channel’s audience to ensure the greatest potential reach for your messaging.
For example, marketing products geared toward the elderly on TikTok — a social channel whose audience skews younger — will likely result in a very low return on investment (ROI). A toy company’s campaign targeting kindergarteners would also probably falter on a channel like LinkedIn.
A good rule of thumb? Find out where your target audience likes to hang out — and start fitting in.
4. Outline Your Ecommerce Marketing Campaigns
After doing your homework and brainstorming effective campaigns by channel, identify which of your team’s top ideas seem the most likely to deliver a high ROI, and start breaking down each campaign into a step-by-step action plan.
For example, an action plan for a content marketing campaign might include items like:
- Setting up a blog on your website;
- Formulating post ideas; and
- Identifying ways to promote the content to your would-be customers.
Once you have all the nuts and bolts committed to paper, you can assign roles, develop a work schedule, and start to manage the day-to-day operations of your campaigns.
You’ll probably have a lot of ideas when you start. (Nothing wrong with that!) However, resist the urge to undertake all of your campaign ideas at once. It’s better to focus on three or four solid ideas than chase every new idea.
5. Develop an Assessment and Optimisation Plan — And Adjust Where Necessary
In conjunction with your action plan, develop a separate set of timetables related to your articulated goals and benchmark KPIs. For example, if your team is operating on a one-year campaign, consider developing quarterly or even monthly goals that will help ensure you’re on the right track throughout the process.
This approach allows you to identify negative trends before they become too entrenched and empowers your team to proactively adjust campaigns where necessary. While careful planning often provides an excellent starting point, a willingness to be flexible can be just as important. If you see certain approaches working better than others, embrace them.
The Same Marketing Rules Still Apply
While marketing has certainly changed after centuries of economic and technological development, all of the basic underlying principles are still there: Understand your customers and their problems, figure out how to fix them, and meet them (where they’re comfortable) so they know you’re available.
Whatever form the digital shelf or other online spaces may take, there’s a reason that a basic approach has stood the test of time — it works.
Build Winning Shopping Experiences
Customer expectations for engaging, innovative shopping experiences are higher than ever — how can brands and retailers keep up? Check out Salsify’s “Complete Guide to Building Winning Shopping Experiences” for step-by-step guidance on launching your own experiential shopping campaign.