Ecommerce marketing — a complete beginner’s guide
Online shopping has come a long way since it debuted in the 1990s, but there’s never been a time when ecommerce marketing ramped up as quickly as it has in the last three years.
The pandemic set the stage for huge growth in internet sales, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing any time soon. The companies that continue to thrive are the ones that invest in ecommerce marketing.
Excellent ecommerce marketing involves a combination of content, social media, PPC, and email marketing targeted precisely to an organization’s target audiences. But figuring out which strategies to use and how to use them is a considerable — sometimes overwhelming — challenge.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What ecommerce marketing is
- The most common ecommerce marketing channels
- Tips and strategies for ecommerce marketing success
- The best way to manage ecommerce marketing
What is ecommerce marketing?
Ecommerce marketing is the process of making potential customers aware of your online products or services and then prompting them to convert. So while one aspect of ecommerce marketing attempts to acquire new customers, another is geared toward enticing previous customers to buy again. Ecommerce marketers use a variety of methods to promote their company’s products or services to prospects and current customers — including social media, influencer marketing, email campaigns, content, SEO, and paid ads.
And ecommerce marketing is more vital than ever.
For example, in the scramble to get online and carve out a space for their brands during pandemic closures, marketers doubled down on ecommerce marketing and digital UX. Now, people are used to those great online experiences and expect them at every turn. Investing in ecommerce marketing is necessary to stand out in a very crowded digital space.
But ecommerce and the marketing that comes with it had significant benefits even before the pandemic hit. Most modern ecommerce platforms make it easy to get up and running quickly, and many have multichannel capabilities that allow ecommerce marketers to create seamless campaigns across all of their digital marketing channels. Ecommerce and ecommerce marketing offer brands a unique opportunity to connect and engage naturally with audiences and drive revenue by fitting into people’s regular, digital lives.
The most common ecommerce marketing channels
One of the biggest advantages of ecommerce marketing is that there are myriad ways to reach new and previous customers. And because there are so many methods of communication, marketers have a lot of room for creativity.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is the art of attracting and engaging with customers via social networks like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. These social channels (and many others) have distinct audience demographics that marketers can match up to their ideal customer profiles.
For example, a Statista report indicates that Facebook tends to be more popular among people aged 25 to 54, while most of TikTok’s users are in the 18-to-24-year-old range. Other platforms may skew more male or female or even have more of a presence in a particular geographic region.
Social media is a fantastic way to connect directly to your ideal customers in a relatable and organic way that can often be more effective than intrusive ads. Social media accounts can also highlight product announcements, discounts, and customer testimonials to educate potential customers, pique their interest, and demonstrate social proof. While this list is not exhaustive, here are some ideas to get started with social media marketing.
- Choose the right social channels. The first order of business is deciding which social media channels make the most sense for you. Going after too many of them will wear your team and your budget thin, and some channels may not even have active users you want to target.
- Show off your brand personality. Social media is a great outlet for displaying your brand’s personality. Emphasizing the brand’s unique voice can help your posts stick out among the crowd.
- Build community. Invite users to engage. Ask questions, solicit feedback, share their wins, and more. Community builds engagement and will amplify your message, enabling you to make a good impression on even more potential customers.
- Utilize video. Most social media channels are video-heavy, so give audiences what they want to see. Create short-form videos that you can cross-post on Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram. These videos are perfect opportunities to show off the best features of your product, hop on funny trends, or highlight a customer success story.
Influencer marketing goes hand in hand with social media marketing, because influencers work on social media channels. Influencers are some of the most powerful voices for persuading customers to buy because they’ve built a dedicated following of people who know and trust them. This urge is so strong that according to an Influencer Benchmark Report, marketers can expect an average return of $18 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing campaigns.
The best part is that influencers don’t have to be huge celebrities — they can be someone with several thousand followers in a specific niche. You can immediately win the attention of customers by working with good influencers. But to fully capitalize on influencer marketing, you need to:
- Pick your socials. Again, it’s crucial to figure out which social channels your target audiences are more involved in. The best influencer on the wrong platform will not help your marketing efforts.
- Find the right influencers. Work with influencers who align with your brand’s audience, tone, and values. Find the right influencers by clicking through relevant hashtags to see who else uses them, by using listening tools to discover who might already be talking about your products, or by searching for influencers in a specific category on influencer marketplaces.
- Use micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have smaller audiences, but they likely have higher, more personalized engagement than superstars do. In fact, in a study conducted by Markerly, influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers had an engagement rate of 8%, compared to a 1.6% rate for influencers with over 10 million followers.
Email is not dead. In fact, Statista predicts that the number of global email users will grow to 4.6 billion users by 2025.
Email marketing is especially useful for ecommerce marketers because it saves a substantial amount of time. Marketers can write campaigns far in advance and set triggers that automatically segment customers by stage in the sales lifecycle or estimated level of knowledge or interest. Based on the results of those campaigns, marketers can make adjustments to the copy or even the triggers to continuously improve their outcomes.
Here are a few ways to leverage a solid, up-to-date email list.
- Welcome series. A welcome series triggers as soon as someone signs up for your email list to engage and provide value immediately. Create a welcome series to acquaint newcomers with your brand, showcase your products or services, and invite engagement.
- Purchase and shipping updates. Customize confirmation and shipping emails to fit what your customer has purchased and become an extension of your branding. Clearly explain how returns work, if a customer has earned any loyalty points, and how to make changes to their shipping address so customers feel taken care of.
- Post-purchase follow-up. Following up with customers once they’ve made a purchase reminds them how much they loved your product and that you have others that could bring them as much use or joy. Use this email to ask them to leave a review or send a surprise special offer for their next purchase to tip the scales towards conversion.
- Abandoned shopping cart. Customers are busy and can get distracted during the checkout process. Send a polite, short email letting them know they’ve left something in their shopping cart and share a few other products they may like to bring them back to your ecommerce store and finalize their purchase.
Content marketing refers to digital assets like PDFs, videos, and web copy designed to educate your target audience. Content is critical for ecommerce marketing because it drives traffic to your website by answering your audience’s pressing questions. And this strategy pays off — Edelman and LinkedIn found that 54% of decision-makers say they spend more than one hour per week reading and reviewing thought-leadership content.
Content marketing can take many forms. Even web copy, for example, should include several specific strategies.
Blogs and on-page articles. Blog posts and on-page resource articles can attract new leads and customers, establish your brand as an industry leader, and build trust. Publish content that answers your target audience’s questions and helps them solve their problems, where your products and services overlap with their needs.
Guest posts. There are probably multiple thought leaders in your organization that could talk about a particular topic for days. Encourage them to write guest posts on external websites to gain extra exposure, build up your backlink repository, and lend more credibility to your brand.
Product pages. Headers, subtitles, and product descriptions can mean the difference between a purchase and site abandonment. To clearly explain the value of each of your products, consider creating a separate page for each one and embed demo videos, pop-ups, and testimonials. Perform A/B tests to see what combination of copy and UX features resonates with your customers the most.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization increases the visibility of your website by aligning your brand with the needs your target audience is bringing to search engines. Earning more organic traffic means your brand gets in front of more of your prospective and current customers.
You’ll often see SEO in the context of content marketing because good content is what your target audience is searching for. When done well, your content relates directly to user intent, serves your audience better than other web content, earns engagement and traffic, and climbs through organic search rankings. To maximize your SEO approach, pay attention to:
- Page load speed. Most people abandon a web page if it doesn’t load within one or two seconds. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to pinpoint which pages may be taking longer to load, and deploy fixes.
- Mobile-friendliness. Mobile-friendliness has been a ranking factor since 2015 — and for good reason. Customers are constantly on their phones, so if your website doesn’t work on mobile they probably won’t be visiting it. Every time you publish a new page, ensure that it performs well on mobile devices with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- Content audits. Most websites have so much embedded content that keeping everything organized and operating properly gets difficult. It’s important to set aside time on a regular basis to look for technical errors, duplicate content, and indexing issues that can impact your SEO traffic.
- Content experience. Search engine algorithms measure content quality based on user engagement. Every piece of SEO content should be designed and written with a competitive eye to be better than what’s already on the web for that topic.
Pay per click (PPC)
Pay per click, or PPC, is an internet advertising technique that places ads on different platforms, channels, and websites, and it pays publishers whenever the ads are clicked. PPC uses customer and keyword data to access very specific audiences.
PPC can help ecommerce marketing best if you pay attention to important details.
- Target by location. PPC ads are unique in that you can reach a target audience in a specific physical location. If you know most of your audience lives in one area or will be going to an event, you can craft highly targeted copy.
- Raise your quality score. Google assigns PPC ads a quality score between 1 and 10. Using relevant keywords and guiding users to optimized landing pages enhances your click-through rate, which, in turn, leads to higher ad quality rankings at a lower price.
- Leverage social media PPC. PPC options on social media are extremely effective. Most social platforms collect a lot of user data that give marketers very niche options for targeting.
- Take advantage of Google Shopping PPC. If a user types in a specific product or brand, Google Shopping ads will appear at the top of search results with the title, image, and price of each product. Showing up at the top of the search results prompts potential customers to click on your product and take them directly to checkout.
Tips and strategies for ecommerce marketing success
Now that we’ve discussed what channels are at an ecommerce marketer’s disposal, it’s time to talk about specific tactics you can use to boost the effectiveness of your ecommerce marketing.
Define your goals
One of the first things any ecommerce marketing campaign needs is a set of defined, measurable goals. These goals give you and your team something specific to work toward and help focus your efforts. They will also point to the metrics you need to measure success.
Starting from scratch is challenging, so use industry benchmarks as a baseline. If you already have ecommerce marketing goals in place, take a moment to do a second pass and ensure your goals make sense for your business’s overarching objectives. And lastly, if you’re hitting your goals consistently, it may be time to set higher ones.
Know the competition
Understanding what your competitors are doing in ecommerce marketing can help direct your goals and strategies — or push you to be more or less aggressive in certain areas. Begin by auditing competitors to see where they rank in your market. Analyze considerations such as:
What they are charging for similar products
If their website is easy to use
If they make a consistent effort to standardize page titles, meta descriptions, and on-page copy
Which social channels they leverage the most
Which influencers they work with to get their message across
Which keywords they are targeting with PPC
See where your competition is flourishing. Then find out if it’s possible for you to replicate it or if there’s a different tack you can take to scoop up a tangential set of customers.
Clarify your target audience
Even if you’ve created ideal customer profiles in the past, it’s a good idea to revisit and refresh them. Make sure they’re detailed enough for ecommerce marketing tactics and confirm that your customer demographics and psychographics have not changed. To conduct this analysis, you can:
Leverage tools that can gather and intelligently analyze customer data.
Look at who else your followers follow on social media.
Use polls and other social media features to engage with followers.
Interview current customers.
Different audience segments will need different ecommerce marketing strategies, so don’t forget to tweak your marketing to fit each of those segments.
Decide which channels make sense for your business
Some customers may spend most of their time on social media and never check their email. Others will read every blog post you publish but won’t ever click on ads. Understanding the channels that your audiences actually use is essential — you’ll get the biggest return by investing in the channels where customers are most likely to engage with your brand.
And the best way to determine which channels to focus on is data. Demographics are a good start, but they’re not necessarily your audience members. Surveys provide better insights, but what people say and what they actually do are sometimes different.
Look at past performance and start to identify whether content, email, social media, or ads bring in customers and accounts. Depending on the channels you choose, you’ll have to build or rebuild email lists, find social media influencers, or shore up content marketing resources, so be prepared to hit the ground running. Utilizing a platform to gather insights and manage content on a variety of channels can be extremely helpful in this exercise.
Create a customer loyalty program
Loyalty programs are one way to improve customer retention. Offering discounts, rewards points, giveaways, and customer features as part of your loyalty program make your customers feel special and deepen their connection to your brand.
But before launching a loyalty program, do a pilot to ensure your incentives align with what your customers expect and want. You should also ask some of your best customers to spread the word, telling their friends, family, and colleagues about your products — leaving online reviews or even participating in case studies to get the flywheel going.
The best way to manage ecommerce marketing
While ecommerce marketing rose in popularity due to the pandemic, it’s clearly not a passing trend. Ecommerce marketing helps companies learn about, interact with, and engage their audiences in order to effectively build a customer base and drive revenue in a digital economy.
But reaping all the benefits of ecommerce marketing isn’t possible without the right tools. Adobe has been leading the way in ecommerce, providing sophisticated tools to build and maintain ecommerce sites, engage customers in a customized shopping experience, and optimize the customer journey.
As the world’s leading digital commerce solution for merchants, Adobe Commerce powered by Magento is designed to scale with any business empowering brands to reach customers across devices and marketplaces with unparalleled security and premium performance, all at a low cost.
If you want to get a head start on your ecommerce marketing program, check out our interactive tour to get a sense of how each ecommerce product can jumpstart your journey.