For consumers, picking out a new beauty product, wrench, or mouse is relatively easy. For eCommerce marketers, getting consumers to pick their product is very hard. And for startups, influencing customer decisions matters. Without an adequate marketing strategy, eCommerce startups won’t get the traction they need to sustain their business. Fortunately, there are some tried and true ways to market an eCommerce startup that you can build on iteratively over time. Below, we define eCommerce marketing and outline 6 strategies to get started.
When you boil it all down, eCommerce marketing is about making consumers aware of your online store, convincing them to convert, and reminding them to purchase again. While simple in theory, eCommerce marketing is tricky in practice. There are so many eCommerce stores now, making price and value comparison easy and competition stiff. To stand out from the crowd, you need a comprehensive strategy involving social media, original content, and paid campaigns. And all this must be tailored specifically to your target audience. However, when done well and early, eCommerce marketing can change the trajectory of your startup.
6 ways to get started with eCommerce marketing
Starting your eCommerce marketing journey can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are some dependable methods of boosting your online presence and driving customer acquisition. Let’s dive in.
1. Sell great products
No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to kill the marketing game without great products or services. Even the most compelling copy, best paid ad strategy, and coolest influencers can’t make up for a dud of a product. If customers fall for that trap once, they won’t be fooled twice. So to attract and retain customers, you need an excellent product(s).
But let’s say you have that. Shouldn’t product-led growth start to work its magic? If only it were that simple! The way to double or triple your growth is to focus your marketing efforts on the products that are in the most demand. After all, if customers aren’t even searching for your product, how will you ever capitalize on them?
eCommerce merchants are experts at figuring out which of their products are—or, more importantly, could be—in most demand. Experts look at similar Amazon bestsellers, join communities on Reddit, watch trending items on Etsy, browse Pinterest, and monitor certain hashtags on Instagram. Consumer research helps you identify what’s popular, what the white space is, and shows you how marketers and consumers talk about each product. This can give them ideas for new content, SEO keywords, and more.
Lastly, make sure you have a sound pricing strategy. If your target audience doesn’t feel your pricing reflects your product’s actual value, they won’t return. Research your competitors and test out different options to find your sweet spot.
2. Nail down your persona(s)
Once you’ve determined which products to focus on, it’s time to figure out who you want to buy them. Identifying who your customer is and what they care about will serve as a foundation for the rest of your strategy. A good way to start developing a profile is by asking the following questions about your ideal customer or set of customers:
- How old are they?
- What’s their gender?
- What is their purchasing power?
- Where do they hang out online? (Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest)
- Where do they live in the world?
- What else do they buy that’s in a tangential market?
- Why would they buy your product?
- What problems do they have with similar products (and why would yours be a better fit)?
Home in on the problem you’re solving for each persona. Fixing the customers’ issues should be the central theme for any content, ads, and social media posts. Understanding what makes your customers tick prepares you to appeal to their pathos, logos, and ethos. The rest of the information you collect about your customers can personalize your copy, highlight your product on the right platforms, and form partnerships with other complementary brands.
3. Create a sound content strategy
According to Google, 53% of shoppers say they always research before they buy something. Guess what they are reading? Content. Educating consumers on your product, the space you play in, and other related products only help people better understand what you offer. Another advantage to content is that it can establish your company as a thought leader. If your content is good enough, people will reshare articles on other platforms, generating even more site traffic. In addition, content can open the door for future upsells and cross-sells. Once people convert, they’ll probably be interested in and read about your other product offerings, so make sure your site is a valuable resource.
Plus, content is a great way to amp up your search engine results page rankings. By inserting pertinent keywords and presenting relevant information, you can get users what they are searching for, fast. This isn’t just about blog posts, either. Think about how you can guest post on other blogs to gain backlinks, beef up your product descriptions and landing pages, and create free content that people can download in exchange for their email address. With the right SEO strategy, you can move up the results page, leading to more clicks. The best part is, those clicks are free. Yes, you have to pay someone to write for you, but you’re not wasting money on paid campaigns that may or may not work. Having said that, SEO is a long game. To get those top spots, you need to be publishing excellent content often.
4. Use social media to your advantage
Social media is a fantastic way to get brand recognition quickly. If you can build up a large following, more and more people will reshare your posts, bringing you more and more attention. For eCommerce marketing, Instagram, Youtube, and now TikTok are the social media platforms of choice. All three are very visual, giving you the chance to show off your products’ look and feel. Instagram is a particularly solid choice because you can create shoppable content that enables visitors to add products to their cart and buy instantly. And once they make a purchase, many consumers decide to tag your company on their social media accounts, further advocating for and legitimizing your business.
Some eCommerce marketers also dip their toes into influencer and affiliate marketing. With influencer marketing, you get “famous” people or brands to promote your product on social media and pay them an upfront fee. We’ve seen this in traditional marketing before (remember Icy Hot with Shaq?), but this method is even more specific because you target celebrities or communities that your ideal customer follows. Affiliate marketing is similar, but instead of paying at the beginning of the campaign, you pay them a commission based on the number of new customers you get. This can be a more affordable and cost-efficient way to extend your social media reach.
5. Email isn’t dead
While you might think that email isn’t a worthwhile marketing tool anymore, think again. McKinsey found that email marketing is up to 40 times more effective than social media and makes the buying process three times faster. Email marketing is a time-tested strategy for reaching, nurturing, and retaining very specific audiences. With an email list of highly interested prospects and current customers, you can showcase:
- Product photos
- Witty or fun brand language
- New blog posts
- Free informational content
- Social proof (customer reviews or posts on social media)
- New product releases
- Product bundling packages
- Personalized product recommendations
What is more, email is a great place to experiment. Try out different ways of communicating with your audience. Add in gifs or emojis to spice it up. Use new taglines and captivating photos. Host a giveaway or ask directly for audience input on a new product line. With the right mix of fun, exciting content, and strong calls to action, you can get prospects and customers excited to receive your emails and, ultimately, get them to convert.
6. Paid campaigns
We saved paid campaigns for last since startups are always strapped for cash. That said, growing your social media presence, building up your search engine rankings, and getting email campaigns to work can take a while to get going. So if you do have some money to spare, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can be fruitful. Their sole purpose is to drive traffic to your site in short bursts of time. Since PPC campaigns can get pricey fast, work them into other elements of your strategy. For example, you could promote a landing page that asks customers to sign up for an email list, download free content, or follow you on social media. From the Facebook or Instagram ad, you’ll get more site traffic, email addresses, and followers. In the end, all three can fuel the sales flywheel.
Don’t forget analytics
The 6 steps summarized above are important, but analytics is your eCommerce marketing superpower. Gathering the outputs from all of your campaigns and combining that data with sales data (who buys what, when, and for how much) and customer behavior data (email open rates, social media engagement) can help you sharpen your strategies and lead to greater personalization. And personalization is your silver bullet.
BCG finds that companies that use personalization are seeing revenue increases ranging from 6-10%. When you update someone’s name in an email subject line, suggest products tailored to the person’s behavior, and show content relevant to an item they checked out on your website, you show them that you aren’t just marketing to the masses. You care about them, specifically. Add a quiz to your website to get even more valuable information (see Madison Reed, Hims/Hers, and ThirdLove for examples). Not only will a survey increase the chances someone will buy a product that’s well-suited to them, the results will give you insight into other products they might be interested in down the line.
As you embark on your eCommerce marketing journey, try these out and let us know how it goes!