If you have a product to sell, an online presence, and an interested audience, the key to your success is an effective e-commerce marketing strategy.
As all good e-commerce companies know, the act of selling or exchanging goods for money, simply cannot happen without proper marketing, which is in its simplest terms telling people your product exists.
The complexity of marketing and e-commerce begins in a world where Internet consumers are bombarded by information about myriad products that exist (and where consumers are sometimes sceptical when it comes to in-your-face marketing). What will set your e-commerce marketing strategy apart and position your product to be seen and embraced by its intended audience? What sophisticated tactics will win you brand recognition and consumer loyalty and repeat business? What measures will you take to ensure return on investment (ROI) when it comes to your marketing spend? How and when will you know your e-commerce marketing plan is fruitful?
Establishing the plan can be as challenging as implementing it through a solid e-commerce platform and we will offer you some ideas to create one that works for your organisation.
Let’s start with objectives of a solid e-commerce website. An objective is measured by results, and the most successful businesses set ambitious yet realistic objectives, with a clear plan to achieve them.
As with all e-commerce sites and digital marketing, your objectives for your e-commerce marketing plan may include increased revenue, decreased costs, increased repeat business, greater brand recognition and others. Once you have chosen your specific objectives, you will be in a position to consider the best marketing strategies to achieve your e-commerce performance goals.
Consider following these steps to outline your objectives and then communicate them to your e-commerce business:
- Identify the revenue-specific goal attached to your e-commerce project as well as any secondary goals (such as increased brand awareness).
- Identify the departments or employees within your organisation who will participate in the e-commerce strategy (and list the strengths and weaknesses of each department as it relates to e-commerce)
- Using your strengths and weaknesses list, identify the strengths that can be capitalized upon on the e-commerce campaign and address ways to improve the weaknesses (should you bring in outside expertise on a temporary basis? Increase your headcount? Develop a new department within the organisation, either with new staff or by redeploying existing staff?)
- Assess the viability of your current website and social media pages for the campaign and outline any upgrades needed.
- Decide what metrics you will use to measure the effectiveness of the digital marketing campaign; you will want to include numerous benchmarks throughout the campaign, allowing time for you to adjust the strategy if it suddenly appears you are not on track to achieve your goals.
The most successful organisations are dynamic in their approach to objectives, knowing when to shift strategies. There is a delicate balance, however, between shifting too rapidly and not quickly enough. Planning for this in advance is incredibly important as you will assign specific timeframes to goal achievement, and have a backup plan in place if that goal is missed, despite great effort.
Once you have your objectives in place, you may wish to consider three proven e-commerce marketing strategies, which vary in terms of marketing spend and expertise. These include CONTENT MARKETING, SOCIAL MEDIA, and GOOGLE Ads.
Content marketing draws interest in your business and products through informative, entertaining and user-friendly “content” you produce (or hire a third-party to produce on your behalf.)
Imagine the person researching “best decorating ideas for a small flat”, who then winds up reading a blog post from your organisation and clicks through to the link for your compact, ready-to-assemble furniture. Or the person browsing articles on hiking, who winds up watching your video on the “world’s most extreme hikes” and then clicks through to your hiking gear site.
These would-be consumers are not necessarily browsing to spend, but browsing for information can turn to spending quickly, with clever and engaging content.
Your content marketing plan should include a clear definition of your target audience, a schedule for new content (for example, will you create new content on a weekly basis?) and a mechanism for monitoring the number of increased visitors to your site.
The content should be presented in an easy-to-digest format. Attention spans are short so make the most of your post with catchy headlines, appealing graphics, and a dash of humour! List formats always work well (think The Top 10 Mishaps of First-Time Hikers or 5 Ways to Decorate your Flat without Breaking Your Cocktail Budget) and will help you attract the attention of new consumers.
Your social media followers will quickly lose interest if your feed consists of product promotion only; the key to using sites such as Facebook and Instagram effectively is to limit the amount of direct promotion and selling and include plenty of entertaining and informative content posts as well. Humorous posts that are shared by others draw more attention to your brand, bringing new consumers to your virtual doorstep (and perhaps even your bricks and mortar location if you have one). While the stunning dresses sold in a retail boutique should seem enough to attract a fashion fiend, the truly savvy business owner supplements the social media feed with light-hearted posts about the workweek blues, a call to action among followers (tell us your wish list for your spring wardrobe!) or clever commentary about local events (Cool Brittania is No Time to Look Uncool!) There is no limit to the amount of creativity at play here, whether your company is selling posh handbags or zimmer frames.
Attracting customers through Google advertisements is one of the most effective means of targeting a market. It is something akin to a dating service for business: Google helps you find the customers who are a perfect “match” because they are already seeking information related to the products you provide. The revenue generated by Google ads is in the billions and your organisation stands to benefit handsomely from this powerful tool.
Google offers four different types of advertisements: Search Ads, Display Ads, Video Ads, and App Ads. You can choose and define the geographic reach of your campaign, and Google provides the metrics you need to monitor its performance (how many people view the ads, visit your site, ring your business, etc). Organisations are able to continually tweak and test their campaigns to react to consumer interest (or lack thereof), and the campaigns can be ended at any time, with no cancellation fees. The entire process is user-friendly enough for even the most novice e-commerce campaign manager.
No matter what strategies you choose for an e-commerce campaign, plan to start with those defined objectives… and be prepared to adjust, react, and change your tactics when needed.