Global e-commerce retail sales are set to touch $4.8 trillion by 2021 and there are close to 24 million stores selling online all over the world. The e-commerce space is highly competitive, expanding and growing at a healthy rate year on year. Although it is a business opportunity up for grabs, not all online ventures survive to break even. Only the best ones who are prepared with well-thought-out plans, a growth-led mindset and an inclination to a specific niche are likely to succeed in the pitched competition. Among these, companies that pay good attention to developing efficient e-commerce marketing plans and strategies stand out from the rest.
What is Ecommerce Marketing?
Online marketing that focussed on driving traffic, increasing brand awareness, nurturing leads and converting leads into customers on an e-commerce website. The outcome is achieved through a set of promotional strategies and tactics on and off the website.
To develop an e-commerce store and setting it up, you must have a definite vision on how to spread the word. Partnering with an agency to outsource your digital marketing process can help you focus exclusively on growing the business. While proponents argue that getting a digital agency on board makes e-commerce marketing smoother. No doubt, it lightens the load off your shoulders, but you still have to engage pro-actively in a collaborative manner with the agency. You have to be upfront with your understanding of your business to help the formulation of solutions for the short and long-term.
Getting a Better Grip on Marketing Needs
Getting help from an agency is the easy part. But, having a good understanding of your marketing needs does involve some preparation. It is easy to get carried away by the available literature online about strategies and tactics. Before, you get started it is essential that you remain receptive to the fact that - Plan, Strategies and Tactics are to be treated separately.
You need to have a Plan to frame Strategies that lead to specific tactics. Without a structured approach, you would have a tough time with the agency in getting your marketing off the ground. You could become impatient with the agency and ask them to switch and shift their strategies for immediate results. But it really wouldn’t make much of a difference.
With a defined plan in place, you can change strategies and tactics, if they are not yielding results. The reassurance comes from having a plan that is backing your strategies and tactics. Before going further, let’s just understand them.
· Plan: An elaborate blueprint that guides businesses towards specific goals. It is a guide that defines the best path towards the goals. For example, It is the recipe of your favourite dish
· Strategy: The manner in which you are going to achieve the goals, explains the “How to”. For example, The key ingredients that go into your dish
· Tactics: Specific set of actions that align with designated strategies. For example: Putting the ingredients in a stipulated manner in specific quantities into the dish
Devising a Marketing Plan
Since we are in the process of devising a marketing plan, it becomes fundamental that we start with the goal for a campaign. It will serve as a roadmap for the business spelling out – ‘What you will do’, ‘Where you will do’ along with ‘How you will track progress’. Remain onboard with the agency to ensure everyone remains on the same page. Besides, it will bring you up to speed and shorten your learning curve on understanding the process as such.
- State the Goal: Elaborate on what you seek to achieve. Are you seeking to sell 300 pairs of shoes through your online store? Are you trying to attract 1000 viewers for your upcoming webinar? Being clear on the answers prepares the stage for the next set of steps.
- Know the Audience: You have to be clear about who you are targeting. Create a buyer persona, a fictional individual you are trying to engage with. A buyer persona helps a business understand its customer’s experiences, needs and behaviours enabling you to connect with them on a personal level as a brand. You can divide personas into different groups based on demographics and interests to craft personalized brand messaging which finds resonance with each group.
- Create a Budget: It hardly matters whether you are an established outfit or a recent entrant into the online shopping; budgeting is a priority for both big and small businesses alike. Framing budgets put things into perspective about essentials and non-essentials based on affordability.
- Conduct SWOT Analysis: You carry out this analysis to get an unbiased view of your business. You are required to build on your strengths, minimize weakness, take advantage of opportunities and try to remedy outside threats.
[SWOT refers to
o Strengths: Your USP, things that make you stand from the competition, niche offerings with scarce availability, and structural advantage like lower operational costs
o Weakness: Negative online reviews, areas that need improvement, financial liabilities, trust issues with online shopping, and changes required to take on the competition.
o Opportunities: New technologies, competitor’s weak-points, more demand for your niche products, categories that can be expanded, new possibilities to grow the business
o Threats: Abrupt changes in regulatory & legal machinery, low barrier to entry, technological advancements affecting e-commerce like drop-shipping.]
- Competitor Research: Keep an eye on your immediate competition, a common practice among e-commerce entrepreneurs. It gives you a fair idea about their actions on social media, website and overall marketing approach (blogs, newsletter, guest posting etc). If you are really keen on knowing their marketing vision, you could even sign-up for their newsletter to get a feel about how they treat their customers.
- Analyse and Measure Results: Have a good grip on your progress through consistent tracking & monitoring of results. You can closely follow - website visits, click-through rates, conversion rates, customer responses, along with positives & negatives. If you notice an emerging pattern that signals any movement away from the planned course, you can identify the problem, optimize and refine the plan.
An Agency’s Approach to Strategy
Now that you have a good plan, and know objectively your goal, the target audience, budget, and position in the market. It is apt for you to specify your strategies. A good strategy is designed to promote a product to turn a profit. In fact, there are many strategies that you can choose from but it would be prudent, to begin with a few strategies and make in-roads into the market. Further, a strategy helps you in committing to specific tactics that will drive the action to bring out the final outcome.
Relevant Strategies Offered by Leading Agencies
On approaching any standard agency, you will be introduced to various strategies that work in the long-term. Pay keen attention to what the agency has decided for your business. Start small with a few, before diversifying into a multitude of strategies. This way you get to test the waters before taking the plunge into a comprehensive e-commerce marketing campaign. Let’s look at each one of them:
- Social Media Marketing (SMM) – Today, anyone who owns a business has a presence on social media. This stems from the knowledge that many internet users have actually integrated social media into their lives. It is not only a destination to post content and drive traffic, but it also happens to be a platform to drive sales.
A campaign for an e-commerce website is likely to look a bit different from other businesses. Since e-commerce predominately uses imagery to capture audience attention, the same action is likely to drive traffic to your product pages. Use sharp images reach out to the audience beyond the confines of the product page.
You can even create shoppable content enabling users to buy right away. This would include strategically placed display ads within the newsfeed that directly take the customers to a shopping cart. It helps smoothen the buying process.
- Content Marketing - You might think, being an e-commerce website, you really do not have much scope creating written content and video. In fact, creating and producing content improves your ranking in search and directly addresses questions posed about the e-commerce industry.
Content marketing is the remedy for users getting flooded by advertisement on a daily basis, making it popular among users. Instead of the ‘push’, you are engaging the ‘pull’ approach to garner customers, who are genuinely interested in the content you put out there. It seeks to educate potential customers to build a relationship for sales in the short-term and loyalty in the long-term.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) - This strategy involves both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid advertising. While SEO is more about taking advantage of Google’s affinity for original content to drive traffic and sales. Paid advertising includes pay-per-click campaigns, display and product-specific campaigns. PPC ensures users see the link to your website when they enter search terms matching your campaign keywords. It puts the customer right in front of the product, increasing the chances of purchase. Google Shopping Ads & Google Ads are the most known forms of Paid Advertising on Google search.
- Email Marketing - Being the oldest form of digital marketing does not make email marketing outdated for e-commerce marketing. Automation has made the entire process fast and efficient. You can send mails to your subscribers based on specific segments divided based on demographics, interests and their intent in the buyer’s journey. Remaining meticulous with your timing and content enables you to establish trust among leads or subscribers.
- Influencer Marketing – This primarily refers to individuals who are popular with your target audience. They have created original content and have engaged with their audience to build a steady community of followers. By reaching out to these individuals, you are directly seeking to influence an already established community, without having to start from scratch to build an audience. When done properly, it can improve product reach and lower the customer acquisition cost. Evaluate your options & strategies before choosing an influencer, it can make or break the campaign.
- ·Affiliate Marketing – E-commerce is particularly suited for affiliate marketing. This involves site-owners and businesses that help sell your product on a commission. They use all strategies and tactics to attract prospects to their websites or blogs that showcase your product as an advertisement. Very similar to having extra help to market your product.
An Agency’s Approach to Tactics that Yield Results
Ideally, all tactics must bring in customers and foster an enduring relationship with the brand. Continue to engage with customers to nurture the relationship and delight them with your service efficacy. This naturally translates into brand loyalty, making them eager brand advocates who promptly sharing their positive experiences through reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth.
Relevant Tactics Offered by Leading Agencies
Everyone can have strategies, but it is the tactics which fetch you the results. Let’s look at specific tactics associated with the strategies mentioned above:
Content Marketing Strategy – Tactics
- ·Optimize Product Pages: Pay attention to your content on product pages to include short and product-driven keywords. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner for keyword research to find relevant keywords to improve your search rankings. Also, include keywords in your page titles, header, and image alt texts to enable search engines to return to your e-commerce site for matching search terms.
- ·Start a relevant Blog: As a matter of fact, blogs rank as the fifth most trusted online resource after News & Retail sites, YouTube and Facebook. You have to pick topics to stimulate the interest of the readers. If you are selling high-quality shoes, you can post on ‘Proper Ways to Maintain Shoes to retain them as New’. As engagement increases, create posts that take them towards consideration, like ‘How to Select a Running Shoe’ and turn them into leads through ‘Top quality shoes under 2000 Rupees‘.
- Guest Authoring on Websites: This can provide your site with the all-important backlinks to improve the domain authority (DA) while making your site a reliable one in the process. You can get your products in front of a relevant audience at zero cost. Be on the look-out for sites that rank for keywords related to your product. At times, you can simply add to the existing content with a video or infographic, linking back to your site.
- Product Videos on YouTube: The video-sharing platform is the second largest search engine in the world with a billion active users. You will find your target audience through this outreach. Begin by doing keyword research to lock-in your topics then share product-related videos. Another tactic can be to produce ‘How-to’ tutorials explaining product usage helping you to build a community of satisfied customers with sustained engagement.
- Include Keyword-rich FAQs: If you have an audience asking your product-specific questions, you should be the one answering them. Include FAQs on the website as a response to high volume and long-tail keyword searches to drive traffic to your site. In the long-term, you will establish your site as an authority and credible source of information on your products.
Email Marketing Strategy – Tactics
- · Build an Email List: Estimates suggest the ROI on email marketing is 1:38, this makes it a must-have strategy for sales and repeat customers. Emails help build a personalized connection with your prospects, completely absent in the public tweets and social media feeds. To build an email list, you need to actively promote your blog, newsletter or you could compel users to sign-up with their email before they visit your blog.
- Customer Follow Up: After buying the product and agreeing to receive mails during the check-out process. You need to be prompt with a follow-up mail a few days after the product delivery. It keeps the correspondence going and elicits information on any future purchase. A simple follow-up shows your interest in their success using the product and is the best chance to receive customer feedback. Plus, you can politely request for a product review without being too intrusive.
- Abandoned Shopping Cart: Shoppers discard shopping carts due to various reasons. You end up losing money every time it happens. The remedy is to send a polite mail reminding them to complete the transaction by offering assistance or by recommending other products on the site to get them back on your store.
Social Media Marketing Strategy – Tactics
- Facebook: With an established user base of 2.6 billion monthly users. It is the best place to find the target audience for any website or brand. Although it offers numerous options, the ‘Shop’ tab on Facebook Page allows users to purchase products directly from Facebook. The feature remains free of cost and comes with a wealth of insights on user engagement and purchases made. Besides, e-commerce websites can advertise through paid means with Facebook ads on the platform.
- · Instagram: One of the fastest-growing social apps in the world, connecting customers, brands and influencers. Shoot sharp images of your product and post them with captions and strategic hashtags at right time will help you get you visibility on the platform. Now, being a pay-to-play platform, you have to create content worthy of paid promotion to ensure good engagement. It is a great platform to sell directly and generate e-commerce sales through features like Shoppable Instagram Posts. Users on the platform come with a buying mindset which means great ROI.
- Twitter: Relatively small compared to other social platforms, but there is far less competition to make the ads inexpensive and provides great value for money considering the ROI on the platform.
- LinkedIn: The most effective tactic on the platform is to drive traffic by creating a community of relevant individuals and providing information related to your product. The platform can also be used to offer advice, conduct webinars or provide free samples or trials. Remaining exclusive and true to its scope will help spread the word about the online community and showcase it as an authority on the brand/ website.
Other Known & Implementable Tactics
- Open a Facebook Store: Although it has gone through a number of changes, Facebook continues to be a platform relevant for social media and e-commerce marketing. You can directly integrate Facebook into a platform like Shopify without worrying about keeping a separate inventory.
- ·Include Live Chat Feature: This is one of those high-impact ways to engage shoppers coming to your site. A chat enables you to have a direct conversation with customers to address their concerns at the opportune moment when they are ready to make a purchase. Many of the tools offer options to target visitors on certain pages. Engage with the shoppers after they have spent some time on the website.
- ·Incorporate Personalization: This is an effective marketing tactic to drive online sales. Using behavioural data, customized experiences are served to a visitor based on past choices. You can even personalize messages based on location serving product choices appropriate with the cultural nuances etc.
- Add User Generated Content (UGC): Having UGC on an e-commerce site is a great way to present social proof. It encourages shoppers to purchase with confidence, as they see folks with similar tastes purchasing from the same site. For starters, reviews are great for a store. Even more effective are photographs of customers using your product.
- ·Reward Loyal Customers: Customer retention is a practical way to improve online sales. Start this by rewarding the big spenders and loyal customers through a loyalty program, proving customers with an added incentive to purchase from you. The most common program is a point-based system, which is redeemed for discounts and giveaways.
- Execute Local Marketing: This involves focussing in areas where you have a large concentration of potential customers with local SEO and other marketing activities. Offer incentives exclusively for this specific customer base. You target them through tracking cookies to ascertain their location. Then you offer discounted prices on products or free shipping in the areas where you have warehouses in the vicinity. This is a novel way to acquire a new customer.
E-commerce marketing’s primary objective is to drive traffic, generate sales and retain customers. This write-up seeks to provide a systematic and structured approach to e-commerce marketing that includes a plan, strategies and tactics that play an essential role in crystallizing the intended results. Unless an organized approach is evolved by partnering with an agency, it can become extremely difficult to grow as a business in an effective manner. Having a framework to base all our actions gives us the much-needed confidence to take calculated risks and adopt in accordance with the emerging market forces.