Did you know that global eCommerce sales are expected to exceed $6.5 trillion by 2023?
From multi-billion corporations and startups to entrepreneurs and bricks and mortar stores, businesses of all shapes and forms are investing heavily in different eCommerce marketing strategies.
You know why?
Becuase of the countless benefits of eCommerce businesses, consumers are increasingly preferring them over conventional physical stores for their purchase needs.
A study by ShipBob found the major reasons why people are turning to online shopping.
As a result, eCommerce is expected to account for 22% of the total global retail sales in the next 3 years.
But with so much competition, how do you make eCommerce marketing work for your business?
How do you persuade your target audience to buy from you instead of your competitors?
Is eCommerce marketing even a viable option for small businesses and startups with limited budgets?
These are some of the main questions (among several others) that I'll answer in this detailed eCommerce marketing guide.
Make sure you read it till the end.
What Is eCommerce Marketing And Why Is it important?
eCommerce marketing is a set of different promotional strategies and techniques to drive traffic to your online store, converting it into customers, and turning customers into repeat clients and brand advocates.
It includes off-page traffic generation and brand building strategies to attract new visitors to your site as well as different on-site conversion optimization techniques to ensure that every visitor converts into a customer.
Your online store/website is the center of all your eCommerce marketing strategies. This is where all the different marketing techniques converge and help you build an audience so that you can drive sales from it (I'll discuss this in more detail later).
Why is it important to invest in eCommerce marketing?
Because it's not enough to just list your products online or share your product links on different forums and expect people to buy from you.
Studies show that 85% of consumers conduct thorough research before purchasing a product online.
They consider different product features, compare prices, read online reviews, and view product videos and images before deciding whether to buy a product or not.
This is where eCommerce marketing comes in.
Your job as a marketer is to answer the questions of your audience on every step of the buyer's journey by creating memorable online experiences and high-value content.
Since your prospects can't physically touch or feel the product, you need to give them additional product information and remove any doubts they have about the quality, pricing, support, or any other aspect of your product.
And even that's not enough.
Since most of your competitors are already selling online, you need to have a stronger connection with your prospects to stand out and persuade them to buy from you.
You can only do that with a well-planned eCommerce marketing strategy that builds trust with your prospects by addressing their core problems and objections and positioning your product as the best available option.
How To Create A Winning eCommerce Marketing Strategy?
You know it's crucial to invest in building a comprehensive eCommerce marketing strategy.
But where do you start?
Before we dive into very specific eCommerce marketing techniques, let me quickly describe the steps you need to follow to lay a strong foundation for your eCommerce marketing strategy.
You can't create a business strategy if you don't understand your target audience.
In eCommerce, this means diving deep into the purchase behavior of your prospects and understanding the different steps they take before ultimately purchasing a product online.
There's no one-size-fits-all solution here.
Every business is different which is why you need to analyze the nature of your product and understand the purchase process of your audience.
For example, here's the product page of one of the world's biggest shoe brands.
Anyone who has purchased running shoes online knows that you need detailed product customization and feature details to ensure you're ordering the right shoe for yourself.
This is why this product page has two different size categories plus a video along with several images of the product.
It's not just about the size either.
You need to see how it looks on your foot, how it feels while running, is it heavy on the foot, does it have a bouncy feel to it, etc.
The same is the case with clothing and apparel products where the customers have entirely different purchase questions than kitchen appliances, for example, where the product specs are much simpler.
It's no surprise that footwear and apparel are among the top industries with the most product returns.
In short, without understanding the purchase process of your industry, your eCommerce marketing strategy is incomplete.
How to you understand the purchase process of your prospects?
By using analytics and asking the right questions, for example.
- What do my customers expect from my product? What problem are they looking to solve with it?
- What's the price bracket of my product?
- How many touches are required to make the sale?
- What's the average return rate in this industry?
- What information does a typical customer require before deciding to buy the product?
- What's the product shelf life? Is it perishable or long-lasting?
- Do typically customers purchase multiple products in one go?
You can keep digging as much as you want.
I'm not advocating analysis paralysis here.
But you need to have a fundamental understanding of the relationship between your product and your target audience to devise a successful eCommerce marketing strategy.
We have a detailed audience research guide that shares more actionable tips on this topic.
What is the central platform for your eCommerce marketing strategy?
This is a crucial question you need to answer before devising you can actually start marketing your business.
Your eCommerce platform will be the center of all your marketing activities and the place where you'll be routing traffic from all the different sources.
This is where you'll build your brand, grow a relationship with your audience, and engage with them regularly to drive sales.
For most businesses, their eCommerce website or online store is the central platform for their marketing activities.
However, many businesses rely entirely on third-party platforms like social media pages, groups, and marketplace websites for driving sales.
For example, Etsy, a popular eCommerce platform for creative work, has more than 2.5 million active sellers on its platform.
Most experts agree, however, that your central platform should always be under your ownership, not on rented land like Facebook or Amazon.
You can use these sites to drive traffic to your eCommerce site but don't rely completely on third-party platforms because it puts your business at a huge existential risk.
To create an eCommerce site that you can use as the central platform for your eCommerce marketing strategy, you can use solutions like Shopify or WordPress sites with WooCommerce or other eCommerce features.
Another crucial question: where does your audience hang out on the internet?
You need to know this in order to target the right people with your content, advertising, and other eCommerce marketing activities.
For example, does your audience primarily use Facebook or can you find them on Instagram and interest as well?
What are the most popular publications, blogs, and forums in your industry?
What kind of marketing content does your audience engage with? Videos, podcasts, and blog posts, or more detailed content like white-papers, research reports, and surveys?
All of this is crucial information that'll allow you to target the right people and devise an informed eCommerce marketing strategy.
The ultimate goal of all your marketing activities is to generate sales.
But that can't happen if your audience doesn't have access to the right payment services.
First, find out the popular payment method in your industry and target location.
For example, in most developing countries, cash on delivery (COD) is still the most popular payment mode.
In developed countries, however, modes such as PayPal, credit cards, Google Wallet, and other mobile payment services are more popular.
What's your target audience using to pay for eCommerce purchases?
Secondly, what are the costs and timelines associated with the different payment methods?
For example, COD payments are quite cheap but can take a long time to actually reach your bank account.
PayPal or credit cards, on the other hand, deposit payments much faster but cost more.
Consider all these factors before choosing your preferred payment method because it will ultimately have an impact on your eCommerce marketing strategy as well.
The Pareto Principle also knows as the 80/20 rule, applies to most aspects of your business.
It states the in most cases, 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts while the remaining 80% of your efforts produce only 20% of the results.
Here are some of its practical implications.
- 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your products
- 80% of your traffic will come from 20% of your marketing efforts
- 80% of your engagement will be driven by 20% of your content
- 80% of your search traffic will come to 20% of your top pages
What does that mean?
It means you need to identify the 20% effort that's driving your business and optimize it to increase profitability.
For example, if 80% of your sales are coming from 20% of your products, keep more stocks, run more ads, and invest more in marketing those products.
The same applies to all other aspects o your business.
There's a lot more we can discuss in this section but let's now move towards the more specific eCommerce marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.
eCommerce Marketing Strategies: Ways To Grow Your eCommerce Business
Once you have the fundamentals of your eCommerce marketing business in place, you need to use different marketing channels to drive traffic to your site, convert it into customers, and turn customers in to repeat customers and brand advocates.
You can broadly divide eCommerce marketing strategies into two categories - organic and paid.
Let's learn more about them.
The Best Organic eCommerce Marketing Strategies
Organic eCommerce marketing strategies are methods that do not require you to pay in order to drive traffic.
However, it doesn't mean they're free.
If you're running an established business, you'd want to hire resources to execute these strategies.
If you're just starting out though, save money and try doing as much of this yourself as possible.
Let's dive in.
Search engines are among the top traffic sources for eCommerce websites irrespective of their industry.
Research shows that 44% of consumers start their buying journey from a search engine query while a detailed study by SEMRush found that nearly 38% of all eCommerce traffic comes directly from search engines.
In short, you need to have a well-planned eCommerce SEO strategy to drive consistent and qualified search traffic to your site.
eCommerce SEO is a very detailed topic that requires a dedicated article to cover all its aspects.
However, let me give you a quick list of SEO techniques you need to apply to your eCommerce website.
i) eCommerce Keyword Research
SEO starts with keyword research.
Unlike blogs that mostly target informational keywords (eg. "how to cook dog food"), eCommerce sites need to focus on keywords with commercial intent (eg. "buy dog food online") where the searcher is actively looking to buy a product.
You can start your research by analyzing the top keywords your competitors are ranking for using SEMRush.
For example, here's the list of keywords I found in the SEMrush Keyword Analysis report for Chewy.com, a leading pet food site.
Analyzing competitors will give you an idea of the kind of keywords you should target.
AnswerThePublic is another tool that will help you come up with lots of different keyword ideas for your site.
Also, explore Amazon product categories and note down any specific keywords they've used for your product.
For product sales pages, focus on commercial keywords with buyer intent. For blog content on your eCommerce site, target informational and broad query based keywords with higher search volumes.
ii) eCommerce Website Performance Optimization
Your eCommerce site's performance has a direct impact on search rankings and traffic.
According to Google, every additional second your site takes to fully load results in a higher bounce rate that negatively impact your search rankings.
Your website performance is based on two things - speed and user experience.
To optimize your site's load time, check its performance using Google's Page Insights and follow its recommendations.
User-experience largely depends on device compatibility which means your site should be built using responsive design that supports mobile devices.
This is crucial for your search rankings since mobile-friendliness is a key search ranking factor.
iii) Search Engine Friendly eCommerce Website Architecture
Website architecture refers to the overall page hierarchy of your eCommerce site and how many clicks it takes to reach the lowest level pages on your site.
Your general approach to site architecture should be to
- Keep it simple and scalable
- Keep all pages within three clicks from the homepage
Here's a good example of a search engine friendly site architecture.
If your site has an overly complex architecture, Google bots will find it hard to index your content, and users will also struggle to understand your product categorization.
iv) Product Schema For eCommerce Sites
Search schema is a game-changer for eCommerce sites when it comes to search CTR. There are different types of schema codes but for eCommerce sites product schema codes are the most important.
Here's how your product pages appear in search results when the schema code is applied.
As you can see, three search results in this screenshot have the schema markup code enabled which shows product rating, reviews, and price in the SERPs.
This additional information results in more clicks on your search results. Read this step by step guide to learn how to apply schema markup to your site
v) On-Page SEO For eCommerce Sites
On-Page SEO is a detailed topic that I have previously covered on NicheHacks.
Here are the most important on-page SEO practices you need to follow
- Use your target keyword in the page title and H1, H2, H3 tags on your page.
- Use the target keyword in the first 100 words of your page and throughout the body content wherever relevant.
- Use synonyms and terms related to your target keyword in your content
- Use image alt-tags for all product images
- Write detailed product descriptions and ain for at least 1000-1500 words of high-quality content on every product page.
- Use internal links from your blog content to product pages.
- Enable reviews and user-generated content.
vi) Link-Building For eCommerce Sites
Getting backlinks from other high authority sites in your niche is crucial for your search rankings.
It's a detailed topic that I have covered in this link-building guide.
Email marketing is one of the most important sales and conversion channels for eCommerce businesses.
The reason is simple.
Research shows it is much easier to sell to your existing customers as compared to acquiring new clients.
Building an email list allows you to stay in touch with your customers, build credibility, and drive repeat sales from them.
On the contrary, if you don't actively build an email list, you have no way of connecting with your prospects and measuring their relationship with your brand.
Once your email subscribers start trusting you, they also look forward to receiving your emails and promotional offers.
Should you buy an email list for your eCommerce site?
Not only is it illegal to buy email lists it's also pretty useless because there's no relationship between you and the consumers on such lists.
The right way to grow an email list is by offering a free lead magnet on your site which your visitors can download by willingly sharing their email info.
This gives you permission to send them relevant marketing messages that are likely to result in sales.
Ideally, you should route visitors from all the different eCommerce marketing channels like social media, forums, blogs, etc. to your email list.
And once they become subscribers, make sure you keep them engaged with regular emails, share free value, and offer special discounts to drive more sales.
Content marketing is the secret ingredient that can help you build a multi-million dollar eCommerce brand and leave your competitors far behind.
The idea behind content marketing is to create useful, actionable, and detailed content that answers the most burning questions of your audience.
How does it apply to eCommerce?
Research shows that 61% of consumers purchase products because of blog content.
Many marketers mistakenly believe that product reviews and comparisons are the only content types eCommerce businesses should focus on.
No matter what product you're selling, you need to create content that focuses on the problems your product solves.
For example, if you're running an online store that sells fitness products and gym equipment, why do you think people buy from you?
What's the need your products are fulfilling?
In most cases, people buy fitness equipment to stay healthy, fit, lose weight, look smart, appear attractive, and live a healthy life.
You can connect these needs with your product, and create useful content that people would love to read.
For example, here are a few titles any fitness blog can write about.
- 11 Ways To Stay Fit During Covid19 Lockdown
- Sitting Is The New Smoking: How To Stay Physically Active While Working From Home
- 13 High Impact Five Minute Work-Outs To Boost Your Muscle Mass
Do you see the connection?
In each of those titles, you can naturally mention your products and link to your site's product pages.
What's the benefit of content marketing?
It not only helps you rank for high volume search queries and drives traffic to your site but also establishes your brand as an industry expert that people trust.
It allows you to attract customers who have a need but don't know how to fulfill it.
Content marketing is a long-term investment that'll continue to pay back for years to come.
With more than 2 billion monthly searches and 355 million monthly active users, Pinterest is one of the best social networks for eCommerce businesses.
Studies show that the majority of Pinterest users earn more than $75K per year which means they have a considerable disposable income.
But here are the most eye-opening Pinterest stats.
66% of Pinterest users buy something after seeing Pins from a brand while the average order value of a Pinterest referral is $50 (an unusually high number).
So how do you take advantage of Pinterest in your eCommerce marketing strategy?
Here are a few steps you need to follow.
- Create a Pinterest Business account
- Enable "Rich Pins" that show additional product information with your Pins along with a call to action to visit your eCommerce store.
- Create Pinterest Boards for the broad product categories your business sells
- Populate each board with high-quality images, videos, infographics, and other forms of visual content.
- Optimize your pins using relevant hashtags and keywords
- Re-Pin content from other popular Pinterest users in your niche (and corresponding niches).
- Pinterest algorithms give or exposure to fresh content in "Suggested Pins" and "Related Pins" categories. Therefore try to publish regularly on Pinterest to take advantage.
To understand Pinterest marketing in more detail, read this in-depth guide by Shopify
With more than 1 billion monthly active users, out of which 63% log in every day, Instagram is a dream platform for any eCommerce business.
The visual nature of Instagram content means it's ideal for marketing different eCommerce businesses and demonstrating how your product can help your prospects.
This is why 80% of Instagram users rely on the platform and its content when it comes to buying products online.
In short, if you're running an eCommerce business, you need to have an Instagram marketing strategy in place.
Here are a few quick tips to help you drive eCommerce sales from Instagram.
- Create an Instagram Business Account.
- Nail your profile bio, cover image, and profile picture. Make sure they're engaging and communicate the core essence of your brand.
- Use calls to action (CTA) and product links in your image descriptions.
- Always publish high-quality images and videos on Instagram
- Utilize Instagram stories to spread your message faster.
- Use product links in Instagram stories to drive more sales.
- Run Instagram-only promotions and exclusive offers
- Use relevant hashtags with your posts to reach more people
Developing a comprehensive Instagram eCommerce marketing strategy requires a deep understanding of the platform and its audience. You can learn more about it in this massive Instagram marketing guide.
WhatsApp is a platform you don't often hear about when it comes to eCommerce marketing.
Honestly, I can't find the reason why it is so underutilized.
With more than 2 billion monthly active users around the world and nearly 70 million users in the US, WhatsApp is one of the best ways to market your eCommerce business.
According to Statista, 53% of WhatsApp users in the US use it daily while 78% use it at least once a week.
And here's the most jaw-dropping statistic of all; WhatsApp messages have a 90%+ open rate.
Clearly, you need to have a well-planned WhatsApp eCommerce marketing strategy in place to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.
Here are a few tips to help you market your business on WhatsApp.
- Create a WhatsApp Business Account.
- There are a couple of ways to get WhatsApp subscribers
- Ask people to share their WhatsApp number with you
- Create a WhatsApp group and ask people to join it using a public URL.
- You can accelerate your WhatsApp list building efforts by using the second method and getting people to join your group.
- Once a user joins your group, you can see their WhatsApp number and can add them separately as a contact.
- Make sure only the admins can message on your WhatsApp group to avoid spam.
- Add your prospects to a WhatsApp Broadcast List. Messages from broadcast lists are delivered separately to each recipient. However, to receive messages, the recipient needs to have the sender's WhatsApp number saved in their phones.
- Share exclusive "WhatsApp only" offers on your website and encourage website visitors to join your public WhatsApp group.
- Drive traffic to your site from WhatsApp by sharing product links with your subscribers.
- Use WhatsApp stories to drive massive engagement and traffic.
To learn more about WhatsApp marketing, I recommend reading this detailed guide by Sumo
If you want to skyrocket the growth of your eCommerce business, partner with the affiliate marketers.
Affiliate marketing is a zero risk eCommerce marketing strategy in which you recruit affiliates to market your products and only pay them when they make a sale.
Why recruit affiliates when you can directly market your products?
Studies show that consumers prefer buying through affiliates and influencers since they consider them unbiased as compared to advertisements from brands.
Since you don't have to pay anything to your affiliates unless they make a sale, I've listed this eCommerce marketing strategy under organic marketing methods.
Generating traffic to your eCommerce site is just one part of your marketing strategy.
Converting that traffic into customers and subscribers is the other (often neglected) part.
This is where eCommerce conversion optimization comes into play.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process of applying different techniques to convert a higher percentage of your traffic into customers and leads.
According to research, 53% of marketers consider CRO crucial for their online marketing strategy.
How do you optimize your site for conversions?
Here are a few actionable tips
- Improve your site's load speed and performance
- Focus on a single Call To Action (CTA) objective for every landing page
- Build trust by displaying logos of trusted brands on your site that you've worked with.
- Leverage social proof like testimonials, reviews, and success stories to drive more sales.
- Offer multiple payment options and payment plans.
- Use high-quality product images and videos that clearly demonstrate the usefulness of your product.
To learn more about CRO, I recommend this in-depth guide by Backlinko
You've done all the hard work in driving traffic to your site, and persuading your visitors to click the "Buy Now" button.
But the prospect still doesn't buy the product and leaves your site without completing the purchase.
Is there anything more heartbreaking than this?
In marketing terms, it's called cart abandonment and it is one of the biggest challenges eCommerce businesses face.
Just to give you an idea of how big a deal cart abandonment is, research shows that the average cart abandonment rate across all industries is 69.7%
Here are some of the biggest reasons why customers leave without purchasing
However, you can recover a large number of abandoned cart sales with a simple follow up email.
Research shows that companies that send reminder emails to shoppers who've abandoned their purchase, manage to recover almost 30% of the abandoned sales.
This is a significant number that'll help you increase profitability and lower your business losses.
You can configure abandoned cart follow up emails using my of the top email marketing solutions like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, etc.
Online reviews are among the most important factors that drive eCommerce sales.
Research shows that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends.
Every positive online review about your site increases your chances of attracting new customers.
This is why you need to actively encourage and incentivize your customers to leave positive online reviews about your products.
Offer exclusive discounts on future orders for all customers who leave online positive reviews about your business.
Ask your customers to share your product pictures on their social media profiles and tag their friends who might be interested.
Pay special attention to sites like Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, and any other sites that are popular with your target audience.
Free Delivery is the magic word in eCommerce that turns unsure prospects into happy customers.
It has a psychological impact on buyers which makes them believe they're getting a good deal.
How do you offer free shipping?
By simply adding it to your product's cost.
Believe it or not, that's what most eCommerce businesses do (without telling you).
Amazon is the world's best eCommerce website and there's a lot you can learn from it.
One of Amazon's biggest conversion drivers are the related products it shows on every product page.
The screenshot below shows three different headings on the same page under which Amazon show related products.
You can easily replicate this approach on your eCommerce website by showing other closely related products on individual product pages.
This increases the average per customer dollar value and results in a much higher ROI on your marketing efforts.
The Best Paid eCommerce Marketing Strategies
If you're serious about growing your eCommerce business, you must invest some portion of your revenue in paid marketing techniques.
Here are some of the best paid eCommerce marketing strategies.
Influcenr marketing is the hottest eCommerce marketing trend that's gaining popularity with every passing day.
The concept is simple.
Instead of investing thosuands of dollars in mass advertising, eCommerce brands are now partnering with popular social media users and paying them for recommedning products to their followers.
And the results are comparable to any of the top marketing channels (with much lower costs).
To create successful influencer marketing campaigns, you need to identify the right social media influencers who're popular among your target audience.
Unlike affiliate marketers, influencers are usually paid a fixed price for product promotions.
If you get it right, influencer marketing can drive several times more sales than any of the other eCommerce marketing strategies we've discussed so far.
Facebook Ads are the lifeline for hundreds of thousands of eCommerce businesses around the world.
They offer advanced audience targeting features that make it very easy to show your ads to exactly the people you want.
For example, here's a screenshot from Facebook Ad center where you can define the audience you want to target in a particular ad
Start by choosing the countries or cities you want to target in your ad campaign.
When you scroll down, you can choose the age, gender, and languages of the audience you want to target.
These options help you narrow down on your target audience instead of showing your ad to irrelevant users.
But these are still basic targeting features.
To take your ad targeting one step further, you can choose your audience based on their online behavior.
The detailed targeting features allow you to target people who like and follow certain brands on Facebook and have particular interests or hobbies.
You can also choose people by relationship status, life events like birthdays and weddings, recent purchase behavior, and a lot more.
However, you need to understand how Facebook ads work before investing money into them.
This is why I recommend reading this detailed Facebook Advertising Guide we've published on our blog.
It's called retargeting and it's one of the best days to attract high-quality traffic to your site and convert it into customers.
Facebook, Google, and many other leading advertising platforms offer starting features that you can use to display your ads to people who've visited your site in the past.
How does it work?
You just need to install a small script to your site's HT ML code and then start driving traffic to it.
The script tracks all the people who visit your site and then allows you to retarget them with relevant ads on Facebook and other websites.
However, it's a technical topic that requires more study before you can actually benefit from it.
This beginner's guide is the perfect resource to get you started.