Guide to Developing an Effective eCommerce Strategy

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Chapter 1

Introduction

Eighty percent of Americans have made an online purchase in the last thirty days.

That is, in large part, thanks to ecommerce brands like yours.

However, that statistic also represents something more important to ecom retailers. It shows us just how many competitors exist to cater to all of those orders. The ecommerce industry is growing by 23% each year, creating a substantially more crowded marketplace with each passing day.

As such, ecom brands need to be at the top of their marketing game if they hope to remain relevant and competitive in one of the world’s fastest-growing industries.

Lucky for you, you’ve ended up in an excellent place to learn how to dramatically improve the way you market and, with a carefully documented ecommerce marketing strategy, secure your longevity and growth for years to come.

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Chapter 2

What Is an eCommerce Marketing Strategy?

Before we dive into developing your ecommerce marketing strategy, let’s get clear on exactly what we mean.

For starters, we’re not talking about the individual tactics you implement. They can represent a single facet of a comprehensive ecommerce marketing strategy, but your strategy is so much more.

Your strategy is the roadmap you follow that outlines every marketing direction you’ll take. Your strategy combines all of your predetermined (and highly refined) goals into a single document, effectively providing its users (your team) with a clearly defined plan to accomplishing them.

A sophisticated ecommerce marketing strategy is based on market and competitor research, a clear understanding of the brands ideal buyer (who you’re selling to), a outlines a clear path to achieving maximum profit and sustainable growth.

Your marketing strategy is a powerful documented playbook that will direct your entire team’s marketing actions and keep your company headed on the path to long-term success.

Documenting Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy

One of the most important questions we ask new prospective clients is:

“Do you have a marketing strategy?
(A detailed plan, written out?)”

And the common answers are:

“We do tactics like email marketing and social media, but no plan.”
Or
“We have strategies on some channels, but not overall.”

Ecommerce marketing is limited when you only focus on individual tactics, rather than the overall plan.

Your ecommerce marketing strategy needs to be written down and documented.

“If it’s not written down; it didn’t happen.”

Meaning, as you work on building your strategy, you need to be creating a living document that your entire team will be able to use to guide their marketing actions.

This keeps everyone on the same page about how your company is to be marketed, the tactics you’ll be using, what metrics you’ll be tracking, and how to make the most efficient and effective use of your resources.

Use this guide to build out your strategy document step by step. Then, work to optimize your strategy as you put each tactic into practice and closely monitor your results.

Remember, we said that this needs to be a living document. Make changes and improvements as you learn from your ecommerce marketing campaigns and experiments.

At Uhuru, we tell our clients that they should always be optimizing and updating their strategy document monthly or at least quarterly.
We’re always learning from our efforts to improve future marketing activities and you should too.

Pro Tip: Use Google Docs for this living document. The doc will be accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection and can be easily shared and edited amongst team members.

Chapter 3

The Foundation of Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy

The foundation of your marketing strategy is built on a clear understanding of who you’ll be marketing to, what you want to accomplish, and how you’ll track your success.

eCommerce Marketing Buyer Personas

If you only learn one thing from this guide, let it be this:

Without a clear understanding of your ideal buyer you’ll never be able to market effectively. You’ll be wasting money, time, and precious resources wondering why your seemingly perfect marketing isn’t hitting home.

Instead, take the time to craft your buyer personas and you’ll be able to cater all of your future marketing to a far more relevant audience and dramatically increase its efficacy.

Buyer personas are semi-fictitious representations of your ideal buyer. Much like your strategy document, you’ll want to draft your personas and ensure that your entire team has a detailed understanding of them.
In order to create your buyer personas you’ll want to include information about:

  • Age
  • Income
  • Job title
  • Location
  • Interests/Challenges
  • Wants/Needs
  • Goals
  • How they find their information
  • Buying/Shopping behavior
  • And other relevant information

The process of creating effective buyer personas really requires its own guide, which is why we’ve created a full blown Guide to Creating Buyer Personas.

Be sure to read through it and work to create your buyer personas before you move any further into the creation of your ecommerce marketing strategy. When you have your personas drafted you can start setting your goals.

Buyer’s Journey

For your ideal persona, and other buyer persona types, there are nonlinear paths that buyers take on their journey to buying from your company.

When documenting your buyer’s journey, you can start with a general journey that caters to your ideal buyer. That said, it’s best to map out the buying journey for all your primary personas and define what triggers exist at each stage of the journey.

The bulk of your ecommerce marketing strategy should be structured around each buyer persona’s specific buying journey.

Setting Your Marketing Goals

Another fundamental component of your ecommerce marketing strategy is defining what you want to accomplish. Your strategy is essentially your roadmap to accomplishing your goals, so you won’t be able to complete it without marketing goals in place.

What are the key projects your company (or team) needs to execute in the coming quarter that will have the biggest positive impact on your business?

Use the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound State each project as a clear outcome statement using 3 to 5 words, such as:

  • “Responsive ­design website live”
  • “CRM software implemented”
  • “Launch Italian marble product line”

You must describe in FULL DETAIL what 100% completion looks like, so there is no ambiguity about when the activity is finished. Clearly describe what the completed goal looks like. Describe what is “in scope” and what is “not in scope” so there is no ambiguity about when this project can be considered 100% finished. Set yourself up to succeed. “Stuff happens.” Set realistic goals that take into account that “stuff will happen,” yet you still expect to achieve the “Green” level of performance most of the time. Don’t underestimate the difficulties and challenges your team will face.

The “Yellow” level of performance is, by default, anything between the green and red thresholds. We can “keep the lights on” but we are not happy yet. We will keep a close eye on it.

The “Red” level of performance is where the KPI drops below a specific point, and becomes an unacceptable level of performance that needs to be discussed. You will probably want to assign a specific task to address this unacceptable level of performance.

What Will Your Marketing Help You to Achieve?

Before you worry about following the SMART framework, take the time to brainstorm different ideas for your marketing goals and the various things you’d like your ecommerce marketing to help you achieve.

This could be a simple list of goals like:

  • Increase traffic to our website
  • Grow our email list by X
  • Convert more of our traffic to paying customers
  • Increase views of product page X
  • And so on…

Once you have your basic goals outlined, you can work to refine them into SMART goals by answering the following questions.

1. Are Your Goals Specific Enough?

If your basic goal was to “increase the number of visitors to your website,” work on making it more specific.

You could start buy attaching a qualifier based on your personas.
For example, B&H Photo could make that goal more specific by framing it around the type of traffic they want to drive.

We want to increase the amount of relevant traffic to our website; “relevant” brings males 25-35 who are interested in Canon cameras.
You could then make your goal even more specific by adding a numerical qualifier to your goal.

We want to increase the amount of relevant traffic to our website by 10%.

2. Can You Take Action to Achieve Your Goal?

The next step is to determine whether you can take action on achieving this goal (whether or not it is actionable).

You don’t necessarily have to decide what action you’ll take to toward its accomplishment, just that it’s possible (for now).

For example, if your goal was to increase relevant traffic by 20%, are there actions that you could take to reach that goal?
Absolutely.

You could create content for your ideal buyer around their questions, problems, and needs. As your content ranks it would drive persona-relevant traffic to your site.

You could also create highly targeted Facebook ads to drive new shoppers to your site.

Again, the point is not to determine your best option yet, as that takes time to test. Instead, simply determining that your goal is actionable is enough for now.

3 – Is Your Goal Relevant to Your Success?

You don’t have to wait until the third question to determine if your goals are relevant. You may want to get this question out of the way right off the bat. After all, why spend time refining a goal that is irrelevant to the success of your ecommerce marketing strategy?

You may have listed that you want to increase male visitors to your site. However, you know that 20% of your female traffic converts to paying customers, but only 5% of your male traffic converts.

In order to make the most of your marketing and drive the highest returns, you’ll want to put your marketing resources behind increasing relevant female traffic. Why work hard to convert men when your female traffic converts much more easily?

4 – Can You Measure Your Success?

Once your goal has passed through the first three of the SMART criteria you’ll begin to see it take shape, but you have 2 more to go.

The next is an important one.

Can you measure the success of your goal?

Many brands set goals that they don’t fully understand how to track. For example, if you’re looking to generate a higher level of brand exposure, how will you measure that exposure?

If you run a print ad in a magazine, how can you guarantee that that publication’s claimed readership actually saw your ad? If you run an exposure campaign on Facebook, do you know how to track your actual exposure?

Consider how you’ll track the accomplishment of your goals before you finalize them.

5 – When Will You Achieve Your Goal?

The final criteria you’ll need to define is the amount of time it will take to accomplish your goal. For example, if you want to increase relevant traffic to your website by 20%, when do you hope to accomplish this?

Set an achievable timeline for your goal, as you’ll be using it to scale your marketing activities. For example, if you hope to achieve a 20% increase of 2,000 additional visitors per month, you’ll need to spend a certain amount to run enough ads to drive that traffic – OR – you’ll need to produce enough content to drive that traffic by said date.

SMART Goal Example

Putting all 5 of the criteria together allows you to set highly effective goals that will take you much further toward growing your brand. When you’re finished, a SMART goal will look something like this:

  • Website Traffic: Increase relevant traffic to our website by 60% in the next 3 months.
  • Search traffic: Increase current U.S. non-brand organic search traffic by 20% in 6 months.
  • Increase relevant exposure of our brand on Facebook by 50% over the next 30 days.
  • Increase conversions from our existing traffic by 35% by the end of 2017.

As you can see, all of these goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

There is little room for misinterpretation. They are clear enough for every member of your team to understand and will allow them to determine what actions need to be taken when implementing your various marketing tactics found later on in this guide.

Defining Your KPIs

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As you define your goals, it’s important that you also identify the appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators) to help you track their success. Digital marketing KPIs are what you’ll use to measure the efficacy of every tactic you deploy and optimize them to improve your results/returns.

For example, you may use your costs-per-click to understand the efficacy of your paid ads, your cost-per-lead to understand whether or not you’re targeting the appropriate people, and your cost-per-conversion to understand the efficacy of your conversion funnel.

Once you’ve defined your goals, be sure to identify and document the KPIs you’ll be using to track the performance of each as you move forward.

“Outcomes” are important to measure, but what are the key “activity” or “effectiveness” measures that will drive those eventual outcomes? Make sure to identify and track those metrics too.

For example “Monthly Sales Revenue” is an outcome. The activity measure might be “# of sales per day.” The effectiveness measure might be “% of add to carts that become sales.”

Chapter 4

Conversion-Optimized Website

As an ecommerce brand, your entire business revolves around your website.

As such, it’s vital that your site be optimized to drive conversions. With all of the competition in ecom there is little room for websites that don’t give their users exactly what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it.

Every aspect of your ecommerce marketing strategy will be tied to your website, so it’s important to get this part VERY right.

Intuitive User Paths/Flows

An effective ecommerce website needs to be highly intuitive. That means that no matter what page your shoppers end up on, they intuitively understand how to get where they want to go and how to accomplish their goal.

You need to make it extremely easy to follow their interests through your website while shopping. It also means being queued at just the right times in the right places to encourage them to take YOUR desired actions.

If you want your shoppers to do something, use clear visual cues to help steer them in the right direction. These can be subtle recommendations for your most profitable items, CTAs to download your new style guide, and anything in between.

Remember, conversions don’t always have to come from a sale. Converting a site visitor into a lead allows you to continue nurturing them toward a sale where they may have left your site and never returned.

(More on that later.)

Fewer Steps to Checkout

One of the best ways to optimize your site to drive sales is to reduce the steps necessary to complete checkout. We’ll touch on more ways to accomplish this throughout this guide, but work to keep your checkout process as short and simple to complete as possible.

A recent study shows that between the U.S. and EU ecom businesses, $260 BILLION are being lost due to sub-optimal checkout procedures

If that doesn’t motivate you to optimize your checkout process, we don’t know what will.

Integrating User Reviews and Generated Content

Today’s buyer relies heavily on peer reviews to help them make decisions.

Another study recently found that 88% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

As such, it’s important to generate buyer reviews and user-generated content to help support your shopper’s buying process.

For example, here Smooth and Groomed uses user-generated content to walk through a 3-step shave with one of their most popular razors.

This simple video showcases the value of their product and a user’s satisfaction with it in one fell swoop.

Collecting User-Generated Content

A simple follow-up email to ensure that your buyer was completely satisfied with their product and shopping experience is a great way to solicit these reviews from your customers.

You can also use tools like BuzzSumo to search for social mentions of your brand on various social platforms. Many times your customers will post about their new purchase or about your brand as a whole.

Without tools like this you would never know!

Reach out to the your customers and ask if you can share their review, comment, or photo on your website (or in your marketing).

Benefit-Driven Pop-Ups

As annoying as you may find pop-ups, they’ve been proven to work.

Consider this: Entrepreneur.com used pop-ups to increase their sales by 162% and subscriptions by 86%.

When pop-ups are correctly implemented as a cohesive part of your ecommerce marketing strategy you’ll likely find that you can use them to boost sales and increase customer retention.

This doesn’t mean you should use a pop-up to sign up new shoppers for your newsletter as soon as they land on your page. Instead, hit them with a relevant offer they can’t refuse.

One way to drive more sales is to offer new shoppers a discount on their first item, or a discount on their whole order. You can test making that offer even more effective by stipulating that the shopper must checkout in the next 15 minutes for it to be valid.

Here, DODOcase offers shoppers an instant savings right off the bat to incentivize their first-time purchase.

It may seem slightly gimmicky, but there is power in creating a feeling of urgency in your buyer. People hate missing out and that includes missing out on your special offer.

Exit-Intent Pop-Ups

You can also use pop-ups to offer a valuable piece of content to shoppers as they are about to leave your site. Exit-intent pop-ups give you a chance to make one last impression in an attempt to capture their contact information.

With an email address you’ll be able to stay in touch and slowly nurture your new lead toward a conversion with a personalized (but automated) email campaign. More on that in upcoming sections of this guide.

Mobile-Friendly Shopping

Our society is becoming more mobile-centric by the day. That applies to your shoppers as well, who are buying more from their mobile devices than ever before.

Today, mobile accounts for about 19% of U.S.-based ecom sales, but that number is predicted by reach 27% by the end of 2018.

Making sure your mobile experience is up to snuff should be one of your highest priorities. That means:

  • Fast loading pages
  • Distraction- and frustration-free interface
  • Fewer steps to completing every action
  • Less information required in forms and signups

High-Quality Images/Descriptions

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Another area where many ecom brands are lacking is in their product descriptions and images. Without the ability to put the product in your shoppers hands, ecommerce retailers are forced to rely on images and detailed descriptions to make up for that lack or sensory information.

Providing a single product image may be effective, but multiple angles tell a more complete story. All of your images should be of the highest quality and paint your product in the best (but realistic) light possible.

They also need to be backed up by clear descriptions of what shoppers can expect to receive. However, rather than writing tons of copy that no one wants to read, work to relay as much information as you can in as few words as possible.

Pro Tip: Try using GIF files to automatically display multiple angles of your product without including bandwidth-heavy videos.

Social Login

An easy way to help personalize your shopper’s experience is to provide a social login feature. This way they won’t have to take the time to create an account and login with their email every time they want to shop.

Instead, they can login with a single click and get right to shopping. This is also a great way to reduce the steps of your checkout process. While we don’t recommend requiring your customers to create an account to checkout, it’s good to give them the option to make future shopping easier.

Chapter 5

Ecommerce Marketing Tactics

We’ve established a solid foundation upon which we can build. It’s time to get into the actual tactics you’ll be using to drive traffic to your site, turn visitors into leads, and convert them into paying customers.

Your tactics should all have their own document strategy that is included within your overarching ecommerce marketing strategy, so be sure to document these sections as you work your way through the guide.

Paid Advertising – Facebook, Google AdWords, LinkedIn, etc.

Paid advertising is extremely important for all ecommerce brands. Paid platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google AdWords make it easy for advertisers to get started, and the simplicity of their platforms make it a very appealing option to many brands.

These platforms go to great lengths to make sure they give their advertisers the best chance of seeing positive returns from their marketing.

That said, there are very few brands who are truly making the most of their paid acquisition programs. Most are spending too much money to acquire fewer customers than they could be with an optimized paid advertising strategy.

If you’re already advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, AdWords or a platform like these, the following sections will help you to get more from your marketing.

If you’re new to this type of advertising you’ll get a headstart on developing a high-performing paid media strategy as an important component of your overall ecommerce marketing strategy.

Targeting

Each campaign you run will have a unique goal. As such, the audience you’ll want to reach with your ads will be different. The most common mistake with paid ads is inaccurate targeting, another being trying to reach too many people at once.

Use your buyer personas to identify the unique characteristics of your ideal buyer. Then use those traits to create your targets.

We’ve found Facebook to be one of the most effective platform for our ecommerce clients. While the topic of Facebook targeting is worthy of its own guide, our blog contains several Facebook marketing articles that will give you a head start to targeting success.

Be sure not to miss this post about Unique Ad Targeting Strategies.

Retargeting

We can’t talk about targeting without covering retargeting. Retargeting is essentially advertising to people who have already been to your website.

Because these people already know your brand, they are no longer what we call “cold traffic.” This “warm traffic” is far more likely to buy from you based on the interest they displayed by going to your website in the first place.

Again, the topic of retargeting is well beyond the scope of this already oversized guide, but lucky for you we have another massive guide dedicated solely to Facebook Retargeting. If you’re looking to make the most of your paid advertising on Facebook, look no further than retargeting.

This guide is the ultimate resource to get you started or to dramatically optimize your current retargeting campaigns.

Ad Creative

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One area where we are continually surprised is in the ad creative many ecom brands use to advertise their products. Rather than moan about how bad they can be, let’s look at a few ways to make your ad creative more effective.

Design for your personas: Ad creative is a place where many brands make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone. In order to stand out and appeal to your ideal buyer, you’ll need to use graphics and images that resonate with their wants and needs. Use your personas to identify unique qualities about your target audience and include appealing graphics in your ads to reach them more effectively.

Speak their language: Just like with graphics, in order for your audience to hear you, you’ll need to be speaking their language. Use the tone and terminology that your audience uses when they speak. For example, if your audience is young and hip you may be well served to include slang and pop culture references. Know who you’re selling to and speak to them in a way that they’ll understand and that will appeal to them.

Use benefit-driven copy: Your copy should also showcase the benefits of your product and the offers you’re advertising. Don’t list out features or ramble on about what you’re selling. Instead, tell your audience about the benefits they receive from your products and the what they’ll get if they act on your ads now.

Use eye-catching visuals: We touched on the importance of using graphics that appeal to your audience, but another important thing to consider is the way your graphics look against the newsfeed or other placement on the Facebook platform. As someone scrolls through their feed, does your ad blend in with the rest of the noise or does it break the pattern and cause your eye to take notice?

Video

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Last but not least, if you’re not already creating video ads, it’s time to get started. Videos have quickly become the most popular media format on Facebook. They’ve even created this excellent guide to help you get started using video ads most effectively.

Selling on Facebook is a massive topic, so we highly recommend this guide that covers more of the intricate details involved in the process. Read it here.

All of these tips work best on Facebook and Instagram. (Since Facebook owns Instagram you can make ads on both platforms from the Facebook Ads Manager.) However, they can all be applied to other paid platforms as well. For example, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google AdWords also allow the creation of remarketing audiences; they share similar functionalities and each one of them is one piece to a successful digital strategy.

Content/Inbound Marketing

One of today’s most popular forms of digital marketing is also one of the most underused in the ecommerce space. When done well, content marketing is a highly effective way to drive predictable, relevant traffic to your website month after month.

If you’re not already creating content around your brand, it’s time you get started. If your brand creates content already, good for you, but we’re willing to bet there’s room for improvement.

Why You Need an eCommerce Content Strategy/Benefits of Content Marketing

If you’re not yet sold on the benefits of content, here’s a quick overview of why your brand should be using content marketing to drive traffic, earn leads, and convert them into sales.

Let’s take a look at the types of content and how to frame each for use in ecommerce.

Blog Posts

We’re all familiar with blog posts. Why?

Maybe because they’re one of the most effective ways for us to gather information about the topics we search for on a daily basis..

Blogging is an extremely popular form of marketing because it can be a highly effective way of driving relevant, qualified traffic to your website. Blogging is a great way to provide upfront value to your prospective customers, help your shopper answer questions and solve problems, showcase your industry expertise, and highlight the benefits of your product.

You can use blog posts to take your shoppers all the way through their buyer’s journey, effectively increasing the audience you can market to by reaching people well before they’re ready to buy,

Effective blogging isn’t difficult but it is something that requires adherence to a very particular set of guidelines. Lucky for you, we just so happen to have an guide to effective blog post SEO, as well as a guide to developing a powerful blog strategy.

Work through the steps in these guides to develop your content creation skills and add your blog strategy as a component of your ecommerce marketing strategy document.

Downloadable Guides

Another form of content you should be creating to support your customer’s journey is downloadable offers.

These offers can come in the form of:

  • Ebooks
  • Buying Guides
  • Tip Sheets
  • Checklists
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Style Guides
  • Lookbooks
  • Product Guides
  • And more…

The point of creating this level of content is to provide a high level of value and a comprehensive resource that will help your shoppers solve their problem or answer their questions.

Show people how to use your products, how a product can improve their lives, and help them explore new ideas about their potential usefulness.

This kind of valuable offer opens up a new opportunity.

By requiring your shoppers to exchange their contact information for the download, you earn new leads and the opportunity to stay in touch with these shoppers.

This way you can continue to build trust by sending them more valuable content and market to them with special offers via email.

For example, if a shopper comes to your outdoor equipment site by reading a blog post on the Top 10 U.S. Camping Destinations, you could include a CTA (call to action) for your “Expert’s Guide to Backpack Packing” to help foster a stronger relationship with your brand.

You could showcase a few of your products within the guide and you’d have their email address to continue nurturing them toward a conversion.

As you can see, these downloadable resources are a great way to get your buyer more involved with your brand, establish the trust necessary for them to buy from you, and even showcase some of your products in a low-pressure, non-salesy way.

In fact we just happen to have such a guide on Fashion Ecommerce Content Marketing. If you’re a fashion ecom brand that’s ready to get serious about content, this is a must read.

Video

Video is likely the most powerful form of content in terms of pure engagement and its ability to relay vast amounts of information in short periods of time. It also is one of the best ways for ecom brands to help their shoppers get a feel for what their products look like in real life, how they work, and how they can benefit from them.

Here the outdoor shower brand, Helio, uses video to clearly demonstrate the benefits of a potentially confusing or difficult to understand product.

Video is an excellent way to convey value and elicit emotion, making it a powerful way to to sell products online.

Providing Upfront Value and Establishing Your Brand as Experts

The reason content marketing works is because it allows you to provide upfront value to your shoppers. They get a chance to experience your industry expertise well before they make the decision to purchase your product.

This upfront value and the demonstration of your industry knowledge helps to foster a trusted relationship with your shoppers and can dramatically increase their likelihood of buying from you.

Always be working to provide as much value as possible. It will help you earn more business and keep it longer.

A Guide to Creating Expert Level Content

We’ve created an expert guide to content creation that will help you better understand the types of content to create for each stage of the buyer’s journey, as well as how to craft effective content that generates results for your brand. Be sure to read it as you craft your content strategy!

eCommerce Email Marketing

Email marketing has been around for over 40 years and it still proves to be one of the most effective forms of marketing. Email should represent an integral part of your ecommerce marketing strategy, as it can help you build a more complete marketing funnel and dramatically increase the efficacy of your traffic-building and lead-generation activities.

Lead-Nurturing Campaigns

As we’ve already covered, not every visitor to your site is ready to buy. In fact, most likely will not be. However, with the proper lead-generation tactics in place you’ll be able to gather contact information from many of your shoppers and use it to continue nurturing them toward a sale.

These lead-nurturing campaigns are not about the hard sell. Instead, you should work to foster a relationship between your shoppers and your brand. People buy from brands they trust, and one of the best ways to earn that trust is by providing upfront value.

One of the best ways to provide upfront value is by sending leads engaging, entertaining, educational, and relevant content.

For example, a fashion brand could send style guides, seasonal trend blog posts, and other articles based around helping them develop their unique style.

If you sell camping and outdoor gear, you could send articles about the best places to camp in their country, new and exciting places to explore, tips for efficient packing, and so on. The point of this content is involve yourself in their decision-making process more than you would with simple discounts and offers.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t send emails with discounts and promotions interspersed throughout your campaign. They’ll be very effective tools to help you close leads and generate sales. However, they’ll be more effective if you work on developing a relationship with your shoppers along the way.

Abandoned Cart Campaigns

According to Baymard Institute, online shoppers abandon their carts 68% of the time. All of that abandonment is costing retailers a total of $1.8 TRILLION (with a T!) every single year.

Nobody likes abandoned carts, but few retailers understand just how much these cart abandonments are costing them. This astronomical figure doesn’t even factor in the wasted marketing budget you’ve used to acquire these would-be customers. If they don’t follow through during the checkout process and you don’t take action to recover their interest, they may as well have never clicked through to your site in the first place.

As you can see, the real issue with abandoned carts is the wasted interest. As marketers we understand that it takes a lot of work to get shoppers interested in your brand and the products you sell.

If a buyer has taken enough interest in your products to add them to their cart, it’s very likely that they’re willing to buy it. It’s also likely that the momentum leading up to the add to cart could be restored with the proper recovery tactics in place.

Many retailers make the mistake of assuming these shoppers are lost forever. Instead, what ecom brands need to understand is that those waves of interest are the signals that could help them identify their most qualified leads.

Rather than pursuing new clients and moving on, they should be dedicating a serious portion of their marketing resources into seizing these opportunities and closing these leads.

A cart abandonment email campaign is the perfect tool for the job. An effective cart abandonment email can dramatically increase your sales and profit. In fact, according to salecycle.com:

  • People open 44% of cart abandonment emails
  • People click on about 12% of cart abandonment email links
  • 30% of those clicks end up converting what would have been a lost sale
  • Those purchases are typically nearly 15% more valuable

We feel so strongly about the power of cart abandonment campaigns that we created an entire guide dedicated to them. It’ll walk you through the entire process step by step, so make sure you include this type of campaign as a part of your ecommerce marketing strategy.

If you advertise on Facebook, be sure to read this post on How to Track Shopping Cart Abandonment with Facebook Ads.

Resend Unopened Emails with New Headline

No matter what type of campaign you’re sending or how effective it proves to be, there will still be plenty of people who don’t open your emails. Rather than giving up on that carefully crafted email and moving on to the next in the series, resend it a few days later with a new headline to see if you get a better response from those that didn’t open it the first time around.

Of course you don’t send this to those that did open it, but it’s a great way to increase your overall open rate and get more people to take action on whatever is contained within the email.

Tips to Make Your Ecommerce Email Marketing More Effective

Email marketing may seem pretty straightforward, but getting it right can take a lot of trial and error. To give you a big head start we’ve created this guide to email marketing best practices. Be sure to use the information inside when establishing your own ecommerce email marketing strategy.

Social Media Marketing

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Some marketers will say that organic social media marketing is a thing of the past. While it’s far more difficult to see the level of engagement from your organic social media marketing than was possible even a few years ago, it’s certainly not the lost cause that some consider it to be.

Social media can still be very effective as a facet of a comprehensive and well implemented ecommerce marketing strategy.

You can use platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and even Twitter to creatively showcase your products, share user-generated content and reviews, and offer special deals to your following.

Social media is a great place to develop a long-term relationship with your customers and keep them engaged with your brand. Work to build a loyal and relevant following and you’ll have an audience that truly cares about what you have to say that you won’t have to pay for.

If you’re not already sold on social media, give our recent article a read to learn more about social media vs. traditional media and how social can benefit your brand.

Emulate the Best Brands

If you’re not currently developing your social media following or you’re having trouble doing so, one of the best ways to improve your social media marketing success is to emulate the top brands in your space.

They likely have a larger budget and have hired experts to help them craft their social content, develop a relevant following, and increase their brand exposure via their social channels. Do what you can to put your unique spin on their social media strategy to give yours a head start or to move your existing strategy in the right direction.

Pick Social Platforms Based on YOUR Customers

Whatever platforms you decide to use, be sure to base your decision on your unique customers. No matter how successful your competitors or the brands you emulate are on a platform, your most important metrics for success should be based on your unique audience and your unique customers.

The internet is full of all-encompassing social media marketing declarations.

The problem with these claims is that the information being used to back them up often based on a very isolated segment of the market, or it’s outdated, or both.

The truth is that you’ll need to test each platform to see how people respond to the types of content you share and your brand as a whole. You’ll find that you have different results based on your brand’s unique characteristics.

Post Unique Content to Each Channel

A mistake that many ecom brands make is to post the exact same content to all of their social media channels.

The first problem with this is that you may well have the same people following you on different social channels. Seeing the same content in multiple places with nothing to differentiate their experience can seem boring and predictable.

Furthermore, you’ll find certain content to be setter suited for a particular platform over your others based on your following and the way they consume the content of each.

Share your most important content across all of your channels, but change the headlines and copy you use to promote it. This also provides a great way to test a variety of copy to see which generates the best response.

Then be sure to add in some unique posts on each channel based on the platform.

For example, if your fashion brand was heading to an industry tradeshow, tweeting is a great way to provide quick snippets of inside info that don’t require much effort.

In the same day you could go live on Facebook to give an inside look into your operation or a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at your favorite vendor’s seasonal offerings. Finally, you could post a video highlight reel about your trip on Instagram or make a story along the way filled with unique insider content.

Host Giveaways

Another effective tactic to make the most of your ecommerce social media marketing is to host giveaways. Giveaways are just what they sound like, a free giveaway of a product/product set, and they’re a great way to increase exposure of your brand.

Get your following interacting for a chance to win your giveaway by sharing with their networks. The sharing continues to ripple outward as people that never knew about your brand learn about your giveaway from their friends.

If you don’t have much of an existing following or you want to kickstart your giveaway, test paid promotion of your giveaway. It’s important to make it feel like an organic post to encourage others to share. Paid promotions can feel salesy or gimmicky, so try to make it feel as authentic as possible.

Challenges

Challenges are another great way to drive exposure and build a community around your ecom brand. Let’s say you run an online supplement store. You could challenge your following and their networks to drink a green smoothie every day for 30 days to kickstart new healthy habits and a positive change to their daily regimen.

Your yoga clothing and accessories store could challenge people to post pictures of their “Pose of the Day” on Instagram and tag your brand.

There is a creative way to challenge your audience no matter your industry.

The important thing to remember is that you’ll likely need to incentivize people to take part. Offering a prize for everyone who completes the challenge is a great way to do so. You’ll also want to promote your challenge months before it starts and get people to sign up via email so you can keep in touch during the challenge.

These challenges give ecom brands the opportunity to dramatically increase their exposure in a way that feels organic and authentic. During the course of the challenge, those that stick with you will develop a trusted relationship with your brand and be far more likely to buy whatever it is you sell.

You can reach out to them via email during and after the challenge to offer special promotions for challenge participants and continue to provide value after the challenge ends.

We just so happen to have an comprehensive guide on designing your own challenge, so be sure to give it a read to see how challenges can benefit your brand.

Influencer Campaigns

The rise of social media and blogging has brought a new form of marketing along with it.

Influencer marketing is essentially the act of collaborating with the owners of popular blogs and social media accounts to expose your brand to their relevant audience. It’s not unlike big brands paying celebrities to use or promote their products, but unless you’re close with Lady Gaga, this is the next best thing.

There are a few important things to remember about reaching out to influencers to promote your brand.

Remain Authentic

Influencer marketing is only effective if the audience feels that the influencer is supporting your product with a genuine review. Your campaign should avoid selling and work to organically demonstrate the benefits of your brand rather than pitching a hard sell.

More than the Numbers

It’s also very important to understand that influencer marketing is about more than the size of the audience. Instead, focus on the relevancy.

One hundred relevant eyes is will be better than 100,000 eyes that could care less about your brand or that don’t necessarily trust the influencer. It’s more important that the influencer have a loyal following that looks to them for guidance than a massive following that doesn’t.

Develop a Strategy

Finally, it’s vital that you develop a strategy for your influencer marketing that you can incorporate into your big picture ecommerce marketing strategy. Just like this strategy, effective influencer marketing will require you to set goals and define metrics that you’ll use to monitor its success.

To learn more about how to make the most out of influencer marketing, be sure to read this thorough guide on influencer outreach.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing has been around for many years and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, with new ecom brands entering the marketplace every day it’s only becoming more popular.

Affiliate marketing is a bit of influencer marketing mixed with a bit of content marketing. Effectively, affiliates are entities that you partner with and pay for the relevant traffic they drive to your site for a percentage of the sales generated by said traffic.

These affiliates (typically bloggers) create content around topics related to your brand and link to your products/pages, getting a predetermined amount for every visitor/sale they send your way.

While it’s possible to reach out to potential affiliates on your own, the most common way for ecom brands to implement this tactic is through affiliate networks that broker and manage the whole process for all parties involved.

Before you get started be sure to read this article from Shopify to help you determine whether affiliate marketing represents a potential tactic for you to include as a part of your ecommerce marketing strategy and how to get started.

There’s no shame in reading the rest later.

Be sure to download this powerful guide so you can use it to create your own strategy.

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Chapter 6

Ecommerce Marketing Automation

One of the best things about running an ecommerce brand is that much of your business can be automated. Your marketing should be no different. Investing in tools to automate your marketing will allow you to focus more time, energy, and resources into growing your business.

Marketing automation allows you build systems to automate certain marketing processes, allowing you to market more efficiently in far less time. To help you decide whether marketing automation is right for your brand, be sure to read this article.

Once you decide whether or not you’re ready to invest in such a tool, you may run into the dilemma of which option is best for your enterprise. There are several platforms to choose from, but we’ve broken down the pros and cons of some of our favorites to help you decide which is the best fit for your business. Be sure to check out the marketing automation comparison for help.

Chapter 7

eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization

eCommerce conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is essential for optimizing your ROI, boosting sales, and maximizing profits. It will also help you to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Here are a few tips to help optimize your conversion rates and stay ahead of the pack.

Identifying Sticking Points (Friction)

One of the most effective ways to increase conversion is to identify sticking points, typically expressed by page or cart abandonment. Use your analytics platform to identify the pages that cause people to leave the site and work to relieve any confusing or frustrating features your users might be experiencing.

Sticking points are most commonly found in the checkout process, but they’re also common on the main site pages of many ecom sites. Here are a few tools to help you optimize your site’s user experience and conversion rates:

Google Analytics

If you’re not already using GA to monitor user behavior on your site, it’s pretty much the minimum requirement for conducting CRO. It provides a decent platform to begin analyzing your conversion metrics so that you can begin the process. It also has an “Experiments” feature that allows you to test for the best performing versions of your individual pages, a very effective way to continually be optimizing the performance of your site. Plus it’s free!

Kissmetrics

The next step up from Google Analytics is software like that from Kissmetrics that allows you to track individual user behavior rather than just pageviews. This gives you a clearer look into your customer’s journey through your marketing funnel.

Crazy Egg

CrazyEgg allows you to track user behavior on your individual pages with unique heatmap technology. This can show you where your users have hovered, clicked, and scrolled to better understand the way they interact with the features on your site.

Hotjar

Hotjar is another great tool that provides users with screen recording capabilities. This way you can see exactly what your users are doing when they get to your site to identify necessary optimizations.

Behavioral Analytics

Recent advances in analytics technology have brought on a development that will surely excite ecommerce marketers. Behavioral analytics allows you to integrate all of your data sources and get the answer to any marketing question in real time.

This can dramatically improve the way you conduct your marketing optimizations and we highly recommend a product tour to see how this investment could benefit your brand.

Optimizing for Profit and Sales

You can likely already identify some of your best selling products. You may even know which of your products are your most profitable. But are you treating them any different than the rest of your product range?

If you don’t already understand which of your products are your most profitable, start there. To be clear, we’re not talking about your bestsellers or your most popular items. We’re talking about the ones that have the most dramatic impact on your bottom line.

These won’t necessarily be the products that generate more profit per sale. Define those that generate the highest total profit (especially compared to the marketing dollars that you spend on promoting them), and use that information to guide your future marketing.

If you spend more promoting those items, what happens to your ROI?

We’d be willing to bet that you’d see more profits from putting more of your marketing budget behind your power hitters and taking it away from less popular items.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t promote those items. It just means that you have to find ways to tie them into the purchase path of your more popular items.

The point is to put your marketing budget behind the products that provide the higher return while finding creative ways to showcase your less popular items once visitors have made it to your site and are exposed to your brand.

These less popular items often represent excellent candidates for your recommended  products suggestions.

Additional/Suggested Items (Upsell)

Add recommended products to your Thank You page to resell shoppers right away. Sounds simple enough, right?

Take advantage of the momentum you’ve built with your new customer and show them items that pair with the things they just bought.  Studies show customers are 80% more willing to buy something again in the next few minutes.

You could even discount those items to create an offer they can’t refuse. After all, it didn’t cost you anything to acquire this would-be repeat customer the second time.

Repeat the Process on Their Order Confirmation Email

Just because they didn’t buy the items displayed on your Thank You page doesn’t mean that you should call it a day. Instead, show those items to your new customer a second time in their confirmation email.

The most effective way to do this is to use a software that allows you to automatically recommend items based on their purchases. Take advantage on their likelihood to buy again and you’ll be sure to see conversions increase.

Use Real Shoppers to Test Your Site

Testing the user experience of your site revolves around (you guessed it) the user. As such, it’s vital to use the experiences of real shoppers to make your optimizations. Approach all of your optimization activities from the perspective of someone who is completely unfamiliar with your brand and your site.

Using tools like those outlined above to watch your users as they interact with your site will provide you with an entirely new perspective on the challenges they face and what shoppers find to be truly important.

How you interpret your site and how your shoppers do will likely be very different.

Things that you think are important may prove to matter very little to those actually using it. Many shoppers just want to get in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible, so additional features and functionalities may just be getting their way.

The same can be said for graphics and copy. Keeping your site as simple as possible while providing your customers with everything they need should be your top priority.

Identify the goals of your shoppers, the processes necessary for them to accomplish those goals, and optimize your site to make them as efficient and engaging as possible.

It’s easy for shoppers to head elsewhere. Don’t give them a reason to do so.

Reduce Cart Abandonment

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As you already know, cart abandonment is effectively costing ecom brands nearly $2 trillion. Based on this stat, it’s probably safe to say that there are steps you should be taking to reduce cart abandonment on your site.

Studies have shown the 3 top reasons for customers abandoning their carts are:

  • Unforeseen costs
  • Complex checkout process
  • Page load times, errors, crashes

We’ve addressed all three of these issues in the section on building a conversion-optimized website. However, you should always be looking for ways to improve your customer’s experience to help reduce cart abandonment and increase conversions via the CRO tools listed in the previous section.

The Baymard Institute states that a 35% average conversion rate increase can be made possible simply by implementing an optimized checkout process.

For example, on your checkout page you could implement a pop-up offering a small discount if they complete the purchase in the following 5 minutes. It’s a highly effective way to create a sense of urgency and act on our natural instincts to avoid missing out on an opportunity.

Use the information found in the cart abandonment email section above to further reduce your abandoned carts and increase your conversion rate substantially.

Chapter 8

Off-Site Optimizations

While your business is digital at its core, not all of your marketing optimizations will be. While your ecommerce marketing strategy will revolve around your website, there are certain operational aspect of your business that can be optimized to increase conversions.

Guarantees

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Guarantees are tried-and-true tactics for establishing trust and increasing sales. Money-back guarantees take the pressure off of the decision-making process. If your product isn’t to their liking, the customer can return it for a full refund.

Guarantees help customers feel confident about the professionalism of your brand and the quality of your product. As we know, trust is the basis of all buying decisions and a single sentence of copy can dramatically increase orders, profits, and retention.

You’ll have to decide if guarantees are right for your business. A top-quality product marketed to a relevant audience won’t generate many returns and refunds.

However, if your brand has experienced quality control issues or problems with shoppers being unhappy with your products, you may decide to wait to implement a guarantee until you’ve worked out the aforementioned bugs.

Shipping

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Another great way to incentivize shoppers is with your shipping. Free shipping is every shopper’s dream, but it doesn’t make sense for many brands. If your brand can’t offer free shipping on every order, consider a minimum order value that would make that offer worthwhile.

“Free shipping” is another excellent way to make the buyer’s decision-making process much simpler. With free shipping, the price they see will effectively be the price they pay, meaning no need to calculate shipping costs and no unexpected fees.

Recently, JackThreads tried taking this concept one step further by letting their customers try on their products in their own home before paying. Their shoppers simply kept the items they wanted and sent the rest back within a week. They were charged for the items they kept and the rest were restocked for free.

Unfortunately for Jackthreads, this model didn’t manage to keep their brand from being sold and the policy being eliminated, but it’s the perfect example of the kinds of creative thinking that you should be implementing when redesigning your shipping policy.

There will be several factors that determine your shipping offer.  The closer you can get to offering free shipping, the easier your customer’s decision-making process will be and, given appropriate price adjustments where needed, the higher your sales and profits.

Logistics

Your fulfillment services, often referred to as a 3PL (third-party logistics provider), can play an important role in the way customers view your brand. If you’re completely satisfied with your existing provider, you still may be able to find ways to optimize your fulfillment process.

One of the most important things to consider is the time it takes for them to process orders. Same-day and next-day shipping are becoming more common. If your products are taking much longer to arrive than the other companies your customers are shopping with, they may begin to view your brand differently.

As a society of instant-gratification junkies we have become subconsciously programmed to expect to receive what we want when we want it. Do your best to keep up with or exceed your customer’s expectations around shipping times. You’ll find that a day or two can often make a huge difference.

Packaging

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You may not think of your packaging as marketing, but it certainly can be. For starters, the impression your product makes on your customer will play a big role in retention. If the package arrives in a simple, but fun and trendy custom package, the buyer is far more likely to feel special and look forward to their next purchase.

If the same product arrives in a standard postage box with a plain, 8 ½ by 11 printed receipt, the occasion won’t feel the same and your chance to make it memorable is all but lost.

Furthermore, every package can be shipped with instructions on how to leave a review of your product, how to share it on social, and so on. It’s a great way to gather user-generated content that you can use to empower your entire ecommerce marketing strategy.

Chapter 9

Customer Retention

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A recent study showed that existing customers are 50% more likely to try out your new products and spend up to 31% more than your new customers.

Needless to say, customer retention for ecom brands is vital for long-term success and growth. You can only advertise to the same audiences on the same platforms for so long before you start to see diminishing returns in the rate of new customer acquisitions.

The old adage of the cost to acquire each new customer being much higher than than the cost to keep an existing one is still more relevant than ever. In fact, in such a competitive market you should be doing everything you can to increase the lifetime value of your customers.

The best way to do that is by staying in touch with your customers and keeping them in a repeated purchase cycle. Here are a few of our favorite ways to do so:

Always Be in Contact

We cannot reinforce the importance of remaining in continuous contact after your customer has completed their purchase. It’s these regular touchpoints that keep your brand at top of mind and bring them back when they’re ready to buy again.

Continue to Provide Value

Continuing to provide value is the key to successful retention campaigns. You have information on their product preferences, their location, and more. Use this to customize campaigns for people in different parts of the country or those with similar buying habits.

Create content that these segments will find valuable as an extension of your retention marketing strategy. Your existing customers are more valuable and cost less, so why wouldn’t you put at least as much (if not more) of your marketing resources behind keeping them for the long haul?

Reselling

We already know that those that have purchased from you are more likely to do so again. Along with your valuable content, send recommendations for products they may like based on their order history and personal information.

Don’t be pushy. Instead, make personalized recommendations that feel like you’re looking out for their best interests because you know them so well. It’ll make your outreach far more effective.

Retention is a major component of developing a successful ecommerce marketing strategy. For more on retention marketing, be sure to read this article.

Chapter 10

Customer Service

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We can’t talk about retention without talking about customer service. Customer service plays an integral role in customer happiness in both the short and long terms. With the help of social media, disgruntled customers can rock the boat like never before.

Social Media Customer Service

eCommerce brands should be using social media to support their brand in as many ways as possible. One of the best ways is to integrate customer service channels into a specific Twitter handle or Facebook page so customers have an easy place to turn to for support.

Why?

For starters, a study from Bain & Company details how customers spend 20-40% more with companies that respond to customer service inquiries via social media.

But that’s not all.

Of 23,000 online consumers recently surveyed by JD Power, 67% said they had reached out via social media for support. Your customers are looking for help on social, so it’s important that you’re there to respond accordingly.

Social media customer service is cheaper, easier, faster, and more effective than most other customer service outlets too.

In fact, we feel so strongly about social media for customer service that we create this awesome guide on how to do it right. Enjoy!

Chatbots and AI

A prediction from Gartner states that customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a brand without having interacted with a single person.

Chatbots are giving brands the capability of providing instant customer service via word-recognition technology. This way shoppers receive concise answers to some of their most frequently asked questions in seconds rather than having to wait for a response from a human representative.

Even the most basic chatbots can greet customers and provide clarification of their issues, allowing human reps to focus on more complex interactions and highly demanding issues.

While brands like Nanorep are pioneering chatbot tech, the industry has exploded in the last few years and new providers are entering the market to meet the increasing need. This Entrepreneur article outlining the Top 10 Chatbot Providers is a good place to get started with your search.

Chapter 11

Next Steps

If you’ve made it this far there’s no doubt your head is buzzing with ideas on how you can start implementing the different parts of this guide to optimize your ecommerce business. Before you run off and get started, let’s get clear on something.

The purpose of this guide is to demonstrate the process of building a comprehensive ecommerce marketing strategy that will allow you to drive predictable, scalable growth for years to come.

We didn’t create this guide as a list of tips to help your ecom brand do a little better. Instead, we wanted to show you the way to completely overhaul the way you look at marketing and start you back at square one.

You have expertise in your industry and experience running your store, which will be highly valuable when you begin to create your strategy document.

You know more about what has worked well and what hasn’t.

You know what areas you need to focus on improving and what areas simply need a little polishing.

Throughout this guide we’ve listed several helpful resources that dive deeper into the individual sections. We highly recommend reading them as you create your strategy. Most of these resources outline the step-by-step processes to optimizing each important aspect of your overall ecommerce marketing strategy.

Now go back to the top and start at step one.

Define your personas and outline your goals. Then work your way through this guide section by section and outline the individual components of your strategy as you go. By the time you reach the bottom you’ll have created a substantial foundation from which you can work to build your brand to new heights.

Remember, this strategy document must become a living playbook. As you move forward you’ll be testing each element and revising your strategy doc to reflect your optimizations. While the strategy doc is your guide, don’t get stuck on doing something that doesn’t perform as well as it could. Instead, revise your doc after you’ve determined the optimal process.

You’re so close to marketing at your highest level.

Put in the time and resources to develop your ecommerce marketing strategy and you’ll find the results you generate are well worth the extra input.

Congratulations, you made it!

Now that you’ve finished the guide, be sure to download it so you can revert back to it later.

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