Online shopping isn’t just the future. It’s also the present.
If you have an e-commerce business, the online shopping trend will qualify as the good news. The bad news is that you’re not alone. E-commerce is booming, which means a lot of companies vying for the limited attention and budgets of online users.
In this guide/list, we’re going to cover the strategies that your business should be using to kick ass and take names in the online space.
1. Plan Before You Start
Before you begin on your marketing journey, it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going. First, come up with a set of goals and then a marketing strategy to achieve those goals. Prioritize tasks for your team and create a rough schedule so that your team focuses on getting things done. Having this plan to refer to constantly will help to keep your marketing organized and on track.
Just remember not to write your plan in stone. Firstly, how would you even do that? You’d need to get a sculptor on the payroll and moving the stone from office to office would be a logistical nightmare.
Secondly, while it’s important to have a strategy to guide you, you should never feel beholden to it. Plans change all the time, and the best marketers are reactive, adjusting their plans as new data becomes available.
Try and do that with stone.
2. Know Your Enemy
Okay, a slightly dramatic headline but “Research Your Market” just doesn’t get the blood pumping in the same way. Whatever you want to call it, knowing more about your competitors and the market itself is going to be incredibly valuable to any business.
For example, are you aware of what your competitors are doing on social media? Have you signed up to their mailing list? Have you used Google Keyword Planner to discover the keywords they’re using and the gaps you can exploit?
To conduct research on the wider market, there are plenty of tools to assist. You could run a survey, use a tool like MakeMyPersona to define your target demographic, and even search Reddit or Quora to find what your audience is interested in.
Knowledge is power.
And power is money.
And money is cool.
Get started with:
Google Alerts – Tool for monitoring mentions
Topsy – Tool for monitoring Social Media
SeoBook – Tool for Competitive Research & Keyword Research
SimilarWeb – A tool for web rankings
What Runs Where – A tool for monitoring ads
Simply Measured – A little bit of everything
Ahrefs – A tool for backlinks
3. Create a Memorable Brand
If your brand was a person, would people adore him/her? Or would they risk being run over just to not be on the same side of the road as you?
More than likely your business is somewhere in the middle. But it’s never too late to start nudging your customers towards a more positive view of your brand. How to create a strong impression could be a guide all on its own as it encompasses so many different things. From how you engage on social media, to your designs and logo, to your customer service, and especially the content you send out into the world.
Everything adds up to the overall perception, so define what you’d like that to be and then take steps to filter that message through all of your customer interactions.
4. Find Your Personal Story
Speaking of branding, you can’t sell your brand when you don’t know what your authentic story is. Humans communicate, learn, and remember through storytelling. If your company makes cool stuff, that stuff better be *flames emoji* if you don’t have a compelling story to go with it.
A powerful story will explain your company and products better. It will win customers because they will be drawn into your brand like when they’re reading a good book. It will give people a reason to care.
It’s a lot harder to sell to something to someone that doesn’t care. I should know, I just tried to sell an eBook to my mom.
5. Create Original Content
Content marketing is a great way to build a relationship with your customer through helpful guides, eBooks, articles, videos, infographics, etc. Add real value to your customers, and they will reward you with their continued engagement.
But if the bulk of your content marketing is produced by other companies, you’re missing a big opportunity. Your customers will notice that they’re being served a reheated microwave meal instead of a dish made just for them. Creating your content from scratch, with your customers and brand considered in every decision, is going to yield better content and results.
To get the most out of your content marketing budget, research and write about a topic and then use that information in a variety of ways. Write an article, make a video about the topic, create an infographic from it, use part of the infographic in an email, etc.
Be original or be forgotten.
These articles might help:
6. Build an Email Marketing Campaign
Email marketing has a perception problem. Even you, the reader of this guide, are probably not a fan of email marketing. That’s because most marketing is awful. It isn’t personalized, it doesn’t add value, and it’s often sloppily delivered.
But there are e-commerce stores that put in the effort and the results can be extraordinary. In most cases, when you want to connect with your customers, they have to come to you. Email gives you the opportunity to knock on their virtual door. Don’t waste it.
Focus on what your target audience would like to receive and then create a marketing funnel to automate the process based on how the customer engages with the emails. If a customer is opening your emails, consider sending emails more often, and extending other avenues of engagement.
If a customer isn’t opening your emails, try a different approach. Make the subject lines more compelling, offer even more valuable content (like a free giveaway), and slow down the sending of emails, so they don’t feel like they’re being pestered.
If your emails still aren’t being opened, look on the bright side, maybe they’re just on an extended vacation.
Also check out:
7. What Do We Want? Contextual Marketing!
When do we want it? Now!
Contextual marketing is when information on a potential customer is collected and this data is used to provide them with messaging relevant to their needs. The applications are endless, but the fundamental aim is to give people what they want at that moment.
Contextual information could be merely a location, like an ad campaign that changes models from country to country to better represent the local population. It could include browsing history, like being presented with ads for jackets after looking at jackets in an online store.
Actually, come to think of it, I could do with a new jacket. Do you hear me, internet? I need a new jacket!
Okay, so contextual marketing doesn’t work in Microsoft Word yet. But give it time…
More on Contextual Marketing:
8. Be Human
Automation is necessary for e-commerce stores to connect with their customers. This is a fact. But just because robots are helping to send out our marketing doesn’t mean we can’t still set up our these systems with personalization in mind.
A simple example would be a process to capture user names so that when you’re reaching out to a customer, you can use their actual name. It will users feel like they’re communicating with another human being…even when they’re not.
Think of other ways to make a personal connection, like sending best wishes on their birthday. These small measures can quickly add up to authentic customer loyalty.
Just make sure that you don’t cross a line by making it too personal. Nobody wants to get a message saying, “the new paint job on your garage looks great. Can’t wait to see what you do next.”
9. Schedule Your Social Media Posts
Social media goes together with e-commerce like peanut butter goes with jelly. Note we didn’t say “Twitter” or “Facebook.” That’s because you should be on as many social media platforms as possible.
Even an unhip and unhappening place like Google+ needs your presence. For a start, someone must be using it, but also there are benefits that you may not realize. In this case, the fact that your SEO will receive a boost with a Google+ account linked to your business.
So set up accounts on as many platforms as possible. Then, so the task of posting content isn’t overly time-consuming, create an automatic social media schedule. There are several platforms like Hubspot and Hootsuite that allow you to input your posts (for the week, or even month) and set when to post them on the various social media accounts.
Don’t think this means you can automate the entire social media management experience. You still want to be able to post reactively and respond personally to followers, but automating the bulk of your content marketing will save your business a lot of time.
There’s plenty of tools for Social Media:
10. A/B Test Everything
Even the most experienced marketers are not mind-readers. A/B testing is what companies use to determine which option is the most effective. What can you test?
Placement of a Call To Action button on a landing page.
Different web copy.
Your checkout process.
Your email subject.
Whether your new cargo shorts were a good idea.
Basically, you can test almost anything and you should. And once you’ve tested two options and settled on one, create a new option and test again. And again.
A/B test your A/B tests. And then A/B test those A/B tests. And then…
11. Use Video Marketing
Video is blowing up in the e-commerce space and is becoming a channel that businesses ignore at their peril. Studies have demonstrated that people simply prefer watching video content over reading text. They are also more likely to make a purchase after seeing a video showing the product in action. Video is everywhere from landing pages, company YouTube channels, and email embeds. Even your Facebook feed is 90% cat videos at this point.
Creating video content can be expensive and time-consuming but there are an increasing number of video making tools that can produce high-quality content on a limited budget. Clipman is a perfect example of a tool that anyone can use to effortlessly expand their marketing into the video realm.
We have written some lovely articles on this topic:
12. Hire a Professional Photographer
Online marketing is such a visual medium these days, especially with channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. If you can make a strong visual impression instantly, you’ll be able to sell more product.
I know, I know. With an iPhone in your hand, it feels like you’re the second coming of Mario Testino. Maybe one day the world will see in your photographs what you see, but until then hire someone who knows how to use light and angles to make your product look as incredible as possible.
Then turn these photographs into compelling designs for use in all your marketing and advertising channels. This professional touch will make your products and brand irresistible.
13. Cater for Different Languages
Es nervt echt, das hier nicht zu verstehen, oder?
Oh, you can’t speak German? It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Consider your customers who may not speak English as their first language. Do you really want the checkout process to be more difficult than it needs to? To introduce uncertainty and potentially lose sales?
Of course not. So make sure that your store offers the option to change languages on your e-commerce pages. Most platforms like Woocommerce, Shopify, and WordPress include language pack extensions so there’s no excuse not to communicate with your customers in a language that they can understand.
14. Encourage Product Reviews
With information at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that people very rarely buy blind anymore. People will now check for reviews of a product before making a purchase. The difficulty is that when someone feels compelled to write a review, it’s normally because they’ve had a bad experience.
If your product only has six reviews on a review site and four of them were from angry customers, then the perception is going to be negative, even if they are the only angry customers you’ve ever had.
To counter this, you should make it easy for customers to write reviews. In fact, you should have a policy where you encourage grateful customers, after thanking them, to consider taking a moment and leaving a review.
Customers who have a good experience, and who are brand loyal, will want to help spread the word. Just make sure you provide an obstacle-free path to praising your product/service/brand, and soon the rave reviews will drown out the naysayers.
15. Keep Engagement Up
Speaking of customers who feel positive about your brand, a big part of engaging your audience is to get them involved in your business. That doesn’t mean giving your regular customer, Billy, the admin password to your website. It just means that you should value customer input and seek out peripheral ways that they can contribute.
For instance, you could ask them their opinion on minor product choices (like picking a design out of several choices to be produced). You could create contests for people to send in their own content, which you can then share. You could even build advertising campaigns around a hashtag that people will want to use.
The more a user engages with your brand, the more you’ll sell.
Looking for more tips?
16. Encourage Brand Advocates
If you already have a strong brand and are successfully generating engaging content, you’re going to naturally be converting customers into supporters. Supporters don’t just like your products; they love everything that your brand stands for. They have a brand crush and want to tell the world about it.
If that sounds creepy, then it’s time to embrace creepy because supporters advocating on behalf of your brand is an incredible thing for any business. 75% of people are more likely to try a product for the first time if someone recommends it to them, so word of mouth advertising is as valuable as it gets.
So encourage supporters to keep creating exciting content, opening lines of communication, and acknowledging those who take the time to advocate for your brand. If they already have a crush on your brand, imagine what a thank you message, or a gift card would do.
17. Monitor Your Reputation
You’re selling product and gaining followers but what do your customers really think about you? Thanks to tools like Google Alerts, SocialMention, and Technorati in just a few clicks you can find mentions of your brand or product online.
If you do that prepare yourself – you may see some really negative things being said about your brand. Before you go ahead and create a hit list, which can be very expensive – hitmen don’t come cheap – let’s first try to view these negative comments as an opportunity to fix a problem.
If you’re friendly and able to help you may be able to resolve the problem. A lot of times, customer anger is fueled when they think the company doesn’t care about them. Show you do care and you may just have a customer for life.
At the very least your efforts may impress the other people on the forum/thread and convince them that your brand cares about the experiences of your customers.
18. Put a Face on Your Business
Human beings connect with other human beings.
Except for Mike. But he’s a bit strange.
Businesses can take advantage of this genetic coding by simply stepping out from the shadows.
When you post blog articles, include a photo and some information about the employee who wrote it. Create a team page on your site. Encourage staff to interact with customers under their own names. Convince the CEO, founder, and other company leaders to spend time in the spotlight talking about the company and their roles.
When customers get to see the people working for the brand, they will instinctively trust it more.
Unless they see Mike. Keep him in the shadows.
19. Be Responsive to Mobile
Life is too short to pinch and zoom your way through an online store. In this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for an e-commerce site that isn’t optimized to display perfectly on all devices. The term for a website that can display just as well on your mobile device as your laptop is called a “responsive layout”.
Customers expect e-commerce sites to look great. If you’re making your visitors pinch and zoom, then you’re going to struggle with a high bounce rate. More and more web traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets, so this is an audience you cannot ignore.
The first step towards a responsive layout is first being responsive to the needs of your customers.
20. Survey Your Customers
The availability of data is key to running a successful e-commerce store. Businesses that assume they know their customers inside and out are operating with one hand tied behind their back.
Today there’s no need to guess or visit the local fortune teller. If you want to find out what your customers think, simply ask them to fill out a survey. Doing so means you can get feedback on everything from delivery methods, product quality, brand identity, and content marketing. There are plenty of survey platforms like SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo that make it easy to poll customers and the general public alike.
The answers may contain some valuable insights. But even if it just confirms what you already suspected, at least you can rest assured that you aren’t investing time and money into a losing strategy.
21. Analyze This
Speaking of knowing what your customer thinks, you should also know what your customer does. Sure, you could use the old method of hiring private detectives to stake out your customers but who has the time and budget for that anymore?
Instead, you can use a variety of analytics and tracking tools to find out exactly how your customers are interacting with your e-commerce store. Everything from heat maps to conversion funnels, and in some cases even visual recordings of users interacting with your social media, emails, advertising, and website are possible.
If you own an e-commerce store and ever find yourself making a decision based on a guess; you’re doing it wrong.
What should you measure? Have a look at:
22. Create Multiple Stores
The beauty of an online store is that you only need one to serve the entire world. Well, yes and no.
With the proliferation of popular e-commerce platforms, there are audiences that you might be missing out on. It’s a bit like a popular mall for brick and mortar stores, which has the traffic that you can convert into customers. Thankfully, setting up a store on these platforms is considerably easier.
Which platforms should you set up an online store for? All of them. Don’t discriminate, give your business the best opportunity to be found by new customers.
Creating several stores on the likes of Amazon, Magneto, Facebook, and Etsy will boost your exposure and your bottom line.
23. Setup a Loyalty Program
Raise your hands in the air if you like free stuff. Now wave them like you just don’t care!
To reward your customers for their continued support (via sales) you should consider setting up a program designed to make these customers feel special. They could get first access to new products, discounts, giveaway, and anything that adds value over and above what regular customers receive.
This is a great way to firm up relationships with your most important customers and ensure that they keep coming back.
Have a piece of motivation:
24. Include a Retargeting Strategy
One of the most effective forms of online advertising is retargeting. When activated, if someone visits your site and leaves they’re about to feel like they can’t quit you. This is because they now have ads following them around the web, trying to encourage a return to the site or product page. If they return, the odds of them making the purchase this time are greatly improved, which is why retargeting is such a valuable tool.
It’s important to be as specific with the retargeting as possible, so if they were looking at a pair of jeans the retargeting ad shows them the same jeans, or at least takes them back to the jeans category section of the site.
Just be aware that heavy-handed retargeting can make customers feel bullied and stalked. Create retargeting that uses different messaging and where impressions are limited so that the user isn’t left shouting, “I get it! You want me to buy your jeans. But I don’t want your damn jeans. Just leave me alone!”
Do it right:
25. Use the Power of Pixel
Facebook ads are a staple of e-commerce advertising campaigns and the secret to squeezing out as much ROI as possible is a little line of code called a pixel.
The conversion-tracking Facebook pixel can be placed on your site to gather important data about conversions and your visitors. If you add the Facebook pixel onto your site at least weeks before a Facebook ad campaign, it can gain insights about your audience and then optimize your campaign to connect with people more likely to convert.
Will a step-by-step guide help?
Let the Ass-Kicking Begin
That’s the end of our guide. Do you feel motivated? Do you feel inspired?
Or do you feel overwhelmed?
If it all seems a bit much, realize that you don’t have to take everything on at once like Neo in Matrix Reloaded. Focus on the steps that will have the greatest impact, or the ones that are easiest to implement, and just start checking them off one-by-one.
With each implementation you will be one step closer to maximizing the potential of your online e-commerce business.