Navigating Ecommerce Marketing with Strategies to Thrive in All Markets

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If you build it, they will come, or so the adage goes. 

However, marketing presents an exception to this rule. Without it, people won’t discover your business, learn about your products, or remember your brand. 

An effective digital marketing strategy is the lifeblood of any thriving ecommerce business, encompassing everything from website optimization and SEO to social commerce and PPC advertising.

Little wonder that ecommerce brands pour so much money into their marketing. In 2022, average marketing spending shot up from 6.4% of total revenue to 9.5% across all industries. 

For B2C brands, however, that figure runs closer to 15%

Each marketing channel serves a different purpose, from building brand awareness and establishing trust to acquiring new leads and closing sales.

Creating a successful ecommerce marketing strategy

A successful marketing strategy requires thorough market research, establishing a presence on the right channels, and leaning into data-driven decision-making.

Setting objectives and defining KPIs.

Ecommerce marketing tactics help achieve business goals. Define these goals first, whether it’s increasing revenue, expanding market share, or launching new products. Objectives provide direction and purpose, while KPIs are yardsticks for measuring progress toward your goals.

For each objective, determine the KPIs for measuring progress.

  • Goal: Increase online sales by 20% in the next six months.

  • KPIs: Total sales revenue, conversion rate, average order value.

  • Goal: Boost website traffic by 30% in three months.

  • KPIs: Unique website visitors, page views, bounce rate, organic search traffic.

  • Goal: Improve customer retention by increasing repeat purchases by 15% in one year.

  • KPIs: Customer retention rate, repeat purchase rate, customer lifetime value.

Identifying the target audience.

A blanket approach to marketing will alienate your customers. Study your target audience to understand their online shopping habits. 

Start by examining your current customer database. Identify shared characteristics such as demographics (age, gender, location), behaviors, and purchase history.

Develop detailed buyer personas — fictional representations of your ideal customers. What is their typical buying journey? Why would they choose you over a competitor, or vice versa? Combine analytics from your website and social media channels to enrich your CRM data. 

Conducting market research.

Look beyond your internal customer data and survey the market at large. Market research provides a rich information source regarding your target audience, industry, and competitors to guide your ecommerce marketing strategy. 

Standard data-gathering methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and online research. Alternatively, outsource market research to a specialized firm. 

Here’s an overview of what market research entails:

  • Competitive analysis: Learn about competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning. 

  • Customer surveys: Ask about customer preferences, pain points, and product feedback. 

  • Industry trends: Understand market dynamics and emerging technologies that could impact an ecommerce business. 

  • SWOT analysis: Identify internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats. 

  • Pricing strategies and distribution channels: Research pricing strategies across the industry and determine the ideal distribution strategy (eg: ecommerce website and third-party marketplaces). 

Selecting channels.

With innumerable marketing channels to choose from, online businesses must prioritize those most likely to reach their target customer. This means establishing a presence in their favorite online habitats (eg: Facebook or Instagram) and using their preferred mode of communication (eg: email campaigns versus SMS alerts).

Next, consider the nature of your product. Some products may be better suited to specific channels. For example, visually appealing lifestyle products might excel more on Instagram, while technical products may benefit from content marketing or email campaigns.

Strategies for A/B testing.

Websites, emails, ads, and other marketing collateral require constant iteration. A/B testing is a method for comparing two or more versions of a deliverable —  say, an ad creative — to determine which one performs best in terms of chosen metrics (eg: conversion rate or click-through rate). 

Here are examples of A/B tests ecommerce businesses commonly undertake:

  • Landing page testing: Experiment with variations in product images, descriptions, CTAs, and overall layout to see which combination yields conversion rate optimization. Ensure websites are optimized for mobile devices.

  • Product descriptions: Test different product descriptions, headlines, and product copy. 

  • Pricing and promotions: Try out pricing strategies (eg: discounts, bundling, or tiered pricing) to maximize revenue while satisfying customers. 

  • Digital advertising: Test ad creatives, ad copy, headlines, and formats for paid advertising campaigns (eg: Google Ads, Facebook ads). 

  • Product visuals:Test different product images, including angles, zoom options, and lifestyle images, to see which drives more sales. 

Planning for customer retention.

Retention ensures recurring revenue and is more cost-effective than new customer acquisition. Loyal shoppers are more likely to make repeat purchases and shout their love for your brand from the rooftops.

Set retention goals, such as increasing customer lifetime value, reducing churn rate, or boosting repeat purchases. Exceptional customer service is a cornerstone of retention. Ensure your support team is responsive, knowledgeable, and empathetic. 

Most importantly, personalize the customer experience. Personalized emails, product recommendations, and offers based on preferences and past behavior reward loyal customers. 

Analyzing data and reporting.

Data analysis provides insights into the health of your marketing efforts, spotlights trends, and informs decision-making. Start by identifying the most business-critical metrics. 

Common KPIs include conversion rate, revenue, customer acquisition cost (CAC), and average order value (AOV). Gather data from various sources, including website analytics, ecommerce platforms, email marketing tools, advertising platforms, and CRM systems. 

Allocating budget.

Decide the total budget allocated to marketing. Consider factors such as business size, revenue, and available labor. Generally, established online retailers spend less on marketing as a percentage of their revenue, simply because they’re more profitable. 

Reviewing and adjusting the plan.

Finetune your strategy based on what the data tells you. Say a product launch fails or a campaign comes across as tone-deaf. Be prepared to pivot. Monitor KPIs regularly to verify you’re on target. 

Email open rates, website bounces, and click-through rates require regular tracking. PPC ads must be checked daily: adjust copy and daily ad spend or swap out creatives to attain the highest conversions.

Beyond making these simple tweaks, pay attention to customer feedback, reviews, and social media mentions. Review your website’s conversion funnel to identify drop-off points. Identify recurring issues or concerns and address them in your ecommerce marketing plan.

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Types of ecommerce marketing strategies

From social media to email marketing and paid advertising, digital marketers must understand the purpose, audience, and limitations of each marketing channel. 

Direct marketing through email and SMS.

Remember when you used to get unsolicited mailers in the post? Today, direct marketing has gone digital. Businesses send promotional messages, newsletters, and product updates via email or SMS automation. 

The key to success is generating leads to build a list of subscribers who opt-in to receive communications from your business.

Segment the email list based on demographic, behavioral, and engagement factors. Implement automated email sequences (drip campaigns) triggered by specific user actions or events, such as welcome emails, abandoned cart reminders, or post-purchase follow-ups. 

SMS requires a slightly different approach. Since you can’t include images or other media, use it only for time-sensitive notifications or offers.

Paid advertising (PPC).

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads appear in search engine results and websites. Advertisers bid on product- or industry-related keywords. When users search for those keywords on search engines or visit related websites, ads from the highest bidders are displayed. 

PPC ad platforms include search engines — Google Ads and Bing Ads are considered popular — and social media platforms such Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  

Organic search (SEO).

Search engine optimization boosts website visibility, making search engine algorithms more likely to surface the website in search results. 

A page ranked in the No. 1 spot is 10 times more likely to be clicked than a page in the No. 10 spot, per a study by Backlinko. 

Here are the key elements of an SEO strategy:

  • Keyword research: Use keyword research tools to identify keywords and phrases potential customers use to search for your products. 

  • On-page SEO: Optimize product descriptions, meta tags, URLs, and header tags using target keywords. Ensure product images are labeled and optimized for search. 

  • Off-page SEO: Improve technical aspects of your website, such as site speed, mobile responsiveness, security (HTTPS), and XML sitemaps. Insert plenty of backlinks and ensure your website's code is clean and search engine-friendly.

  • Content creation: Blog posts, buying guides, and how-to articles will attract organic traffic and establish your site as an authority in your niche. 

  • Site navigation: A user-friendly website with logical navigation makes it easier for users and search engine crawlers to understand your site’s purpose.

Content marketing.

Content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable, engaging content to attract customers, reduce shopping cart abandonment,  and drive ecommerce sales.

It's a strategic approach to providing useful information, entertainment, or education to your target audience while subtly promoting your products or brand. Blog posts, podcasts, social media posts, abandoned cart emails, and user-generated content (UGC) are all examples of content to create.

Affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is a performance marketing strategy where an affiliate (an influencer, business, or publisher) promotes a product on a company’s behalf in exchange for sales commissions. 

For example, a food blogger might link to your cookware product page in a recipe. If a reader clicks the link and buys an item, the blogger receives a commission from that sale. 

Affiliate networks broker relationships between businesses seeking promotion and suitable affiliates. Each affiliate gets a unique affiliate link or tracking code, enabling merchants to attribute sales to them. 

Affiliates can promote the partner merchants’ products in blog posts, social media posts, email campaigns, or reviews. 

Social media marketing.

Social media marketing involves both paid ads and organic content. Businesses can leverage the reach and interactivity of social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to engage customers and build brand awareness by releasing a steady stream of content and including hashtags.

Word-of-mouth marketing.

Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing occurs when a brand wows a customer to such an extent that they tell their friends and family. Happy customers will share their positive experiences with others, refer friends and family, and write positive reviews.

They may even post about their experience on social media with user-generated content. This provides valuable social proof — the notion that your business has been “vetted” and approved by other shoppers.

Recommendations from peers are highly trusted and carry more weight than traditional advertising. Encourage customers to become brand advocates by offering a standout user experience and establishing WOM triggers — tapping into people’s emotions, creating a referral program, or creating a remarkable visual experience that induces customers to take photos and share them on social media. 

Influencer marketing.

Influencers often have access to niche audiences that brands covet. Brands can collaborate with well-known “taste-makers” or trendsetters to promote their products to a captive audience that already trusts the influencer. 

According to Hubspot, 30% of consumers report that influencer recommendations are one of the most important factors in their purchasing decisions.

Influencers are skilled content creators who can produce high-quality, engaging content for brands while being mindful of what their audience wants. 

International ecommerce marketing strategies

To reach a global audience, you must localize your product offerings, messaging, and overall marketing strategy to suit the tastes and customs of each target country. 

Localize content and translate languages.

Be mindful of the prevailing tastes, expectations, and customs of your audience’s locale. Truly global brands adapt their product mix, marketing tactics, and messaging to each target country. 

For example, audiences in countries with limited broadband internet might be unable to use location services reliably or watch 4K videos.  

Translate your website content to the local language, including product descriptions, category pages, and user interface elements. Ensure all text, buttons, and labels are accurately translated. Change product images, colors, or graphics to align with local preferences and customs.

Understand currency and payment methods.

Display product prices in the local currency. If your ecommerce platform supports it, consider offering multi-currency functionality that lets customers switch between currencies. 

Adjust pricing to reflect local market conditions, factoring in taxes, import duties, and competitor pricing. Additionally, investigate the most popular payment methods for different locales.

Know shipping and logistics.

International shipping is a complex logistical endeavor involving shipping regulations, customs procedures, and taxes or import fees for each target destination.

Partner with a reliable shipping company that understands customs regulations and documentation requirements for each target country. Set expectations for international delivery times and account for the time needed for customs clearance. 

Master local market dynamics.

Conduct thorough market research to understand the competitive landscape, social and cultural norms, and consumer expectations, including their ideal checkout process.

Adhere to import-export regulations.

Import-export regulations can introduce unexpected costs, limit what types of products you can sell, or impose quotas on imports. 

Keep detailed records of all export transactions — invoices, shipping documents, and customs declarations — which may be required for compliance and auditing. 

Implement global SEO practices.

When you translate your website into another language, you must target the relevant SEO keywords to ensure your website is discoverable in other countries. Conduct keyword research for each target market and use them for on-page and off-page optimization, and choose a URL structure for your website that facilitates international SEO.

Additionally, don’t forget to implement hreflang tags on your website —  this HTML attribute tells search engines what language your website content is written in.

Use geo-targeting techniques.

Geo-targeting lets you deliver localized content based on a user’s IP address. Display country-specific websites with localized product offerings, currency and pricing, payment methods, contact information, and customer support based on the user’s geolocation. 

You can also configure the ecommerce store to display region-specific banner ads or messaging announcing local promotions, events, or product launches. 

Provide multilingual customer support.

Identify the most prevalent languages spoken by your target customers. Focus on markets with the highest demand. Recruit support reps fluent in the languages you intend to support or implement a multilingual chatbot. 

Note that you must hire support reps for necessary escalations if the bot can’t resolve an issue. Offer support through multiple channels, including email, live chat, phone, and social media. 

Finally, establish a multilingual knowledge base or FAQ section on your website to help with customer support.

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The final word

Ecommerce marketing is a complex beast that yields manifold rewards if you get it right. Cultivating a thorough understanding of your customer base is essential to ensuring you use on-point messaging, meet customers in their preferred channels, and provide offerings that convert. 

This feat becomes more convoluted for businesses venturing into international markets, where localization is critical. Consider hiring local experts to give you localized marketing tips and undertake end-to-end market research for each market you intend to enter. 

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