“If you build it, they will come” couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to eCommerce.
As many eCommerce merchants find out the hard way, without adequate marketing there is often a lengthy and sometimes interminable lack of traffic after they launch their site. Fortunately, marketing your eCommerce startup doesn’t have to be time consuming or hard. In fact, it can be quick and—dare I say it—fun. This guide will help you learn how to take your eCommerce startup marketing strategy from zero to hero.
Without marketing your eCommerce store, you’re not going to get a flood of traffic the moment you launch. A few decades ago, companies would extensively coordinate with PR agencies for months to spread the word and create buzz around a single launch date, but things are very different today. The digital age has given business owners the power to test, iterate, and take full control of their marketing strategies.
This gift, however, can also be a curse if done incorrectly. The burden of executing a successful marketing campaign for eCommerce startups begins well before the launch. Marketing must be integrated into everything, from your products to your business plan.
1. Pick the Perfect Product Selection
This is a section that most eCommerce owners are quick to glance over and mentally check off, but, if this step isn’t done correctly, it could undermine the rest of your marketing efforts.
Part of a good marketing philosophy requires you to have a product or service that is in demand. Sure, you might think you have a great product or service but, if others aren’t searching for you or in need of you, what’s the point?
In order to understand which products are in demand, it takes more than a good guess. The most successful eCommerce merchants usually have a knack for data and pattern analysis. This allows them to scope out trends in demand and get an advantage, of sorts, by being one of the first merchants in the marketplace.
2. Do Your Consumer Research
There are numerous places that can help you start your product selection search online. Here are a few:
- Trending items on Etsy.
- Amazon bestsellers.
- User communities such as Reddit to find conversations about products in demand directly from consumers. Shut Up and Take My Money is an excellent place to start.
- Trending categories on social media platforms such as Instagram, which can be organized through hashtag searches.
- Product curation accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest that are dedicated to providing their users product suggestions. A glance at the best performing posts will not only give you an idea which products are likely to be bought, but which ones also have a tendency to get shared on social media.
3. Set Up Your Shipping Infrastructure
Minus the obvious headaches of not being able to ship out your products to your customers or scaling your delivery with the growth of your business, there is a significant amount of marketing involved in your shipping infrastructure.
If planned beforehand, your delivery options can be leveraged in future marketing tactics. This is why it’s important to decide how you’re going to go about shipping, to avoid the headaches and reap the benefits.
- Are you making your own goods? While this affords you the greatest flexibility with shipping, it can be incredibly time-consuming. Scaling too quickly would also subvert much of your attention to try to keep up with demand and hiring staff to ensure order fulfillment.
- Are you drop shipping? While this may make product fulfillment and delivery much easier on your end, you ultimately lose control of your shipping options. The reliance on someone else’s inventory could cause inconvenient “Out of Stock” moments.
Once you know how you will be shipping your products, you can start to play around with “Free Shipping” and “Free 2 Day Delivery Upgrades” to test how doing so impacts your conversion rates on your page.
4. Outline Your Marketing Channels
There are millions of different marketing strategies and tactic combinations you can use to market your products, and each of them could be a home run. When planning out your marketing, it’s important to understand where your strengths are.
Keep in mind that marketing is an active process of iterating and analyzing data, so you will want to be building some flexibility into your marketing plans. Ultimately, you want to find the marketing channels that are giving you the highest return on investment (ROI).
It is also worth considering your timeline for your products. Do you have months you can spare without seeing any marketing returns, or do you need to see some short-term returns to justify the time and effort in your campaigns?
Some marketing strategies, such as SEO, can take months to years, to start seeing real results, but can result in a huge amount of traffic, whereas pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can bring traffic quickly but can often be prohibitively expensive to startups.
Your planning thus far is a great starting point, but you’re not quite done yet. Marketing your eCommerce startup requires actively updating and changing your plan, with a fundamental focus on investing more into the channels that are working for you and reducing your investments in channels that aren’t.
5. Outline Your SEO Strategy
As stated earlier, SEO can be an extremely powerful marketing strategy. Even though it could take some time, there are tactics you can utilize to start seeing results in a shorter timeframe. SEO is the industry standard for eCommerce startups and, without a good SEO strategy, you will be limited to mostly paid avenues that will eat into your profit margins.
While SEO strategies can get very hyper-specific and extensive, the goal is to rank for certain keywords that are getting some sort of search volume. You will want to conduct keyword research to help you find keyword opportunities that are not overly competitive.
You’ll likely stumble into several “long-tail” keyword opportunities that revolve around answering a question or search query. By creating content that caters to that specific question, not only will it help boost your site in search engines, but you will also provide value to your visitors by solving a problem.
A brief way to outline your SEO strategy involves:
- Doing keyword research that reveals keywords that are within range for your business.
- Creating content that caters to those keywords while simultaneously providing value to your audience.
- Building links that power your pages and help them climb through the rankings.
- Distributing your content to get more views and shares.
6. Create a Content Strategy
The focus of your SEO strategy should be to create blog and web content that targets specific keywords, and the goal of your content strategy is to cater to your SEO strategy, as well as build your brand by providing value to your customers.
A good on-page content strategy will make your site more competitive in the online arena by establishing your site as a helpful figure. Additionally, your content can be used in virtually every marketing channel to drive traffic to your site and product pages.
Creating a content strategy is essentially creating a plan for the creation of valuable content, a system of distributing it, and an internal infrastructure to use your content to reach your goals.
7. Plan Your Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing has been around for over 40 years, in some capacity, and it is a time-tested strategy for reaching specific audiences. Email not only allows you to communicate with your audience, but it also makes traffic retention much more possible.
The goal of your email marketing strategy is to influence conversions by opening a dialogue with your customers that adds some sort of value. This is why content plays a huge role in your email marketing strategy. This step involves strategically planning out your email marketing to reach your ultimate goal: making sales.
- Are you planning to do a weekly or monthly newsletter? Be sure to have a consistent schedule of valuable emails to send out, with an overarching goal to drive traffic to your lead, product, and blog pages.
- Are you planning to do a drip campaign? A drip campaign is essentially a series of emails aimed at persuading the recipient to act on a certain goal. Be sure to have extremely specific and visible calls to action to optimize the click-through rate of all your emails.
8. Pick Your Social Media Channels Wisely
Social media is one of the most effective and cost-efficient avenues for eCommerce startups, yet it can be quite tricky to fully utilize. Many eCommerce merchants get caught up in the wide array of social media platforms, only to realize that updating and engaging their audiences on each respective platforms takes an incredible amount of time.
There are social media automation tools such as Buffer that help you to automate your social media posts, and this can help keep your channels up to date. This leaves you more time to engage with your audience and get the most out of your social media strategy.
Merchants who are successful in leveraging social media are able to not only drive traffic to their site and make sales but build communities of loyal customers around their brands.
This step involves not only planning a social media strategy with the goal of increasing sales but, also, finding a way to engage and retain your audiences. First, find which social media channels your audience hangs out at. Observe how they interact and what they talk about.
Next, build a social media profile that is able to communicate with them while also being genuine to your brand. Social media is all about creating interesting content and engaging with your audience when appropriate.
9. Plan Your PPC Campaigns
Pay-per-click campaigns can be extremely effective ways to drive large amounts of traffic in much shorter periods of time than most other strategies—except they can get very expensive very quickly.
This is why it’s important to integrate paid campaigns in your holistic marketing endeavors to give some of your marketing strategies a boost when needed. For example, a landing page with a CTA to a drip email campaign could be promoted on Facebook to increase traffic to your site, collect emails, and, ultimately, influence sales.
10. Set Your Data Analysis Off on the Right Foot
Data analysis is one of the most critical components of a successful marketing strategy because it allows merchants to analyze the successes and failures of their campaigns. Additionally, merchants who are regularly analyzing their data can adjust accordingly without spending an excessive amount of time or money on strategies that aren’t as effective.
One of your first steps should be integrating Google Analytics or some sort of data analytics platform to your site. Next, you should outline which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be the best and most measurable to form the foundation of your analytics strategy.