The ecommerce industry is one of the largest markets in the world. Now made up of over 26 million companies, it is estimated that by 2024, the market will be worth a staggering $6.7 trillion – with no signs of slowing down.
It’s unsurprising really. In our increasingly fast-paced lives, we’ve come to rely on ecommerce for speed, efficiency, and convenience. We can shop everything from skincare to household goods from the comfort of our homes, and have them arrive at our doorsteps in less than 24 hours.
So how do ecommerce companies even begin to cut through the noise in this immensely competitive space?
The answer: ecommerce marketing.
What is ecommerce marketing?
Ecommerce marketing summarizes the promotional activities used by companies to achieve three main goals:
- Drive traffic to online store and websites
- Convert that traffic into sales
- Retain customers post-purchase
Fundamentally, ecommerce marketing comes down to moving customers through the purchase funnel. Using a mix of online and offline activities, ecommerce marketing captures customer interest at the awareness stage (identifying their challenges and finding solutions) and nurtures that interest until it becomes an action (purchase of a good or service). Great ecommerce marketing will extend far beyond initial action to encourage and foster repeat-purchase and long-term loyalty.
So what might these activities look like? Truth is, there are many great ecommerce marketing tactics out there, but they can generally be grouped into six core areas:
- Paid Search
- Social media
- Email marketing
Let’s break them down.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making improvements to a website to increase its visibility on search engines. This includes optimizing specific pages for key search terms, ensuring a quick overall load time, and enhancing the experience of a website with rich, link-worthy content.
SEO is a crucial exercise for ecommerce companies if they want to cut through the noise. Research shows that websites holding the number one spot on the search engine results page (SERP) receive an estimated 34% of clicks, followed by 17% at second place, and 11% at third.
Fundamentally, SEO is a vital cog in the ecommerce marketing machine. It’s especially important for capturing customers at the awareness stage of their buying journey, while they are still identifying their challenge and discovering the solution they are looking for.
2. Paid Search
Building from SEO, paid search is another tactic for improving visibility on search engines. It involves companies paying search engines to place their ads above organic search terms on the SERP.
Quick and easy, this avenue is typically used by brands looking to drive high traffic volumes in short time scales, or gain quick advantage over competitors. It’s also beneficial for boosting wide scale brand awareness, keeping your brand name top of mind for customers.
Of course, it wouldn’t be paid search without a cost involved. And for high volume keywords, cost per click (CPC) can end up climbing pretty high. If budget allows, paid search certainly has its value but should be carried out alongside comprehensive SEO. You want to be assured that if your paid budget runs dry, you won’t drop off of Google’s SERP entirely!
A key driver of online traffic (predominantly due to its intertwined relationship with SEO) is high-quality content. Providing rich, informative content for users not only establishes a brand's authority on a certain topic, but builds authenticity, trust, and, importantly, loyalty.
Content marketing can be used to reach customers at each stage of the purchase funnel, from broad industry advice (top of funnel) to introductions to new products and upgrades (bottom of funnel).
Content marketing is also a great way to communicate brand personality. You can highlight your tone of voice and use eye-catching design to increase your brand’s salience with your customer.
4. Social Media
Social media is becoming an increasingly popular channel for ecommerce brands. Previously an avenue simply to drive traffic to websites with links, all major social media platforms are now fully equipped with shopping integrations and tools allowing users to browse products and make purchases without leaving their social media apps.
As the capabilities of ad targeting continue to become more and more granular, social media advertising is also a brilliant way to reach new audiences. Advanced analytics tools offer brands in-depth insight into how their customers are responding to them, and two-way communication makes these platforms an excellent bedrock for building communities.
5. Email Marketing
As an extremely effective marketing strategy for retaining customers and building brand community, email marketing involves sending personalized communications straight into the inboxes of your customers. This might include updates on new product launches, discount codes, feedback surveys, or simply upgrades on general business updates and new company directions.
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With the ability to get super personal with content, email marketing is a great strategy for generating loyalty and encouraging repeat purchases. It’s also a popular tool used to tackle cart abandonment (a significant issue for ecommerce companies). It’s estimated that of the 20% of customers who click through their cart abandonment emails, 50% go on to complete their purchase.
Public relations (PR) concerns all activities associated with a brand's external image and reputation. This could include publicity events, public press briefings, news announcements, giveaways, or thought leadership articles placed in reputable publications.
Aside from huge brand recognition and reputational benefits offline, PR can help drive website traffic and sales in a number of key ways:
- Enhanced brand awareness drives more direct traffic to your site
- Backlinks included on high quality online publications gives a significant boost to organic SEO
- Credibility from coverage included in reputable publications improves customer trust, a crucial element of increasing online sales
Given its prime focus on brand awareness, PR is hugely beneficial at the beginning of a company's journey. Before there is a big budget for wider marketing initiatives, it’s a great way to build initial recognition and interest with your target audience. As a company grows, there is scope to go bigger and better with PR activity; hosting events, launching new products and positioning your subject matter experts (SMEs) as thought leaders within your industry.
7. Influencer Marketing
While the six ecommerce marketing strategies shared above are long-standing and well-established, in recent years there’s been a new kid on the block.
What evolved from celebrity endorsements and product placements has grown to become influencer marketing. No longer confined to sporting legends and movie stars, influencer marketing involves partnering with any influential person to endorse or promote your products online – from ex-reality TV stars to everyday customers and brand ambassadors.
By blending components of social media, content marketing, and PR, influencer marketing has proven to be a huge driver of sales for ecommerce brands (data shows that influencers return an average of $5.20 for every $1 spent, compared to $2.63 for traditional advertising).
Here’s why influencer marketing is such a successful addition to ecommerce marketing:
- Inspiration: A key contributor to the success of influencer marketing is inspiration. Followers look to influencers to be inspired, whether that be by the places they are traveling to, the clothes they wear, or the skincare products they use. When influencers share details and links about these products or experiences through sponsored posts, their followers are enticed to find out more, thereby increasing brand awareness and website traffic.
- Credibility: Most influencers build their followings within a certain niche or industry (think skincare, health and fitness, home and interior design, and so on). This builds their authority on a certain topic, so that any recommendations they share are viewed as highly credible. Much like an online review or testimonial, hearing product recommendations from a ‘real person’ increases the chances of your target audience following through to purchase.
- Trust: To achieve traffic, sales, and post-purchase loyalty, consumers need to be able to trust your brand. This is something influencer marketing offers in abundance. Because of the trusting relationship developed between creators and their audience over time, influencer content begins to feel less like a branded ad and more like a recommendation from a friend. This is especially true within the audiences of smaller influencers, where engagement rates are much higher and their followers often are made up of more people they know in real life.
Influencer marketing for ecommerce only continues to gain strength with new social media tools and devices. For example, the social media shopping tools we mentioned earlier allow users to browse websites and make purchases directly from an influencer post, without leaving the app they are in. With features such as influencer allowlistiing, brands can gain access to influencer accounts to reach new audiences and extend the lifetime of top-performing content.
Building influencer marketing into your ecommerce marketing strategy
So, ecommerce marketing references all techniques ecommerce brands can use to boost traffic to their websites and achieve more sales. An ecommerce marketing strategy refers to the specific selection of activities brands choose to carry out based on their overarching business goals, target audience, and ecommerce marketing budget.
While many factors can influence the techniques that are chosen, it’s crucial that these activities are ‘joined up’, complementing each other to support users on their path to purchase. This is also referred to as an omnichannel approach, as the chief aim is to provide a seamless shopping experience for customers, wherever they’re at, and with no barriers to purchase.
Influencer marketing is a great addition to an omnichannel approach. Customers can go directly from initial awareness of a company right through to purchase within their favorite social media apps, without any unnecessary steps. Saying that, it’s also a great addition to your wider commerce marketing tactics too.
So, how do you seamlessly integrate influencer marketing into your ecommerce marketing strategy?
Coincide with your wider ecommerce marketing mix
As we outlined, it’s crucial that all of your activities complement each other in order to encourage customers down the path to purchase. While influencer marketing has the potential to cover the entire journey, you also need to consider how this technique fits with your wider ecommerce marketing activities too.
Take some time to map out your current and upcoming activities and consider the ways influencer marketing might be able to uplevel your campaigns. Are you running a large PR event to celebrate a new product launch or business milestone? Why not invite some of your target influencers along to find out more about your brand and generate some interest within their community? Perhaps you’re running a holiday sale campaign on social media that could be supported by targeted influencer content? Think holistically about your approach and consider the different ways your ecommerce activities might be able to support each other.
Ensure your martech stack, stacks up
When building a new activity into your marketing mix, it’s important to ensure that the software and tools you use to track and report can link together. The last thing your team needs is another spreadsheet which has to be updated separately from all of the rest.
Many influencer marketing platforms now offer integrations with ecommerce sites such as Shopify and WooCommerce (*cough* we’re one of them) so that you can easily track and monitor the contribution of influencer marketing to your campaigns. And, with techniques such as affiliate links and promo codes, it’s even easier to identify exactly which influencers are bringing in the most sales. Find out more about successfully tracking influencer ROI.
Choose the right influencers for your brand
Of course, no amount of influencer marketing activity is going to get results if the influencers you are working with aren’t aligned with your brand.
Start with your target audience first. Who are your key audience profiles? What is their age demographic? Which social media channels are they likely to be hanging out on? Start looking in these places first to ensure you’re choosing the best people to represent your brand.
We share all of our advice on finding the right influencers for your brand here. Or check out how Aspire's discovery tools can help you with your search.
We hope the information shared here will help you on the path to maximizing your ecommerce marketing strategy and generating the new leads and sales needed to take your business to the next level.
To dive deeper into influencer marketing, check out our 2023 State of Influencer Marketing report. Or if you’d prefer to have a chat with an industry specialist, book a call with one of our expert strategists.