- Ecommerce marketing is booming, with nearly $4 trillion in annual global ecommerce sales.
- Well-defined ecommerce marketing strategies are critical to growing market share.
- The best ecommerce marketing strategies utilize multiple channels and tactics for a 360 degree approach.
In terms of ecommerce marketing, it’s the best of times and the worst of times for established brands. Online sales are surging to record highs. Yet, brands without a clear ecommerce marketing strategy continue to face headwinds brought on by shifting consumer behavior.
Ecommerce marketing and sales growth
U.S. retail ecommerce sales will reach $908.73 billion in 2021Insider Intelligence
U.S. ecommerce sales grew 32.6% in the first 3 quarters of 2020.Digital Commerce 360
Online shopping continues to grow at a staggering pace. The increase is being fueled by shifting consumer behavior due to a global pandemic as well as larger investments in sophisticated ecommerce marketing strategies.
Experts estimate that U.S. retail ecommerce sales will grow 13.7% in 2021 to reach $908.73 billion. Through the first three quarters of 2020, U.S. ecommerce sales reached $546.62 billion online, up 32.6% over the same period in 2019. The nine-month U.S. ecommerce growth rate is the highest percentage ever recorded for the period over the past two decades.
Brands with the best ecommerce marketing strategies will continue to grow market share and increase ecommerce sales. However, there are some challenges to be aware of.
Ecommerce marketing challenges
The Google vs Amazon battle continues to rage as the giants compete for ecommerce dominance.
In addition, the barrier to entry is lower for businesses wielding an effective SEO marketing strategy. Disruptors and online publishers have siphoned market share in just about every retail category, from eyeglasses to mattresses to skin care.
Rental and subscription models also enable many newcomers to increase their market share. (Rent the Runway alone has a market valuation of $800 million.) Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce allow a business to set up a new online store quickly and easily. In addition, online marketplaces like eBay allow individuals to sell and resell personal possessions.
As a result, the online ecommerce landscape is flooded with competition, making it much harder for established ecommerce businesses to stand out.
In this post, I’ll explain exactly what ecommerce marketing is and why it matters. I’ll also reveal 17 ecommerce marketing strategies you can use to capture new customers and boost loyalty among existing customers.
What is ecommerce marketing?
Ecommerce marketing is the process of attracting people to your website, convincing them to make an initial purchase, and then retaining those customers so that they continue to purchase from you.
It’s important to note that ecommerce marketing goes far beyond simply getting people to your site. You’ll also need to optimize the entire online shopping experience so that customers want to purchase from you again and again.
This may include social selling, as well as apps on mobile devices. Your ultimate goal is to present a cohesive, frictionless digital experience for your users, regardless of how they found your or where they complete their purchase.
You can learn more about mobile-specific interactions in my article, What is M-commerce: Benefits, Trends, and Examples.
Benefits of ecommerce marketing
How powerful is ecommerce marketing? Let’s look at an example from Brooks, the running gear company.
Brooks Running specializes in running shoes and apparel. But, so do many other online retailers that sell running shoes — including Amazon. So, how does Brooks capture the attention of potential customers?
They deploy smart ecommerce marketing to break through all the noise.
One of the many strategies Brooks uses to connect with customers is their Shoe Finder wizard. The tool seamlessly and intelligently recommends the perfect running shoe with science-backed recommendations. It asks you about your running habits, injury history, joint movements, and comfort preferences to bring warmth and personalization to the digital shopping experience.
brooks shoe finder ecommerce website marketing example
The Shoe Finder is so popular that it earned more than 1,600 backlinks and ranks for more than 2,600 keywords in Google. Related blog posts and support articles add an additional 570 keywords to the list.
The benefits of ecommerce marketing extend beyond SEO, though. It also extends to natural mentions on social media platforms and third party websites.
One Facebook post about the Shoe Finder garnered 6 million views. When someone on Twitter posted, “I’m also in the market for new running shoes!”, Brooks responded with, “Please visit our shoe finder tool so we can help you find your solemate.”
In terms of ecommerce marketing tactics, this one is a winner.
Creative ecommerce website marketing allows you to stand out from the crowd, attract new customers, and turn existing customers into advocates.
Develop an ecommerce marketing plan
One of the best marketing tips I can offer, is to have a well-defined plan. Without one, you’ll end up wasting money and missing out on potential customers.
Follow these five steps to create a digital marketing plan for your ecommerce business.
1. Set goals and objectives
To start, you need to clearly define your goals and objectives. If you don’t, you won’t know whether your marketing efforts are actually working.
Obviously, your ultimate goal is to increase revenue and profits, but when setting your goals, think more specifically. After all, there are numerous ways to increase ecommerce sales. Consider goals like:
- Getting more organic search traffic
- Improving your conversion rate
- Increasing Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
- Lowering Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Acquiring customers through new marketing channels
Define specific targets within specific timeframes (e.g., a 25% increase in winter apparel sales in Q1).
Take the time to look at your analytics and see where there are opportunities for organic growth. Look at key metrics like organic search traffic, conversion rates, average order value, and repeat purchase frequency to identify where you’re underperforming, and then set specific goals to improve those metrics.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
For your ecommerce marketing to succeed, know your target audience. You need a clear understanding of who your ideal customer is so that you can use the most effective marketing strategies and channels accordingly.
Describe your target audience in a single sentence. For example, if you sell organic baby food, you could say, “Our target audience is affluent, health-minded young moms in the U.S. who want to feel good about what their babies eat.”
This exercise forces you to get crystal clear about who you’re serving and how you’re serving them.
Depending on what you sell, it is likely that you have several target audience segments. For example, if you are a coffee roaster, you might sell directly to consumers as well as to coffee shops. Try to narrow down your target audience as much as possible without excluding any key customer types.
3. Create buyer personas
After you identify the target audience for your ecommerce marketing strategy, you need to create a buyer persona for each segment. Buyer personas help you put flesh and bones on the people in your target audiences. They help you more clearly understand your ideal customers so that you can more effectively market to them.
Consider the following attributes as you build your personas.
- Marital status
- Geographic location
- Who they admire
- Pain Points
- Who they dislike
- Their influences
- Media they consume
- Products desired
- Features desired
4. Map the customer journey
The customer journey is all the brand touchpoints and interactions an individual has with your company from start to finish. It includes their initial awareness of a problem, informational research, visits to your site, and engagement with your social profiles. It also encompasses their first purchase as well as ongoing interactions and repeated purchases.
Mapping the customer journey helps you see things through the eyes of your audience. You discover what motivates them to take action in the first place and what challenges they encounter during the buying experience. You learn where they turn for information and what questions they have along the way.
And perhaps most importantly, you identify all the customer touch points where you interact with your audience, such as your ecommerce website, social media, organic search, Google ads, events, etc. Then, you can optimize each touch point, giving customers exactly what they need to move to the next stage of the journey.
5. Calculate your customer lifetime value
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) is the amount of revenue a customer brings in over the lifetime of your relationship with them. It includes both the initial purchase and any subsequent purchases they make from you.
LTV is a critical metric in ecommerce marketing for several reasons:
- It determines how much you can spend on customer acquisition. The higher your LTV, the more you can afford to spend getting new customers.
- It helps you identify your most profitable customer segments. By calculating the LTV of your different customer segments, you can find the most profitable ones and then focus on acquiring and retaining more of those types of customers.
- It helps you evaluate your customer retention efforts. If your LTV is low, it means your retention strategy is ineffective and needs to be revamped.
- It allows you to measure marketing ROI. If you want to see exactly how well you’re marketing is working, simply compare your LTV to your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). The lower the ratio, the more ineffective your marketing.
17 Best ecommerce marketing strategies (+examples)
Now let’s talk about the best ecommerce marketing strategies that can significantly boost your sales and bring in a flood of new customers. I’ll cover different marketing channels like search engine optimization, email marketing and more.
A clear ecommerce marketing plan will help you to outmaneuver competitors, whether traditional competition, disruptors, subscription-based services, rental services, other alternative retail models, or otherwise.
1. Optimize your ecommerce website with SEO
One of the most effective ecommerce marketing strategies to spur growth is to optimize your website for organic search traffic. When individuals search for products online, they typically turn to Google. In fact, close to half of all product searches (46%) start with Google. When you look at those searching for a product without a specific brand in mind (those most receptive to learning about brands and their alternatives), that percentage increases.
How do you get your brand in front of all of these online shoppers? Develop a comprehensive ecommerce SEO strategy!
How effective is SEO as an ecommerce marketing strategy? One of our ecommerce clients went from zero traffic at launch to 1,532,000+ in monthly organic traffic within 15 months. The brand now has a valuation of over $1.5 billion.
Unlike PPC, Adwords and Google Shopping, investments in enterprise-level SEO compound over time. So, instead of driving traffic to just one page, many landing pages across your website benefit from the overall lift.
Here are just a few quick tips from our SEO checklist.
- Ensure all important pages are indexed by Google.
- Build a logical website architecture that’s three clicks deep.
- Improve page load time.
- Do keyword research and align content with search intent.
- Address duplicate content.
- Implement structured data.
- Ensure all pages are mobile-friendly.
- Fix broken links.
- Use image alt text
2. Optimize your category pages
In addition to optimizing your site as a whole, you also need to optimize your category pages. This is especially important for ecommerce. Your category pages are an opportunity to target broad search terms with a high search volume and should be thoroughly optimized for these terms.
What are the best ways to do this?
It starts with creating unique category pages and making them easy to find. Avoid combining multiple categories into a single page and avoid creating category pages with similar or duplicate content.
Use short, descriptive URLs that contain the primary keyword, as well as subcategory folders in your URLs. Your page title and meta descriptions should be optimized with keywords for Google search. But, they should also use enticing language that encourages users to click-through from the search engine results pages (SERP).
Only use one H1 tag on a page and use internal links appropriately. And make sure that your category pages contain actual relevant content, not just products. If you want to rank for relevant keywords then integrating high-quality content to your category pages is a good bet.
For a detailed walk-through of category page optimization, read our post on category page optimization.
3. Optimize your product pages
Ecommerce marketing strategies also need to cover the bottom of the funnel. And to that end, optimizing your product pages is essential for pulling in bottom of the funnel traffic. These customers already know what they want and are ready to make the final decision.
For an in-depth guide, check out our post on ecommerce product page SEO. Here are several key takeaways from that article:
- Use SEO-friendly URLs that contain the primary keyword.
- Write title tags that are both SEO-friendly and enticing to consumers.
- Write compelling meta descriptions that contain your keyword.
- Use keywords in H1 tags for both website visitors and search engines.
- Write unique product descriptions.
- Craft content that resonates with your target personas.
- Avoid duplicate content.
- Use high quality product images with proper alt tags.
- Offer similar product suggestions.
- Include product reviews or testimonials.
- Ensure pages load quickly.
- Use structured data to capture rich snippets.
- Optimize for mobile devices
4. Amplify ecommerce content marketing with a blog
Content marketing and blogging are a vital part of a successful ecommerce marketing strategy. What is content marketing exactly? It’s the process of creating high-quality, extremely valuable content and then distributing it to a wider audience. It can include blogging, but isn’t limited to it. Podcasts, videos, webinars, infographics, lookbooks, and social media can also be a part of your content marketing arsenal.
Why are content marketing and blogging so effective? Several reasons. First, they allow you to target important keywords that might not fit naturally on product or category pages. Blogging enables you to create long-form content, which performs exceptionally well in organic search. An SEMrush study of 700,000+ articles found that articles with 3,000+ words generate 3X more traffic, 4X more shares, and 3.5X more backlinks than short-form content.
Want hard proof? Terakeet analyzed organic market share in the beauty industry, and online publishers dominated the leaderboard. In fact, Byrdie held the top spot for two out of three markets we analyzed. They even came out ahead for product-related search queries despite not being a retailer.
Second, ecommerce content marketing allows you to speak directly to the problems your customers are dealing with and provide them with helpful solutions. This translates into stronger customer relationships and higher conversion rates. The right content can lead to greater brand love and more loyal customers.
Benefits of content marketing
Patagonia knows about the benefits of content marketing and has an entire section of their website dedicated to inspirational stories, guides, and videos.
And what’s key is to create content that your audience will find magical. It’s not about talking about your products. It’s about connecting with your audience.
For example, Patagonia tells the story of how it invented fleece together with Malden Mills (now Polartec) and often delivers wisdom from runners, climbers, swimmers, mountain bikers, and others committed to the sanctity of the outdoors. The brand has an entire section on its website dedicated to environmental activism, including 48 films.
Read about 10 more online content marketing examples from top brands.
5. Optimize for voice search
Since the introduction of Siri, voice search usage has risen at a stratospheric rate. It’s estimated that by 2022, voice search will account for a staggering $40 billion in retail sales in the United States and UK. In light of this, it’s essential that you optimize your site for voice search in order to capitalize on this growing area of ecommerce.
Here are some simple, yet effective voice search SEO tactics.
- Create short, succinct answers to questions.
- Use conversational, long-tail keywords that reflect how people actually talk.
- Keep content simple and complicated words that confuse voice assistants.
- Focus on implementing page speed improvements. Voice search is like a conversation, so your pages must be quick or Google won’t select them.
6. Engage in influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a powerful ecommerce marketing strategy because it enables you to tap into a specific audience through someone with exceptionally strong bonds of trust in the community. It’s especially potent when introducing new products.
And the good news is that you don’t have to sell lifestyle products to benefit from influencer marketing. There are influencers in just about every industry, from pets to DIY to beauty to cars. Some have enormous audiences and others have smaller, more targeted groups of followers.
A platform like Terakeet’s Chorus can help you find influencers in your niche and then partner with them to create powerful marketing campaigns that generate significant exposure.
The process works in reverse as well. Tap influencers to help you brainstorm creative ecommerce marketing ideas upstream through platforms like Perlu. Influencers have their finger on the pulse of what their audiences like and respond to. So, you should leverage their expertise in the planning process as well as during campaign execution.
7. Go all in on social media
With billions of people using social media every month, it’s an obviously effective area of digital marketing to connect with your target audience and generate more revenue.
The first step is to identify which platforms your target audience use most. If you sell primarily to Boomers, Facebook is probably your best bet. For Millennials and Gen Z, you may want to focus more on Instagram and TikTok. If your customer base is made up primarily of women, Pinterest is a solid choice.
The key to succeeding with social media marketing is creating authentic connections with your followers. Respond to their comments, help them solve problems, be entertaining, be captivating, etc. Don’t just pump out content without engaging. Social media is a two-way street.
Which brands are totally nailing it with social media as a key ingredient in their ecommerce marketing strategies? Glossier, H&M, Chanel, Lowe’s, Target, Gymshark, and Nike, to name a few.
8. Feature user-generated content (UGC)
User-generated content is a powerful form of social proof. It shows people using and enjoying your products out in the wild. People may not always trust what you have to say about your products, but they’ll certainly trust what actual customers have to say.
According to a study of 200,000 ecommerce stores, users who interact with UGC are 161% more likely to convert!
How can you encourage more UGC as a key component among your ecommerce marketing strategies? Some simple ways include:
- Ask current customers to take photos of themselves using your products and tag your business.
- Create a #hashtag around your products and encourage customers to use it when talking about them.
- Repost positive comments made by customers that might otherwise not get seen.
- Conduct a competition for UGC following a specific theme.
Now, obviously you need to be smart about how you feature UGC. If it comes across as too self-serving or braggy, people won’t want to do it. Do it in such a way that you’re expressing gratefulness to customers rather than bragging about yourself.
Wayfair, which is adept at UGC as well as social marketing, encouraged customers to snap photos of products they had purchased and share them on Instagram with the hashtag #WayfairAtHome. They then shared select photos on their own Instagram account and shared more than 1,400 of the photos on their website.
9. Generate word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing
Few things generate more buzz than word-of-mouth marketing. In fact, WOM is the most trusted form of promotion, trusted by 86% of consumers. And those who purchase from you through WOM tend to spend 200% more than the average customer.
But how do you actually implement WOM marketing?
First, create an outstanding user experience from start to finish — especially the digital customer experience (DCX). This includes selling great products, but also extends to the shopping experience itself and the ultimate fulfillment of the order and the post-sale experience. When you create this kind of amazing experience, customers will tell their friends and family.
Think of Nordstrom and its famously amazing customer service. There are literally books written about the magic of Nordstrom’s exceptional customer service.
Once this fundamental pillar is in place, you can begin to think of other creative ways to generate WOM, such as:
- Creating a referral program that rewards your brand ambassadors
- Highlighting customer reviews on your website
- Sending products to influencers without requesting anything in return
- Create an online community
- Rallying around a social cause, much like TOMS has done by supplying close to 100 million shoes and how Bombas has donated more than 35 million pairs of socks to those in need
- Creating unique content that helps you stand out in your industry (think Dollar Shave Club’s iconic “Our Blades Are F****** Great” video).
10. Include a keyword-driven FAQ section on your website
When thinking of effective ecommerce marketing strategies, many marketers forget the importance of a keyword-driven FAQ. An FAQ area in your website allows you to quickly answer questions and overcome objections that potential customers might have. When creating your FAQ, think in terms of common keywords and questions people might search. Tap your customer support team to uncover the common questions being asked.
For example, if your company is named “Cool Clothing”, there’s a good chance people will be searching for branded terms that include:
- Return policy
- Pay later options
- Customer service
- Product warranty
- Gift cards
- Choosing the right size
By building your FAQ section around relevant keywords, you open up new SEO traffic opportunities. In addition, you make it easy for people to find answers with a quick search, which reduces friction in the shopping process.
11. Create product-related videos
Unlike brick-and-mortar retail, ecommerce customers can’t physically touch products. This can create uncertainty in the shopping process. Product videos can be a powerful marketing tool to fill that gap and increase online sales.
Creating product-related videos can reduce consumer uncertainty and help shoppers understand your products in greater detail.
And don’t stop at product overviews, either. Showcase product unboxing events, or introduce related products you can upsell or cross-sell.
Or, think of topics that your audience would be wildly interested in. Here’s a video from REI exploring all the different ways to make coffee while backpacking that’s generated over 70 thousand views:
12. Invest in live chat
There is a significant portion of your customers, especially those who are younger, who want immediate answers to questions but don’t want to make a phone call or send an email. Millennials and Gen Z communicate primarily through text and chat apps. They only make phone calls if absolutely necessary.
Overall, 38% of consumers surveyed are more likely to buy from a website if it offers live chat. On the retailer side, 79% of businesses surveyed claim that offering live chat has increased online sales, revenue, and customer loyalty.
In light of this, having a live chat option on your ecommerce site can be one of your most effective ecommerce marketing strategies. It allows you to provide instant customer service to those who don’t want to wait for an email response but also don’t want to get on the phone and be put on hold.
Live chat is one more way of providing your customers with a great experience from start to finish.
13. Improve ecommerce conversion rate optimization
If you’re not investing in CRO, you’re literally leaving money on the table. When you increase your conversion rate, you can extract more revenue from existing traffic. This revenue can then be invested in acquiring more traffic, which then converts at a higher rate, which generates more revenue, etc. CRO is a flywheel for your marketing efforts.
And the reality is that increasing your conversion rate by even a small amount can turn into huge increases in revenue.
For example, say that your site gets an average of 20 million visitors with a 4% conversion rate, for monthly revenue of $40 million. If you can increase your conversion rate by just 1%, your annual revenue increases to $600 million, an incremental increase of $120 million.
For more tips, read our complete ecommerce conversion rate optimization guide.
14. Implement abandoned cart sequences
Shopping cart abandonment has a massive impact on your CAC, because it means you lost a customer during the checkout process. Fortunately, you can recapture some of the lost revenue by implementing abandoned cart marketing automation sequences.
Eighty-three percent of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a more personalized experience. And data shows that abandoned cart emails really do have a big impact. Customers who receive multiple abandoned cart emails are 2.4X more likely to finish their purchase than those who only get a single email.
Here’s a simple retargeting email sequence for customers who didn’t complete a purchase:
- Few hours after abandonment – Reminder of abandoned cart and encouragement to finish purchase before stock runs out
- 24 hours after abandonment – Final opportunity to buy before the cart expires
- 2 days after abandonment – Social proof / education
- 4 days after abandonment – Offer limited time discount to incentivise purchase
- 5 days after abandonment – Last chance to get discount
- Next visit – Use a popup to encourage customers to add abandoned items to their shopping cart
Your sequence doesn’t need to be particularly complicated. Just connect with potential customers and give them a solid reason to complete their purchase.
15. Personalize your email marketing ecommerce strategy
Personalized email marketing as part of your ecommerce marketing strategy can make a big difference in whether a person purchases from your brand. Accenture reports that 91% of people are more likely to purchase from companies that communicate with personalized emails.
The simple truth is that customers want to feel a meaningful connection with companies. They don’t want to be treated as just a metric. Personalization strengthens your connection with customers.
Here are several different ways to personalize email campaigns:
- Recommend products based on past shopping behavior.
- Include a person’s name in the subject line.
- Send a special gift or discount on a person’s birthday, anniversary, or other relevant date.
- Segment your email list subscribers by a common grouping, such as age, gender, location, or interest.
- Use behavioral triggers, like when an individual hasn’t purchased from you in a while.
When creating personalized emails, think about ways to foster genuine relationships with your customers.
16. Offer incentives
Incentives can help you stand out from the crowd and give customers the nudge they need to purchase from you. If at all possible, offer free shipping. For good or bad, Amazon has set expectations when it comes to shipping, and customers now expect it.
Beyond that, other incentives include things like:
- Special discounts
- BOGO (buy one, get one free)
- Sneak peek of upcoming products
- Money-back guarantee
- Faster delivery
- Charitable donation
- Gift wrapping
- And many other options
Just be careful when offering incentives that you don’t undercut yourself too much. If you’re constantly offering discounts, you can end up significantly gouging your profits and creating the expectation that your products will always be discounted. Be strategic with the incentives you offer.
17. Offer a loyalty program
The final ecommerce marketing strategy in my list is a loyalty program. Building brand awareness and acquiring new customers costs significantly more than retaining existing ones. What’s more, increasing loyalty by as little as 5% can lead to a serious jump in profits.
Amazon Prime is a great example of the power of a post-purchase loyalty program. The average annual amount spent on Amazon by Prime shoppers is 133% higher than non-Prime shoppers. In addition, more than 45% of Prime members purchase on Amazon at least once a week.
Creating a program that rewards your most loyal shoppers will keep them coming back again and again. As a result, your Customer Lifetime Value will be higher, benefitting your entire business.
Think of the above strategies as ecommerce marketing best practices. They’re a recipe for success, but it’s up to you to combine them in a way that makes sense for your business model.
- Ecommerce marketing growth
- Biggest challenges
- What is ecommerce marketing?
- Benefits of ecommerce marketing
- Ecommerce marketing plan
- Ecommerce marketing strategies
- 1. Deploy ecommerce SEO
- 2. Optimize your category pages
- 3. Optimize your product pages
- 4. Leverage content marketing
- 5. Optimize for voice search
- 6. Use influencer marketing
- 7. Invest in social media
- 8. Feature user-generated content
- 9. Use word-of-mouth marketing
- 10. Include FAQs
- 11. Create videos
- 12. Deploy live chat
- 13. Improve conversion rates
- 14. Implement abandoned cart sequences
- 15. Use email marketing
- 16. Offer incentives
- 17. Offer a loyalty program