U.S. eCommerce growth exceeded 15 percent throughout 2016, (source US Commerce Dept, Internet Retailer), and according to another study by Pew research center, 79 percent of Americans have made an online purchase.
Marketing for eCommerce: You Need More Than Just a Website and a Shopping Cart
Co-op funding, print advertising, in-store end caps—these are all time tested marketing tactics for businesses that are working from a traditional B2C model. But with the emergence of eCommerce and the related direct to consumer (DTC) and omnichannel trends, it’s imperative for manufacturers to evolve their marketing strategy and skill sets.
If You Build It, They Will Come – Or Will They?
If you’re just beginning to plan an eCommerce initiative, there are many things to consider. You’ll have to evaluate solutions for technology, fulfillment, customer service, and more. You’ll need to weigh outsourcing options vs. in-house. And you’ll have to coordinate and manage all the pieces to make sure your eCommerce operation runs efficiently.
When you’re launching an eCommerce business and building an online brand, perhaps nothing will be more important than your ability to develop and implement an effective digital marketing strategy. That new website that you’ve just built on an eCommerce platform with all the bells and whistles won’t produce a dime in ROI if you can’t drive people to it. If your organization falls short on digital strategy and skill sets, your website will get as much traffic as the North Pole.
But add a smart digital marketing plan and you’ll start driving customers in your direction. Once potential consumers are clicking on your site, you can capture their contact information, their purchasing habits, what offers entice them to buy, and more. This information will allow you to fine-tune your marketing strategy and your website.
Orderhouse CEO Mike D'Errico discusses the importance of DTC marketing.
Advantages of Having a Digital Marketing Plan
- Personalization – With analytics and product recommendation engines you can provide a shopping experience that is personalized based on the browsing history and buying habits of the user and customers with similar behavior profiles.
- Better Targeting – Profiles can be used to build segments for more focused programs and promotions.
- Direct Relationship with the Consumer – According to Forbes, the translation of demand from a customer’s purchase in-store to a manufacturer receiving an order will average two weeks. With digital marketing you gain real time insights on how consumers are interacting with your brand. This can be used to make faster modifications and build customer relationships.
- Assist Channel Partners – The insights gained from your digital marketing efforts can be shared with channel partners and used to develop more effective traditional marketing programs.
So what do you need to build a winning digital marketing plan? There are a few essential elements.
Key Components for a Digital Marketing Strategy
1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – Search is the leading source of eCommerce transactions, and Google is a daily habit for consumers. According to Retailing Today, 81% of shoppers conduct online research. Consumers are looking for products like yours online. When they search, will they find your website?
SEO is critical to getting listed high on page one for relevant keywords and driving traffic to your website. We’re referring to “organic search,” not traffic generated by ads where you pay for every click. You need an SEO strategy and that requires expertise with keyword and content optimization.
2. Content is King – Content should be a major driver in your digital marketing strategy, for attracting visitors to your website, converting them into customers, and creating evangelists for your brand.
- Content & SEO - Relevant, quality content gets recognized by search engines and will boost your search engine rankings.
- Rich Product Information – Comprehensive product information, images and video help conversions. For example, 77 percent of consumers say they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a video. Shareable content builds brand awareness on social networks.
- Product Reviews are social proof and create fans for your brand.
- Blogs – Establish subject matter expertise and authority in your niche. According to Hubspot, B2C companies that are frequent bloggers get 3 times more traffic than companies that only blog 0-1 times per month.
3. Mobile – By 2020 mobile eCommerce is forecasted to account for nearly 50% of U.S. eCommerce sales. It’s important to check off all the boxes on the following:
- Mobile responsive website – this is a basic requirement.
- Advertising – online ads should be optimized for display on smaller screens.
- Video Captions – product videos are very effective, but mobile users often access them in environments that aren’t conducive to playing the audio. Captions are needed to keep these viewers engaged.
- Reporting and Analytics - Get reporting on engagement for mobile and non-mobile devices. Mobile users often behave differently than desktop users. Understanding this can help you prioritize content.
Today’s retail trend is to offer Omnichannel. Consumers often do product research on one device, and then complete the purchase later with another device, or even in a physical store. By optimizing your content for mobile you’ll be better positioned to convert visitors into customers.4. Social Media – This is a powerful medium for building your brand, distributing content and interacting with consumers. According to research by Pew, 79% of adult internet users are on Facebook and 76% of Facebook users log on daily.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat – you’ll need to evaluate which of the popular social networks are good fits for your company’s products, then develop strategies to leverage them.
5. Email – According to Marketing Sherpa, 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies that they do business with monthly, and 15% would like to receive emails every day. And for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI (Campaign Monitor). Don’t overlook email in your digital strategy:
- Provide incentives for customers to review a product they just bought.
- Use emails to increase conversions and reduce cart abandonment.
- Reactivate dormant customers with promotional emails.
- Use “milestone campaigns” to personalize for birthdays.
According to McKinsey, the average order value sourced from email is 17% higher than from social media and the conversion rate is at least 3 times higher.
With email automation software you can develop segmented and personalized campaigns to increase conversions and build loyalty. Don’t neglect this channel!
Marketing for eCommerce requires different skill sets and expertise than marketing through traditional channels. If you’re an organization beginning to plan an eCommerce initiative, you’ll need to consider your options for sourcing these skills.
- Insourcing is Expensive – you’ll need to source strategic planning, social media, content creation, technical, and analytical skills. This means multiple hires, which usually doesn’t make sense for small and medium-sized businesses that are just getting into eCommerce and digital.
- Outsourcing – Digital agencies have deep experience and the technology and infrastructure in place to provide you with reporting and analytics. You’ll have cost effective, on demand, scalable access to the skills that you need.
With a solid digital marketing strategy, you can achieve levels of personalization, interaction, and real time insights that aren’t possible with traditional marketing channels. In addition, digital marketing is usually more cost effective and delivers superior ROI.
Online brands such as Harry’s and Warby Parker have leveraged online marketing to level the playing field and compete successfully with established companies. Established brands such as Nike and under Under Armour are transforming their businesses by providing an omnichannel experience for their customers.
You can do the same in taking your brand online with an effective eCommerce strategy.