Ecommerce Marketing Overview
Product placement is commonly the backbone of ecommerce businesses. Placing your products in an online retail setting is the quickest way to take a new product to market, but in-store placement provides organic exposure and stability. These placement opportunities will all lead to your website, which will be the hub of your marketing and sales programs; this is why it’s important to closely integrate your product development, design, sales, and marketing efforts from the beginning.
Successful ecommerce marketing is all about resolving a pain point your audience is having, developing the product to address that pain point, and then positioning your product as the answer to your audience’s pain point. For this process, clear product images, matching visual branding, and defined messaging guidelines are critical for reaching your audience.
Even before your products are available for purchase, you can generate interest in your products through social media programs. Once your product has launched, you can generate further interest through digital advertising and social media influencer partnerships. Building a referral program can take your advertising efforts even further by encouraging your current customers to advertise on their own behalf, providing mutually beneficial value. Once the referral program is established, it’s important to monitor your online reputation.
Continuing the conversation with your customers after they purchase your products can be partially automated with email marketing and ramping up your social media program. These communications programs may help improve the customer experience after the sale and help encourage repeat sales. One tactic you can use to encourage sales, instead of or in addition to discounts, is to utilize scarcity marketing, which is ideal for high-end and luxury products, but it also works for new and established products of all kinds.
The foundation of your marketing efforts lies in first having a product that serves a specific need in the marketplace. Without a quality product that solves a clear problem that a specific group of people is having, marketing efforts will fail. To ensure you have a solid product before its launch, seek to understand the purpose of your product for the audience segments you will serve. Who needs your product? How will they use your product and why? Is it a necessity or a want? How often will they use it?
Once you know you have a quality product that serves a need in the marketplace, you need to determine how you will market that product. This is based on whether you have one product or multiple products that you are selling. If you are selling one product, you will obviously market that unique product. If you are selling multiple products, you may market your brand instead of each product individually; this works best once your brand is well-known. The number of products will help you determine this, too. If you have two or three products, you may still be able to market each one individually, but if you are selling 10 products, it’s best to market the brand.
To market your brand means to primarily focus on promoting the brand story, the brand promise, and why your prospects can trust your brand as a whole. To market your product narrows the focus to promoting the unique benefits of that one product and how it provides a specific solution.
The first foundational marketing initiative you must complete is market research. By determining your positioning within the competitive landscape and your pricing model, you can better determine how you truly benefit your customers with your products. Whether you are launching a new product or starting a new marketing initiative, creating or revisiting your business’s market research can help you better serve your customers.
What do you offer that your audience needs that your competitors don’t offer? These competitive differentiators are your basic positioning. Your positioning is what sets you apart in the competitive landscape. It’s what gives you a competitive edge.
At SharedTEAMS, we like to create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your top 3-4 competitors. This effort collects basic details of your top competitors, compares them with your business, and determines your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, which helps narrow your positioning in the landscape.
By focusing on promoting what your competitors lack in your marketing efforts, you stand apart in the industry. This also helps your audience find you based on your unique positioning according to their unique needs.
When developing your positioning, you must first focus on your audience. Who are they and how do they want to communicate with you (this relates to your messaging)? What do they need from you besides your product?
Remember: You are solving your customers’ problems with your product or products (brand). What they need as it pertains to your product will determine your messaging. But first, you need to understand your positioning before you can develop messaging guidelines and create content.
The process of developing your positioning will focus on two things: 1) your competitors and 2) your potential partners. Developing your positioning in the competitive landscape is the first piece you should focus on. This involves researching your competitors and creating a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis based on their strengths and weaknesses so you can determine your position in the competitive landscape. Not only do you compare your product or brand with your competitor’s product or brand, but you also keep your audience in mind. You want to find your unique position in the competitive landscape to better serve your customers.
Once you know your positioning in the competitive landscape, you also need to consider your positioning from a partner standpoint. How are you setting your product or brand to work with influencers, brand collaborators, and other potential partners? To compare, you can see what competitors are doing, and what others are doing outside of your product realm and industry. Open yourself up to the potential for partnerships from the beginning so you can target ideal partners once you begin your marketing efforts. This will further deepen your product or brand positioning, setting you apart from other products and brands.
Before you can sell and market your product, you need to determine the best price to sell it for. You have two options: competitive or value-based pricing. Competitive pricing compares your product to your competitors’ products and prices the product accordingly. Value-based pricing is generally used for high-end products as pricing is determined solely by the value it has to your audience. We generally recommend competitive pricing for new products and value-based pricing for high-end products that need a price update.
It’s important to start off with a good pricing strategy in the marketplace because customers often complain when businesses change their prices. You don’t want to price too low and be perceived as cheap and less valuable than your competitors’ products, but you also don’t want to price too high and alienate your ideal audience.
Regardless of which pricing strategy you use, you need to:
- Review your competitors’ offerings and pricing structure
- Do the math on how much it really costs you to create your products (including overhead costs) and compare that to how many products you plan to sell this month and this year
- Research what your primary audience segments are willing to pay for your product
Keeping these pieces in mind will help you find a good balance for your pricing strategy. The key is to ensure you make a profit without requiring too high of a profit per product, which often raises the price too high.
Remember: You need to make a profit. Your company should make a profit, but you, as the owner, deserve to get paid, too.
Tip: If your pricing falls flat and your audience thinks your products are too expensive but you are barely making a profit, it’s time to reconsider how you are creating your products. If this dilemma changes your value proposition, you may want to seek outside guidance.
Depending on your product, you may be able to use scarcity marketing – occasionally. Scarcity marketing for products means having a specific product available for a limited time or availability (i.e. product count). This is not a tactic you should use for all of your marketing efforts or for all of your products, but instead a tactic you use sparingly.
Scarcity marketing encourages sales without lowering the perceived value of your product. Instead, it often increases the perceived value of your product because it has limited availability. This tactic is ideal for high-end, luxury products, but it can also be used by businesses that want to add a product to their offerings on a limited basis.
Ensure the product creation, sales, and marketing teams work together from the very beginning. If that hasn’t happened yet, have these teams collaborate as soon as possible and ensure that they are on the same page concerning your product (or products), your sales strategy, and your marketing strategy.
Utilizing your positioning, you can create your branding foundation, which includes messaging and a visual branding strategy. Developing brand assets, such as your logo, helps tie your products together, but the individual product photos are critical for selling your products.
Once you know your positioning, you can develop your messaging guidelines. In these guidelines, you need to clarify how you will speak to customers and partners. Messaging to customers and partners should have the same basic guidelines, but some guidelines will vary, based on the audience you are speaking to. This is very important as you want your messages to speak to the audience you are communicating with at any given time. Having clear guidelines for each from the beginning will help your teams and departments sound the same, helping both customers and partners view your product and brand messaging in a cohesive light.
First of all, you want to develop your messaging guidelines for your customer-facing content. You will need to decide on the relationship you want to have with your customers. As an ecommerce business, you get to decide whether you have a close relationship with them or not. Consider how your customers will likely want to communicate with you. Do they want to be your friend? Or do they want to see you as a professional resource concerning your product? Or do they not want a relationship with your brand at all? Your type of product and ideal audience will determine these factors.
Next, narrow your customer audience into different segments. Then, determine what those audience segments need. Some needs may overlap based on your products, but there will likely be differences. Note: You may only have one audience segment if you only have one product, but you will likely have at least two.
Based on these needs, similar and different, determine the best practices for promoting your positioning to each audience segment and how you should communicate with your audience overall. This will depend on your audience, your positioning, and how your business wants to sound. If you need ideas, look up “tone of voice adjectives.” From there, use those adjectives to develop your content tone and style. Provide your team with the do’s and don’ts within your messaging guidelines accordingly. These guidelines will help all content sound on-brand, no matter which team member is creating them.
Once you have your customer-facing guidelines complete, you can add a section for partner-specific communications. Again, you may consider multiple types of partnerships, so segment this audience, too, if needed.
Tip: Focus on storytelling in your messaging guidelines and content creation. People love stories.
Conveying brand personality is also important to position your product or brand. Your personality will largely be determined by how personal you want to get with your customers, so be sure your messaging and brand personality are closely connected. You will want your brand personality to shine through your messaging and visual branding. Having a unique brand personality will also help your customers remember you and set yourself apart from your competitors.
VISUAL BRANDING STRATEGY
Having cohesive visual branding is vital for ecommerce businesses. By developing a visual branding strategy, you can develop visual branding pieces that are cohesive and in-line with your vision. This strategy will affect your product packaging, content, ecommerce website, and the products themselves, as well as any other pieces you use for sales and marketing.
Your business’s visual branding includes a logo, color palette, fonts, and brand imagery. All of these pieces say something specific about your brand or product, represent your brand or product, and showcase the visual tone of your brand or product. While they are not more important than providing quality products, your customers will eventually see your logo as your brand, so it needs to accurately represent your business.
Note: If you currently offer one product, allow room for growth (new products) without needing to rebrand. Having room in your visual branding strategy now will make new product launches easier down the road.
For the brand imagery, think about what kind of aesthetic or visual style you want your brand to portray. What filter showcases your brand in the best light? For example, the images surrounding a fitness product will be very different from the images surrounding an office product.
In addition to brand imagery, you will want to include guidelines on how to take product shots. Your product images should follow the same visual guidelines as other images you use.
Tip: Make a note in your visual branding guidelines to get product shots from every angle. Customers want to see products from every angle before they make a purchase, so don’t skip this step when you have your camera out (or photographer on-premises).
When developing your visual branding, it’s important to set yourself apart from your competitors and have branding that uniquely fits your product or brand in your industry. You want all visual pieces to be cohesive so they can properly tell your brand story. This will help prospects and customers easily recognize you over a competitor, which is very important for repeat business.
VISUAL BRANDING DEVELOPMENT
Once you know your visual branding strategy, it’s time to develop your assets. Common assets include a logo, a color palette, fonts, and types of images, but you may require additional assets based on your unique business needs and product. Remember to consider how each piece will look online and in print, or what pieces are specifically designed for online or print.
Whether your visual branding focuses on your product (with room for growth) or brand, it’s best to streamline your product photography processes. To do so, you should plan to take photos of all of your products in one day. First, you will need to prepare for the photoshoot, including gathering products, a camera, and any background pieces or models, as well as creating a list or spreadsheet of all of the products, angles, and background or model combinations. For more details on how to prepare for a product photo shoot, visit this link.
Remember: Plan your photo shoot well in advance so you can ensure that you will get all of the photos you will need for your marketing and sales efforts for a while. Gathering these assets in a day or two (plus editing) is much easier than taking a new photo every time you need one. Then, be sure to share the edited assets with your team so they will use the right photos for all of their projects. This ensures a consistent look to your products in all marketing and sales pieces.
Tip: Get photos of your product from all angles with and without backgrounds and models. You will generally use your product-focused images with clear backgrounds on your website and your styled images with backgrounds and models for other content efforts, such as email marketing and social media.
Collect your messaging guidelines, visual branding assets, and photography assets in one place that is accessible to your entire team. All team members across all departments (product development, sales, marketing, etc.) should use these guidelines so all messages to your customers and prospects are cohesive.
Modern ecommerce businesses need an online foundation before beginning other marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. These pieces not only allow your customers to purchase from you, but they also help you expand your brand awareness across multiple platforms.
Modern ecommerce businesses need an online foundation before beginning other marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. These pieces not only allow your customers to purchase from you, but they also help you expand your brand awareness across multiple platforms.
Online Reputation Strategy
Customer reviews can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This customer-generated content can change the opinions of prospective customers because customers trust other customers the most. This is why ecommerce businesses need to not only request reviews but also need to manage their online reputation.
While anyone can review your business on your social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your products or were really upset with your products. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
A way to ask your customers to review your business
A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you can automate this process via email automation or text messaging. We recommend sending this request between 7 and 30 days after the purchase. Give your customers time to receive and use the product before you ask them to review it.
Tip: Once you have a few customer reviews, list them on your website. There are many plugin options that streamline this process for you.
Online Reputation Management
ORM generally starts with your social media pages. Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take it off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on your social media pages, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create an alert for your business name and service names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
Tip: ORM and Google Alerts can help you find potential influencers. If a customer is already raving about your products, recognize them by asking them to be an influencer (see Social Media Influencer in Lead Nurturing).
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and community have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion on your business, which means not enough people know about it yet. If your sentiment is positive, keep up the great work, but don’t stop managing ORM as sentiment can change.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your social media program, so start there to improve it by sharing quality content that your audience cares about.
To begin your sentiment analysis for free, use Social Buzz (you need to pay to enable monitoring, but you can do searches for free) or Social Mention.
Most ecommerce stores start online, which requires a different approach to building your audience compared to brick-and-mortar stores because you cannot take advantage of location advantages.
However, ecommerce stores can also get products inside stores to take advantage of in-store opportunities to grab the interest of your customers, including product stands and signage.
For both in-store and online purchases, you can leverage your happy customers’ experiences through a referral program, which helps you share your customers’ stories.
Go one step beyond online reputation and further capitalize on the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing by developing a referral program. This can also be called a loyalty or rewards program, but whatever you call it, this program will benefit your customers and encourage them to inform their professional friends about your business and services.
A referral program largely offers discounts, free services, or another benefit in return for a number of customer referrals. For example, if you have high price services, then encourage a one-for-one referral program where if one of your customers refers one friend and they sign up for your services, give them both a discount on their next service. If you have lower-priced services, you could follow the same format but offer a discount after five referrals resulting in a new customer acquisition.
If your referral program is not bringing in new leads, go straight to the source and ask your customers why they haven’t taken advantage of the offer. You might find out that the benefit of the program is too difficult or maybe they just didn’t know about the program. Whatever you find out from your customers, take the feedback back to the team and modify the program to better serve your customers.
Go one step beyond online reputation and further capitalize on the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing by developing a referral program. While online reputation offers your prospects social proof, your referral program will bring that social proof to life in more immediately beneficial ways. This can also be called a loyalty or rewards program, but whatever you call it, this program will benefit your customers and encourage them to inform their friends and family about your business and services.
A referral program largely offers discounts, free products, or another benefit in return for a number of customer referrals. For example, if you have high-priced products, then encourage a one-for-one referral program where if one of your customers refers one friend and they purchase a product from you, give them both a discount on their next product purchase. If you have a lower-priced product, you could follow the same format but offer a discount after five referrals result in a product purchased from a new customer.
Tip: Make your referral program prominent and easy to find on your website. Also ensure it benefits the customer, not you. If it doesn’t benefit the customer, then they will not use it.
If your referral program is not bringing in new leads, go straight to the source and ask your customers why they haven’t taken advantage of the offer (in a short email survey, for example). You might find out that the benefit of the program is too difficult or maybe they just didn’t know about the program. Whatever you find out from your customers, take the feedback back to the team and modify the program to better serve your customers.
Online selling opportunities are great for ecommerce brands, but so are in-store product placements. Optimizing your online and in-store purchasing opportunities means improving the customer experience no matter where your customers shop.
In addition to your website, consider showcasing your product in physical stores and online retailers for a larger organic reach. You can easily set up shop on Amazon, Etsy, eBay, or Jet to help more of your customers discover you.
You can also reach out to local brick-and-mortar stores. The key to this process is to help retailers reach their goals. To do so, think out of the box and consider niche stores (online and brick-and-mortar). Depending on your product, think beyond grocery stores and retail stores. For example, if you sell candles, you could sell coffee-scented candles at a local coffee shop, fruit-scented candles at a natural goods store, and exotic-scented candles at a posh clothing store.
Tip: Even if you’re selling products across the country online, if you only have a small product line, start selling in local shops. Then, expand your physical footprint as your business grows. This way, you can more easily monitor the ebb and flow in your local economy as it relates to your product. Plus, pitching a large product line is more appealing to big retailers, but small businesses may not be able to accommodate placing a large product line on their limited shelf space.
Depending on what type of stores you are looking to partner with will determine the process you take. Partnering with small businesses may take a short presentation over coffee while partnering with a large department chain will require in-depth preparation.
However you approach product placement, create a solid presentation to pitch your partnership idea and research the fees associated with the product placement, especially in a physical store. Confirm exact shelf placement (shoppers are more likely to purchase items at eye level) and, before you sign any documents, make sure that you can make a sustainable profit. You will likely need to give the store a discount when they purchase your product in bulk, so consider that when you do the math; be sure the partnership will be lucrative and mutually beneficial.
Through your purchase process on your website, you want to encourage prospects to create an account, but you also want to offer the option for customers to checkout as a guest to limit friction. During the checkout process, most prospects will accept the opportunity to create an account when you are clear about the value of creating the account, such as additional tracking and possible discounts. With this account creation, ask your new customer if they want to receive email updates about your products or brand (see Email Marketing in Lead Nurturing); if they do not check that box, don’t add them to your newsletter list because they did not consent.
Once they created an account and are logged in, you will likely want their view of your menu to change slightly while maintaining a cohesive experience. Instead of “Login,” you may want the menu to say “Logout” and have an additional option like “My Account.” Make all of these pieces, from the menu items to the account pages, as user-friendly as the rest of your website. A frictionless experience will encourage your new customer to come back.
Purchase Personalization Options
Depending on your product offerings, you may be able to add personalization opportunities for your customers:
- Try allowing your prospects to “build their own product.” This may mean building a box of products, changing the color of one product, or something else. This allows your prospect to personalize their product(s), which not only gives them a good experience, but it also will help them enjoy your product(s) even more.
- Try adding a “subscribe and save” option as a way to upsell your product. Some customers may not opt for this right away, but it is a great way to serve repeat customers by making their shopping experience easy while also providing your business with consistent revenue. Of course, if you offer this option, offer an incentive, such as a small discount. Also, be sure to make a clear “end subscription” option in their account and be transparent about when they will be billed and how they can cancel their subscription.
- On individual product pages, include an “other similar products” section if you offer multiple products. This way, if a prospect isn’t interested in the product they clicked on, they are less likely to click out of your website right away by having the opportunity to view another page instead.
Targeting your ideal audience happens through a variety of advertising channels. To begin advertising, you must create a strategic account structure based on your goals. Keep in mind that you can easily control the performance of the account as much as possible. Ensure that you have high-intent and relevant keywords per ad group.
For small businesses, you will want to increase brand awareness to sell products and maximize visibility in front of your ideal customer. Using social media (organic posts and paid advertising) is going to be great for brand awareness as social media platforms offer a robust collection of data on user demographics.
Depending on the product, you may want to use a sales funnel approach on social media after building your brand awareness. Remarketing is always going to be a tactic that needs to be implemented. You’ll be building that custom audience for remarketing from the start. Revise demographic targeting to zoom in on the high-converting audience group.
As campaigns progress, don’t be afraid to experiment because every business is unique and requires a slightly different tactic to achieve success. Most importantly, you’ll want to identify website performance optimizations as well because, ultimately, your conversions likely happen on your website, which requires optimal website performance.
There are many advertising channels for you to consider, but it’s important to narrow in on the platforms that perform the best for ecommerce businesses. Overall, social media platforms are going to be great for brand awareness. Google and Bing ads are going to be your best option for attracting customers who are looking to buy your products.
GOOGLE & BING ADS
Google is the largest search engine that provides opportunities for any business to sell its products; Bing is the second largest search engine. Google allows you to do virtually anything that other platforms offer. Use Google and Bing to spread brand awareness, record analytics, remarket, create display campaigns, show up in front of shoppers who are ready to buy, and more.
With Google Ads, you’ll be able to target keywords that have high intent. Include these keywords and offer a solution to the user’s problem. No other platform can do this effectively.
For Google Ads, you have the option to choose to use the Search Network or the Display Network.
Search Network ads can help you target high-intent keywords. They look like text ads on the search results page to help people go further in the buying cycle.
One opportunity you have on Google and Bing is to utilize Shopping campaigns to promote specific products people are looking for and send them directly to that product page on the website. The Shopping ads also include images on the search results page.
Display Network ads typically show ads to people who are still in the “research” phase of the buying cycle. They can show ads on other websites with a topic related to your business, or to people who show an interest in your product. They can also show ads to people who have already visited your website in order to bring them back while they are researching. Using the Display Network, you also have the option to create new audiences to show ads to people who have similar traits.
Depending on your product, it might make sense to advertise on LinkedIn if your customers are decision-makers. If it’s a B2B product, then LinkedIn is a no-brainer for PPC. LinkedIn can help you target people who work in a job or industry that would make use of your product.
It’s important to note that since your audience is likely not actively searching for your products – like they would be on Google or Bing – they will be early in the buying cycle, and thus conversion rates are lower on LinkedIn than they are on other platforms.
However, LinkedIn has many unique benefits compared to other social media platforms. Not only can you target your audience by company, job title, industry, and more, but you can also layer multiple targeting options to reach the ideal customer.
There are multiple ad types on LinkedIn:
- Sponsored content ads are similar to “boosted” posts. They are made to feel like posts from the company’s own page, which are a good option for strengthening the company’s brand awareness.
- Text ads are similar to the ads shown on Google or Bing and are featured in the sidebar. These ads are smaller and less prevalent than the other ad types but may provide a cheaper source of clicks.
- Sponsored InMail ads are unique to LinkedIn. These allow marketers to send personalized messages directly to a person’s LinkedIn inbox. This ad type is not ideally used as the first touchpoint but is great for re-engaging prospects who’ve already interacted with the business.
When it comes to choosing which types of LinkedIn ads to use, consider your goals. Sponsored content ads and text ads are great for the initial outreach to decision-makers of companies in the industry you want to target but don’t expect many direct purchases from these ads. Sponsored InMail ads work best as part of a remarketing strategy.
LinkedIn advertising does come with a few minimums that all advertisers must spend:
- $10 daily budget per campaign
- $10 total budget per campaign (this is optional for Sponsored Content)
- $2 bid for CPC or CPM on Text Ad campaigns
LinkedIn advertising also has a minimum bid for Sponsored Content campaigns, but the exact amount for this ad will depend on the audience that you’re targeting.
FACEBOOK & Instagram
Facebook and Instagram have the most robust data on the demographics of their users. You’ll be able to easily identify your ideal, high-converting customer. On these platforms, you will also be able to build stronger customer relationships through your sales funnel strategy and brand awareness campaigns. Remember to showcase professional images. You can also use these platforms to build an email list and capture leads.
Similar to Google & Bing ads, Shopping campaigns on Facebook and Instagram can promote specific products people are looking for, and either allow them to complete the purchase on Facebook or Instagram or send them directly to that product page on your website.
If it makes sense to sell your product on Amazon, consider advertising on Amazon, too. By doing so, you’ll be leveraging a great platform that already has shoppers ready to buy. It’s the biggest search engine for product searches. It’s a platform that continues to improve and add new features frequently, including improved targeting options. To take advantage of targeting shoppers, optimize your product keywords and product category targeting through split testing and analyzing search term reports.
When it comes to targeting your ideal audience through advertising, you will want to use a mixture of demographic, keyword, geographic, interest, and device targeting.
If you don’t know the demographics of your audience, then you must first collect data. You want to focus on the demographics that are bringing in most of the traffic that is fulfilling the current marketing objective. Lower the bid significantly for the audience that is bringing only about 20% of the results.
Make bid adjustments in increments of 5% when enough data has been collected. Justify bid adjustments only when there is conversion data available, and there are either 100 clicks or 1-1.5k impressions. This is not a strict rule but it is a good practice to follow. Never exclude a demographic, if possible; instead, try to significantly lower the bid.
Since you’ll be working with a small budget, you will be using mostly long-tail keywords. Group all relevant keywords together in the same categorial ad group to facilitate a higher ad relevance score. Each ad group should have 5-10 keywords because you’re working with mostly small-budget accounts. In some rare cases, it might make sense to have 10-15 keywords in an ad group.
When using keyword targeting, it’s vital to optimize the keywords used on an ongoing basis to get the most cost-effective ROI. Look up a search term report to update the negative keyword list. Look for keywords that are bringing in bad traffic; in other words, peripheral, low-intent, and irrelevant keywords. Utilize the search term report and keyword planner to add more high-intent, positive keywords; these keywords are typically best added as exact or phrase-match keywords.
Tip: Use negative keywords to help shape the correct traffic to the website.
KEYWORD TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
For keyword targeting, you want to maintain a quality score between 7 and 10, ideally. However, in some rare cases, this is not possible due to some industries being blacklisted under Google’s hidden strict guidelines. A quality score of 1-3 is only okay if it’s not for a high-intent keyword or one that is bringing in most of the good traffic to the business. You can increase your ad rank for the most important keywords by increasing the quality score and max bid. Increase the quality score by trying to increase the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.
Pro tip: Google secretly keeps a blacklist of certain industries where the highest quality score you can get is between 4 and 6. Sometimes you can get lucky to increase this number – say, for example, from a 4 to a 6 quality score – by talking directly with a Google representative to ensure that you’re running a legit business. An example would be the word “Botox.”
Search Impression Share: Throughout this process, you will want to keep in mind search impression share (IS) at the keyword and at the campaign level (budget search IS). Use data of “search IS” with data of “lost search IS.” For example, low-search IS, high-lost search IS, and low-search IS (at the campaign level) are clear indications that your bid for the keyword needs to be higher to stay competitive. If this is a high-intent keyword with a high conversion rate, then you need to allocate your budget appropriately to increase the search IS for this keyword. Adjustments should be made on a case-by-case basis, but overall, you will want to pause lower-performing keywords and increase spend on high-performing keywords. Using this tactic, CPC will go up, but in the end, because you know that a high-intent keyword has a high conversion rate, the cost will be offset by the potential increase in profits.
Bad Actors: One last thing to consider are bad actors, which are people who purposely click on your ads to drive up the cost. This is typically coming from competitors, which happens more often for highly competitive local businesses. If this does occur, you need to speak with a Google representative to get these bad actors filtered out of your ad spend.
If you sell products locally, then set a small radius around the physical store (about a 1- to 10-mile radius) and try to include locations individually at a granular level, such as cities, zip codes, or county, etc. Be sure to choose one type, such as zip codes only. Try to avoid visitors “interested” in the location to prevent any traffic outside the country or unnecessary traffic. If you sell your product in all 50 states, then input all 50 states individually. Exclude locations in rare scenarios where the general population of a geographic location is negative towards the business or laws do not favor the business.
Make bid adjustments at the granular level in 5% increments. All bid adjustments must be justified with some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions, which is generally a good practice. Lower the bid for low-performing locations.
Start with the observational option to see the potential for an in-market audience. Use an observational approach for various in-market audiences who could convert with the business. Don’t be afraid to experiment with split testing to see your results with targeting vs. observation.
If you are using targeting options, split-test various in-market audience combinations. Make bid adjustments in 5% increments, but ensure there is some conversion data, at least 100 clicks and 1-1.5k impressions before increasing the bid.
INTEREST TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
Hour-Day Strategy: Adjust bids by day first, then by hour. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur, and lower bids otherwise.
Ongoing Optimization: Make bid adjustments in increments of 5%. Justify bid adjustments with conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions. Depending on the business, you may want to exclude bids, if, for example, the business is getting phone calls at 3:00 AM, which is more than likely irrelevant to the business.
Users among various devices behave very differently. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur, and lower bids otherwise. It’s best to significantly lower bids for lower-performing devices rather than completely excluding them. Make bid adjustments in increments of 5%. Justify bid adjustments with conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions.
Advanced Bid Adjustment Strategy: If the business receives calls regularly, then it might make sense to make bid adjustments for call extensions. Observe the data collected first before making any bid adjustments. Make progressive bid adjustments in increments of 5%. These adjustments need to be justified with some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions.
Once you know what advertising channels you’re using, who you’re targeting, and how, it’s important to optimize your ads and strategy. You will optimize your first campaigns and continue optimizing campaigns as you continue your advertising program.
List the benefits of your product, speak to your customers’ pain points, or state the solution you can provide. Then offer them something or mention the features they’ll be getting.
For Google & Bing ads, use all types of ad extensions to take full advantage of your free virtual real estate; it’s going to improve your ad rank and quality score, which will drive down cost. Most people read the headline only, so put more focus on what you put there.
Know your customer because if they’re enthusiasts or professionals, then you may need to include technical terms that they’re familiar with. Typically, you should expect to have higher-performing ad copies when you mention benefits or payoff first, and then features or offers second. For example, “all-in-one payment processor – get your free quote now.”
SOCIAL MEDIA AD CONTENT
For Facebook and Instagram, ad copies vary because people are not buying directly on social platforms. You’re going to have to collect data as you spread brand awareness. You need to split-test various ad copies and pay very close attention to your demographic metrics to get a better sense of who you’re high-converting audience segment is.
Split test 3-4 ad copies. With a small budget, you’re most likely going to be split testing 2-3 ad copies to collect enough data within 30 days or so. Headers are expected to have the most impact. Split test everything from ad text, phrasing (e.g. fun, catchy, negative first, cute, or emotional), benefits, offers, features, unique proposition, etc. It really depends on who your audience is, and that’s why you need to split test to understand who your high-converting customer is, and what they like to respond to.
Pause your lowest-performing ad copy (do not edit it!), and replace it with a fresh one that is modeled after the best-performing ad. Be sure not to edit the ad copy if it’s low-performing because you do not want to convolute the data when you, or especially when someone else, tries to analyze it.
Landing pages should directly refer to a product with a product image. Visitors should not have to look for the product. Remarketing needs to be implemented based on audience behavior that is likely to convert. Social media platforms will most likely be working with a sales funnel since you’re pushing a product on people instead of showing it to them when they’re in-market. On social media, you’ll be giving your audience information over trying to sell something right away. You’ll be revising your demographic targeting over time as you collect data on who is converting. Then you’ll create a lookalike audience to extend your reach to increase ROI.
Provide videos with more detail since consumers and advertising platforms prefer videos. Use lifestyle images with the product on social media platforms or on the landing page. Consider holidays, seasons, events, promos, etc., when creating campaigns.
GOOGLE ADS AND BING OPTIMIZATION
For Google and Bing ads, you can sort ad groups into different phases of a buyer’s funnel, if it makes sense for your business.
Remarketing will be a huge part of the strategy for driving conversions as well. A Display Network campaign is another powerful tool, which will also be involved in your remarketing efforts. You want to build custom audiences for certain behaviors, which would then increase the probability of conversion on the website. For example, one group could be people who viewed a key page, or those who spent X amount of time per session.
Another great tactic is to organize your campaigns by bestselling items vs. lower performers.
Amazon Advertising OPTIMIZATION
Amazon offers product target features as well as category targeting. You can eliminate any demographic factors, and you can focus on keywords and products that people have the intent to buy. Split test different keywords and combinations with brand names. Split test product categories in different campaign types.
You can also view the search term report to find keyword opportunities that all your competitors are not leveraging. Furthermore, do reverse ASIN lookups to find keywords and how they rank.
The main goal is to optimize for ACOS (average cost of sales).
Split Test & Campaign Optimization: Split test campaigns that differ by targeted brand, product, and certain keywords. Eliminate lower-performing campaigns to zoom in on high-converting campaigns while optimizing cost.
Keywords: Update the negative keyword list and utilize proper keyword match types.
Ad Group Optimization: Revise products by removing poor-performing ones to increase sales. Optimize keyword CPC bids.
Social Media Advertising OPTIMIZATION
For Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, you will need to build custom audiences on each platform and make lookalike audiences based on high-converting custom audiences. Eliminate lower-performing metrics in terms of demographics, location, day, hour, etc., to zoom in on your higher-converting audience group.
For LinkedIn specifically, target audiences at a granular level, such as by industry, job title, company, and more. The type of conversions will depend on the marketing objective. Split test different demographics, geolocations, etc., to zoom in on high-converting traffic.
Optimizing Facebook specifically includes swapping the ad copies, testing the ad copies, and testing the ad sets, as well as creating a custom audience or lookalike audience and continuing to track custom conversions.
Swap Ad Copies: You have already tested what ads perform well on Facebook, so freshen up your next campaign. Swapping out ad copies with fresh ones is favorable to Facebook’s algorithm, which will lower the overall cost of advertising. Use a similar theme because you want similar expected results.
Split Test Ad Copies: Like with Google Ads, the importance of split testing ads should be a natural optimization step.
Split Test Ad Sets: Use different segmented audiences to fine-tune and discover the best segmentation that is going to give the right balance between conversions and cost.
Custom Audience/Lookalike Audience: Keep analyzing and making adjustments as needed to increase the performance of lookalike audience targeting and custom audience retargeting.
Custom Conversions: Keep tracking custom conversions to understand important business KPIs. Eventually, after analyzing the data and making performance adjustments for a few months, switch the campaign objective to optimize for conversions. You need to justify this switch after analyzing and optimizing results (or conversions) and cost.
Allocate your budget so 80% of it is focused on high-conversion groups and 20% is focused on lower-performing or experimental groups. Make budget, bid, and segmentation adjustments as needed to follow the 80/20 rule (80% budget on results and 20% on experimentation).
Pay close attention to website performance because it’s as important as Google Ads performance; website performance can refer to load time speed, bounce rate, time per session, etc. One of the most common mistakes businesses make in digital marketing is wrongfully blaming poor performance on campaigns and advertising when their website is poorly optimized for conversions. You can bring the highest quality traffic at the lowest cost to the website, but all that doesn’t matter if they cannot convert due to the limitations of the website.
You can begin your lead nurturing effort even before your product launches as a way to test the waters before manufacturing your products on a large scale. This helps create buzz around your product before it launches as well as determine if you have the right market fit (audience) to sell your products. While some agencies recommend advertising at this phase, we only recommend organic communications efforts before you launch to mitigate costs while testing the waters.
After your product launches, you should already have a refined audience base to promote on multiple platforms. Continue nurturing your email list and social media followers. Provide quality content adjacent to and about your product to keep your audience interested.
While growing your email list and social media following can help business growth, first focus on your current subscribers and followers. By focusing on them, you will encourage like-minded friends to join them while serving your customers well first. After all, most purchases are repeat purchases, so focus on your first customers more than gaining new customers.
Ecommerce businesses should utilize email marketing to streamline and automate processes. This can be done in three ways: newsletters, promotional emails, and automated email sequences, including lifecycle emails. Ecommerce businesses should use all three types of email marketing when appropriate to best serve their customers.
SENDER ADDRESS & NAME
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits in your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]. The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email accounts according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]. Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails (or mark them as spam), for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Most customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Brand Name or Product Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name, Name from Brand Name, or Name with Product Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
CHOOSING AN EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, MailerLite, SendPulse, or Sendinblue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform and start creating and sending emails and gathering subscriber email addresses. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
COLLECTING AN AUDIENCE
Small businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, you should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they make a purchase (and simultaneously have the opportunity to create an account) or when they sign up for a lead magnet.
In order for your potential subscribers to sign up for your email list and learn about your lead magnet, they first need to fill out a short form, which may be on a complete landing page, a pop-up form, or in another format on your website.
For ecommerce businesses, you will want to ask your subscribers for their first name, last name, and birthdate (month and date, but year may be unnecessary depending on your industry). You also may want to ask other questions to better serve them, but remember to only ask necessary questions. If you ask questions that are not applicable to the potential subscriber, then they will either click away from your form and website, or they will enter useless data. Plus, having more fields and questions can deter those who are unlikely to purchase your product, ensuring your email lists are focused on quality leads, rather than quantity. So keep the number of fields relevant to your needs and comparable to the lead magnet you are providing them.
If you already have customers before creating your email marketing program, use that information to determine what fields you include in the sign-up form. If you only know their name and email address, you might not need more information. Or, you may realize you’re lacking a critical detail about those customers. Use this data to inform your sign-up form creation process.
Tip: We recommend creating a special newsletter for your subscribers’ birthdays based on their purchase history. Birthday emails can include a coupon; a personalized ecard, video, or GIF; free gift (often with purchase); free shipping; or a mystery offer, which they don’t find out until they go to checkout. This automated email can offer joy to your subscribers, which may also benefit your business.
Before pushing an automated email sequence live or sending a newsletter, be sure to first create a Welcome email (that you send right after they subscribe) that contains a lead magnet.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email address, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an assessment, checklist, or ebook. Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
The best lead magnets for ecommerce businesses are:
- Assessments or quizzes (or the answer to a quiz they take on your website)
- Guides, ebooks, or reports
- Discount codes
- Desktop or mobile wallpapers
- Free samples
- Challenge details
- Entry into a giveaway drawing
- Free shipping codes
The format of the lead magnet will depend on your product and what your customers could benefit from having. The format will also determine the level of effort required to create the lead magnet. For content-based lead magnets, such as quizzes or guides, consider assigning this effort to your communications team. To create a wallpaper, assign this effort to your design team. When creating checklists or a challenge, consider reaching out to your sales, communications, and design teams. For free shipping, a discount code, or a free product, work with your website team to set it up.
Tip: If you have multiple products, we recommend having multiple lead magnets, one for each top-selling product; be sure to tag or segment accordingly to organize your lists.
For example, a boutique clothing designer wouldn’t necessarily want to provide their subscribers with a free blouse, but their new subscribers may be interested in an ebook that showcases the latest fashion trends. Of course, this boutique would then need to update the ebook annually, at least, to ensure it continues to benefit its subscribers. This extra effort would show the prospect that the brand is trustworthy, leading them closer to purchasing, especially since this type of lead magnet may be used over and over again.
Tip: If you do update your lead magnets, send them to your old subscribers, too. This is a great way to retarget your customers using email marketing.
EMAIL CREATION & DESIGN
When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance.
Depending on the products offered, you will want to showcase long- or short-form content within your emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email, as well as the preferences of the recipient, which is where split testing comes in.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or use a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Newsletters primarily educate and engage subscribers on a recurring basis, such as weekly or monthly, to help keep your brand top-of-mind with your subscribers. Newsletters are a great place to showcase customer reviews, blog articles, product updates and launches, and more. Newsletters are also ideal for promotions, such as sales and contests, as well as surveys.
Newsletters should follow the same format each time so subscribers can recognize them. Be sure to split test frequency as well as send days and times to see what works best for your subscribers, and then be consistent for most of your newsletters. To start, send a monthly newsletter after a Welcome email.
Tip: Make your newsletter about the inside scoop on your product. Let your email subscribers be the first to know anything about your products.
In addition to regular newsletters, we recommend sending promotional emails as needed. These are one-time emails that promote a product launch, company news, sale, contest, survey, or something else. Typically, promotional emails promote one thing with one call to action.
When you do send promotional emails, you may benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics. This means you showcase a limited amount of your product or a limited time frame of the sale. Whichever way you use this tactic, make sure it’s accurate. Only promote the limited amount of your product if you literally will be sold out for a short period of time after that amount is sold. Only promote the limited time frame of a sale if you are not going to extend it. Scarcity marketing can increase the urgency and effectiveness of a sale when you do it with honesty and integrity.
For occasional promotional emails, you can increase the frequency (e.g. daily for three days for a three-day flash sale) and change the send days and times.
Tip: When determining whether to include a promotion in a Newsletter with other updates or in a separate Promotional Email, consider how big the news is that you’re sharing. If it’s time-sensitive or you want to maximize click-throughs, send one or a few Promotional Emails. You can also tease a promotion in the Newsletter you send before the promotional email, if time allows, and on social media to drum up excitement.
AUTOMATED EMAIL SEQUENCES
An automated email sequence is ideal for nurturing prospective customers based on the challenges they commonly experience and your solutions to resolving them. An automated email sequence is also ideal for streamlining the sales process by leading prospects and new customers through the process of how your business and product work.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and general maintenance tips on how to get the most out of your product.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences. Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open rates, click rates, and purchases are likely to increase.
Ideal sequences for ecommerce businesses include:
- Welcome sequence: Turn one email into a sequence and show your new subscriber their options, your business history, etc. Give them the virtual tour in multiple emails rather than jamming everything into one email or expecting them to go out and search for those details on your website. Be sure to give them a lead magnet in the first email.
- Onboarding sequence: Give your new customers the best tips on how to get the most out of their new product. Include a thank-you email for their purchase, a shipping update, a product arrival email, a request for a product review email, and a product promotion email, or any of the above, to streamline your customer service efforts via automated email.
- Repeat customer emails: When the time is right, send a short sequence reminding them that they might be out of your product or may be interested in a similar product.
One type of automated email sequences ecommerce businesses can greatly benefit from are lifecycle emails. Sending specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These lifecycle emails include:
- Welcome emails
- Onboarding sequences
- Abandoned cart emails
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
These short and sweet emails essentially show the subscriber that the business cares about them in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
EMAIL MARKETING BEST PRACTICES
Re-send to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase campaign performance with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
A/B Testing: Creating and sending email content to subscribers isn’t enough for ecommerce businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method, which is also called split testing. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and conversions. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email/name
- Call-to-action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more conversions? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the other 80% of the audience.
Testing should happen frequently and, if possible, for every email sent to increase conversions.
Note: Some email automation platforms, like Mailchimp, don’t offer A/B testing for lists that have less than 10,000 subscribers. This is because they recommend a test group of 5,000 subscribers each. (Mailchimp also does not offer A/B testing on their free plan.) However, if your list is small, you can still A/B test sequence to sequence or newsletter to newsletter. Just remember to only change one thing for each (except the content, of course), and test each change for a few campaigns rather than just one.
Personalize Emails: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues by using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. To do this, you must use behavioral targeting from the very beginning, which means you need to place a tracking code on your website that works with your automated email campaigns to send the emails based on website triggers.
Having this tracking code not only sends emails to your subscribers based on their actions on your website, but it also provides you with data and insights that you can use later. For example, if you notice a group of subscribers is more interested in one of your products than others, but they haven’t purchased it yet (or haven’t in a while), you can target them with a discount campaign to push them closer to conversion. These data-based lead nurturing campaigns combine marketing and sales with the power of automated email. You can also use the data in your email marketing platform to recommend similar products based on previous website page views or other customers’ combined purchases.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to further personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
You can segment or tag subscribers by what products they’ve purchased, when they purchased those products, what type of content they’ve read on your website, birthday month, how they came across your product, and more. The more an ecommerce business can narrow down its customers within its email marketing, the better it can send the right messages at the right time.
Email Scrubbing: Even with ecommerce businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists. Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t need to be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit your business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a small business can manage these processes better in-house because they know their customers.
Many consumers use social media to look up and research a business before they choose to purchase its products. These consumers want an inside look at your business before trusting you. Social media is a great way to build trust with your audience because of the variety of post options and the opportunity to dive deeper into promoting your brand values.
The focus of your social media program should be on conveying reputability by encouraging customer reviews, which are connected to your online reputation and showcasing your products, values, and personality on a consistent basis. The overall followers and engagement numbers are not as important as providing your prospects with another way to learn about your business from your team and your previous customers in an online social environment. It’s important to only use essential social media channels to maintain consistency in posting and communications with your followers. Having outdated social media pages can negatively impact your reputation and turn prospects away.
In addition to a consistent social media program focused on providing valuable content to your followers, your business may benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics. Like using this tactic for email marketing, you can offer limited promotions via social media; however, it’s important to note that most social media platforms use algorithms so posts are not viewed in date order, which means your followers may not see today’s post until next week. So, to use this tactic on social media, let your followers in on the limited offer ahead of time with consistent posts and hints. This way, you get the benefits of scarcity marketing while ensuring your followers know the limited opportunity is coming beforehand. In essence, you’re creating a countdown for them, driving interest and being transparent at the same time.
For ecommerce businesses, social media is the best way to get the word out about your product before you launch because it is generally inexpensive to post organic content. You just need a mixture of professional photos of your product and stock photos; as well as a way to curate social media images (such as using Canva, which is a free web-based tool and app); and great content that follows your messaging guidelines, uses hashtags that relate to your product and brand, and piques the interest of your new followers. Encourage followers to sign up for your email program so they can be the first ones informed of your launch and snag your product first. Then, after you launch your product, keep communicating with your followers on social media.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Instagram and Pinterest are must-have social media platforms for your ecommerce business. We recommend launching Instagram and other pages, such as Facebook, before your product launches to stir up buzz. Then, after you’ve launched, create your Pinterest business account to discuss your products and share your blog articles.
The key is to cater the content, image sizes, and hashtags for each platform. You want to set up each page to look similar (according to your visual branding), but each page (profile and posts) should cater to the audience members who are likely to follow it.
For example, if your younger audience segment follows you on Instagram but your best customers follow you and find you on Pinterest, your content and messaging will differ for each platform. This takes trial and error, so don’t be afraid to ask your employees and customers what they think (and watch the data).
Social media pages should be consistently active. Daily posts or multiple posts per day are ideal, but unrealistic for many small businesses. Instead, focus on publishing three quality posts per week and scale from there if it benefits your business and you are able to do so.
The day and time you post don’t matter as much as being consistent because the algorithm for most platforms, such as Instagram, means posts are not seen right when they are published, but instead in the order the viewer is likely to want to see the posts based on interest.
To publish social media content, you can use social media scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer, which include free plans, as well as Zoho Social, Oktopost, SocialOomph, Sprout Social, and more. We recommend choosing one social media scheduling tool based on your platforms, needs, and budget. This way, you can create posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish in a week, a month, or at a later time. This streamlines the time you spend on social media for your business, but don’t forget to check your pages, too. Alternatively, you can publish directly to each native platform, but this often takes longer, especially if you want to share a similar post on multiple platforms, and most platforms don’t have scheduling options, limiting your publishing times to “now.”
Tip: When you need to promote something timely, such as a sale or event promotion, create multiple posts on the same topic and schedule them well in advance to give your audience multiple reminders.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
Ecommerce businesses need to be authentic on their social media pages. Promotional posts have their place, but educational and entertaining posts should be the majority. Ecommerce businesses have a great opportunity to showcase their professional product photos with informative (and maybe even fun, according to your messaging guidelines) captions alongside how-to videos, stock photos, and user-generated photos.
Using user-generated content is a great way to show your customers what purchasing your product is really like. Encourage your customers to share their experiences online in the format of a review, preferably with photos; this is a great option on Facebook, your website, and other online retailers, such as Amazon. On Instagram and Pinterest, there aren’t review-specific opportunities, but instead, there is the opportunity for organic posts by customers featuring your product.
When a customer is very satisfied with their experience, they are often happy to “review” your product in a post. Then the reviews benefit your online reputation (see Online Reputation in Foundation) and can be repurposed as user-generated content on your pages.
On Instagram, when you see followers tag your brand in a post and positively comment about your product, send them a direct message and ask them if you can feature their post and comment on your Instagram page. If they say yes, you can repost the post on your business’s Instagram feed among your other regularly-scheduled posts.
Promotional posts have their place, but educational and newsworthy posts should be the majority. Depending on your industry and personality, you may be able to showcase a behind-the-scenes look at your business, too. Live video works great for this. You also may be able to entertain your followers with creative posts, which can further showcase your reputability and brand personality.
Video content is powerful on most platforms, including social media and your website. Consider creating Q&A content, live or recorded, to answer customer questions about your product, or take them on a journey to see how your product is made. Videos can be recorded and edited on a smartphone. Remember to use your messaging and visual branding guidelines when developing video content.
Tip: Shorter video clips are ideal content pieces for Instagram posts and Stories as well as Pinterest; the ideal length for Instagram is about 30 seconds with the maximum length being 60 seconds. However, if you plan on creating longer videos, we recommend uploading them to YouTube or Vimeo, and then snipping a short clip from that video for social media sharing.
Creating and sharing video content also involves adding helpful descriptions for YouTube or Vimeo and social sharing. Descriptions that help viewers understand the context of the video (beyond just the video title) can improve SEO as well.
To develop your video content strategy, you need to determine whether it will replace or augment other content you are sharing. Depending on your business and resources, your answer will vary; however, augmenting long-form content, such as blog articles, with videos can help showcase your expertise in a digestible format.
Social Media Influencers
Ecommerce businesses, B2B and B2C, can benefit from using social media influencers. The key is to find smaller influencers who have an engaged, niche following who are not promoting your competitors; these are called micro-influencers. You may be able to find influencers among your customers. Then, you can encourage them to promote your business even more with discounts or free swag.
The key to developing relationships with potential influencers before you email them and ask them to partner with you is to follow them on social media, and comment on and share their posts. Start the relationship with their business (and, likely, personal brand) before asking them to promote your business.
You will likely work with influencers who are on Instagram and maybe have their own blog, but influencers are increasingly using YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest. But don’t spread yourself too thin. Just because you reach out to an influencer on Snapchat doesn’t mean you need to have your own Snapchat account. Instead, encourage the influencer to let their followers know of other ways to learn more about your product, such as your Instagram handle or website URL.
Tip: Choose micro-influencers who have a decent following in your niche and will represent your brand well. Review their posts and blogs to ensure their messaging style fits with your guidelines (see Messaging in Foundation). For example, if you create a product for a religious audience, you will likely not want an influencer who swears on their Instagram Stories because it’s just not a good fit for your brand.
Social Media Contests
Contests on social media can accelerate brand awareness, lead generation, conversions, and generate buzz about your business. This tactic can even be used in the pre-launch phase of your business. When hosting a contest, be sure to have a relevant but not too expensive prize to offer the contest winner.
For people to enter, they typically have to like your post, comment on it, follow your page, and share your post; all or some of these pieces may be required while others may be additional entries into the contest. You can also request that they opt-in to your email marketing, either as a way to pre-qualify them as a lead or as an additional entry into the contest itself. Adding the email marketing opt-in can lower the number of bad leads you receive during the contest, but it can also lower the reach your contest has. It’s best to test what works best for your audience.
USE THE DATA
Social media is always changing just as your customers’ needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (e.g. likes and comments) and how many conversions your posts had.
For ecommerce businesses, the number of conversions will likely be your main focus for your social media program. However, it takes time to build a following that trusts you and engages with you, so pay attention to engagement and awareness as well.
Keep in mind that you don’t want every social media post to sell, so not every post will lead to conversions. But, if you develop a social media program that informs followers about your products and sometimes leads them to your website or email list sign-up form, then you are likely to have high conversions during promotional pushes and sales.
Social media is meant to be “social,” so ecommerce businesses need at least one dedicated team member to check each social media platform daily, minimum, in order to reply to follower comments and DMs.
If you choose to use Facebook in your social media marketing efforts, set up and use Facebook Messenger bots for your business, which allow you to utilize the benefits of chatbots without any legwork. Messenger can benefit your business because it is likely that a large segment of your audience would prefer to contact you via Messenger than through other avenues. Once you set up your Facebook Messenger bot for your business page, be sure you have a team member who can check it and respond to it most of the time, especially during business hours. It’s also best to create automatic messages so your customers can see your business hours and receive answers to common questions, even if your business is closed.
Blog content is the ideal content type for ecommerce businesses, but before you start publishing articles on your website and third-party websites, you need a strategy. These communications efforts focus on answering your prospects’ questions, which partially serves as a customer service effort.
To develop an effective content strategy, you first need to have refined messaging guidelines, as these are the base of your content strategy. This is because your content strategy should focus on meeting the needs of (and answering questions for) each audience segment. By creating content for customers and prospects at every stage in the buying cycle, you are helping attract leads, convert leads into paying customers, and retain those paying customers. When you know what questions you need to answer and what tutorials your audience segments need, it’s easier to develop a content strategy and calendar. The how is the strategy; the when is the calendar.
Before creating content, develop a list of questions you want to answer for each audience segment. Then create a plan to address each of those questions over the next few months. This is the beginning of your content calendar.
In your content calendar, be sure to include the types of content you’ll create and where you will distribute them. Your two top distribution platforms will be your email marketing program and Pinterest.
Tip: You can also use Instagram in your content distribution efforts by using the #linkinbio hashtag in post content since you cannot add a clickable link to each post. Then, add your latest blog article link as your link in your profile. Or use one of these tools to list multiple links.
Tip: Content should primarily be used to supplement lead nurturing efforts to create a better customer experience and aid in the buying decision. The content itself will also play a strong role in generating relevant traffic via on-page SEO efforts.
For ecommerce businesses, blog articles are the best format to share content for your business. However, you don’t necessarily have to just write content. Video content can be used in place of or alongside written blog content on your website.
Armed with your content strategy, you can start developing blog or vlog content that will benefit your audience and improve your lead-nurturing efforts. Through your blog content, you will want to address purchase objections and provide helpful guidance for each stage in the customer journey. Provide sneak peeks, product announcements, interviews, how-to information (this is great in video format!), and more.
You can also come up with content ideas on social media and in your email inbox. Monitor your hashtags, comments, DMs, and customer service emails for common questions. Answer those questions personally and then create a blog or video on it, too, to answer future customer questions.
Tip: For every hour you spend writing, editing, and publishing content, spend an equal amount distributing that content via social media, email, and other outlets.
Tip: Create blog titles that answer questions to your audience’s problems.