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6 Effective eCommerce Marketing Strategies

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You’ve finally done it. You’ve finished setting up your online store! Congratulations.

After weeks spent slaving over code and adjusting colors, banners, and fonts, you feel proud of your storefront. Your products and images are uploaded, and you’ve given the whole site more trial runs than you can count. And now, it’s ready.

So, you launch! And the first few days make you feel like you’re the protagonist of a 90s romcom.

Dressed in your best business attire, you sit behind the figurative counter of your newly opened store. You stare at the open sign on your shiny glass door, and you wait.

And wait.

Hours roll by and still you sit, twiddling your thumbs. But still, no one comes.

So, what are you to do? You’ve set up the perfect store, and it’s stocked with products you believe in. You know that customers will love those products too, if they could only find them. But, how do you get customers’ feet in the door?

Unfortunately, with the rising popularity of eCommerce, it’s increasingly difficult to draw the attention of potential customers. How can you stand out amidst so much competition? What is eCommerce marketing, and how can you make it work for you? We’ve got a few ideas.

Here are our top six eCommerce marketing strategies.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is the most obvious of our recommendations, and also the most difficult to do well.

SEO is absolutely necessary to help customers find your store. With almost 40% of all online traffic coming from search engines, you simply can’t ignore the effect that SEO has on your profitability.

You should note that SEO is an industry in and of itself, and there are hundreds of strategies to optimizing your site for a wide variety of search engines. We’ll just focus on the strategies that you can implement without too much web development.

Write Relevant URLs.

Be purposeful when you create URLs for your products.

Ensuring that your URLs contain relevant keywords for your pages and products will help search engines locate matches to specific searches. Also, customers are also more likely to remember URLs that contain words instead of a series of numbers and letters.

Write Original Meta Tags.

Meta tags are page descriptions that help search engines (and potential customers) know if your site contains pertinent information. Write meta tags that are a few sentences long and that contain keywords. If your meta tags match up with a customer’s Google search, Google will use that meta tag as your page’s snippet (the short paragraph listed in the search results).

Here’s an example of a snippet.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 2.56.13 PM

See those bolded words that match the search words? That’s what you want your potential customers to see in your meta tags.

Create Long Tail Keywords.

Of course, you want lots of traffic to your site. But, more importantly, you want lots of quality traffic. You don’t just want a lot of people in your store; you want potential buyers.

How do you draw in those buyers? One way is to write long-tail keywords.

Say you’re selling a wide variety of vintage shoes. If you just use “Suede shoes” as your keyword for one of your products, you’re going to rank very low in every search engine’s results (and the people who do come may not be the right type of customers). But, if you write “Suede boat shoes vintage” as your keyword, you’ll not only rank higher, but you’ll also attract the type of person that wants to buy your vintage shoes.

Write lots of keywords and make them specific.

There’s a whole lot more I could say about SEO, but I’ll stop here. If you’re interested in optimizing your site for Google searches, I recommend taking a look at Google’s beginner guide to SEO. It’s got lots of useful tips (written in plain English) and examples that you can use to revamp your SEO. Also, there’s a cute little cartoon of a Googlebot on every other page.

Social Media Marketing

As we all know, millennials love social media, but it goes beyond that. Social media demographics span all ages, social classes, and regions. Check out Sprout Social’s breakdown of current social media users.

These days, people are using social media sites not just for entertainment and connection, but also as a source of news and other information. I know that I (a millennial) often encounter news first on Facebook, and so does my mother (a young baby boomer). Social media is fast becoming the largest pool of information since the development of the search engine.

So, how can you harness the power of social media to direct potential customers to your site?

The key is regular, quality interaction on social media.

Post often.

Make sure that you’re involved in your chosen social media avenues, posting at least once a day. I’ve even seen other sites recommend that you post three times a day. Regardless, don’t let your page go stagnant for multiple days on end.

Post relevant information.

Before each publication, ask yourself if your target audience would appreciate your post. Each video, image, and blog that you share should connect with your customer base. They should find it useful, informative, and entertaining. They should NOT feel like they are being coerced into buying your product.

SnapRetail advises a 60/30/10 rule for posting on Facebook. 60% of your posts should be resources for your customers (if you sell children’s shoes, perhaps a video explaining how to determine shoe size). 30% of your posts should support your brand, whether that’s through publishing pictures of your new products or advertising upcoming sales. And with 10% of your posts, you should share other people’s content. That could be sharing a customer’s post about your product (with their permission), or even promoting another company that offers products that complement your own.

Here’s Snap Retail’s video about their 60/30/10 rule.

Leverage Buy Buttons.

With many shopping carts (like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento), you can even use Buy Buttons to sell on Facebook and Pinterest. Then, you don’t even have to direct customers to your online store; you can sell to them right where they are.

Get People Talking

Word of mouth has long been the best way to get your product out there. Customers are far more likely to trust the advice of their friends and family than the add you posted in the local newspaper (or, in this case, news feed).

Leverage word of mouth (and word of keyboard) to further your brand. There are a couple ways to do this, depending on the current state of your business and popularity of your product.

Build On Your Current Customer Base.

The power of the smartphone can turn any customer into a marketer. They just need a little motivation. Use discounts to incentivize your customers to share your product.

Here are a few ways to go about that:

  • Ask your customers to share coupons online in return for a 15% discount.
  • Include a note in your shipments that encourages posting a picture to social media in return for a percentage off the next purchase.
  • Remember: the words “FREE SHIPPING” are powerful in eCommerce. Offer free shipping to customers who refer their friends to your product.

Send Samples To Instagram Stars (or Quasi-stars).

Shopify has some great ideas for this. If you’re just starting out with a brand-new product, they recommend sending a sample of your product to a semi-popular Instagram user whose audience matches your own. Include a note that lets the Instagrammer know that you’re a fan. Explain your product and ask them to share with their followers if they approve.

Check out this post from a semi-popular photographer who’s received a watch from a sponsor. This is the type of post you’re shooting for.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 9.55.50 AM

Content Marketing

You’ve likely encountered the term “content marketing” once or twice as you scrolled through articles on popular eCommerce news sites. It’s certainly a buzzword these days, but what does content marketing really mean? And how do you use it to further your brand?

Great questions; I’m glad you asked.

Content marketing is loosely defined as promoting awareness of your brand through the production and distribution of any quality content (blogs, videos, infographics, etc.) that could benefit your customers. Neil Patel is generally recognized as an expert in the area; I like what he says about content marketing:

. . . content marketing is a long-term strategy, based on building a strong relationship with your customers by giving them valuable content on a consistent basis, which is highly relevant to them.

Valuable, consistent, and relevant. Your content should be all these things and more.

There are several avenues you can take to create that content and make it available. Here are some of the most easily accessible techniques.

Maintain a Quality Blog that Customers Want to Share.

It doesn’t take much to set up a blog. Most website builders have blog capabilities already built-in, and it’s easy to create a WordPress account and link it to your current site.

Once you have a blog up and running, take some time to consider what sort of information your customers will want to know. Ask questions like: What problems does my product solve—can I write about those issues? What questions do customers often ask me? What’s a topic that’s related to my product that I find interesting? Jot down all your ideas.

When you have a long list of blog post ideas, put pen to paper! Make sure your articles are well written. They should be long enough to fully cover your topic and free of grammatical and technical errors.

Publish your articles, and post a couple of links to your social media sites. Watch as your customers do the rest. If you’ve written a quality article that’s informative (or funny, or interesting, or heartwarming), your customers will do the circulation for you, sharing the article with their friends either through social media or in person.

Do you see the benefit?

Great, because there’s one more advantage to maintaining a blog. Regular blog posts can help get you on the map in terms of SEO. That’s because 1) Blogs create more content for a search engine to grab on to and 2) Your site is viewed more often and therefore, is seen as more relevant.

If you choose to use only one form of content marketing, choose to write a blog, even if it’s just for the SEO.

Create High-Interest Videos

Humans crave story, and video is one of the fastest ways to tell one. Just consider the Vine fad from a few years ago. People everywhere were writing, filming, and producing seven-second stories with their smartphones. And for about two weeks, we were hooked.

What if you could leverage that hunger for a story to market your product? One way to do so is through video marketing.

You might be asking yourself: How is video marketing different from TV ads? The answer: It isn’t.

In fact, Super Bowl commercials are some of the best examples of content marketing. We all have that friend who “just watches the Super Bowl for the commercials.” Those commercials tell stories, and your friend wants to watch them, even if there’s a logo at the end. That’s good video marketing.

If you can, aim to replicate the success of Super Bowl commercials by creating a video that appeals to your customers’ sense of humor or sentimentality. Try to entertain instead of just promote.

Of course, while it’s great to make a funny or touching video, we don’t all have the talent (or funds) required to do so. If that’s the case, you can instead tap into your customers’ desire for knowledge. Here are a few ways to go about it.

  • A how-to video. Show how to use your product or how to solve a related problem.
  • A list video. People love lists. If you can think of a “Five ways” or “Ten things” sort of video, people will watch it.
  • A video about the history surrounding your product.
  • A video about the science behind your product.
  • A video featuring people trying out your product. Reaction videos are big. Viewers love to discover new things through others.

Essentially, if you can think of a topic that inspires curiosity, make a video about it. Spend some time cruising through YouTube’s trending videos to find out what format works, then do it yourself.

(OR, if you’re bold, you can take advantage of Facebook’s new Facebook Live option. Script your video first, then interact with customers as they comment on your page.)

Write Relevant eBooks & PDFs (and distribute them for FREE)

Blogs are great, but they often can’t cover all the nitty-gritty information that your customer base may be looking for. Downloadable ebooks and PDFs give your customers the tools they need in an in-depth format.

Just check out this Content Marketing Cheatsheet PDF that I found on Marketo’s site. It’s a handy two-page guide to content marketing that is both useful and easy to read. And while the company that made this PDF isn’t glaringly obvious, I can easily see at the bottom of the page that the PDF was written by Marketo.

That one logo combined with rich information makes me more likely to return to this site, either for more downloadable resources or for their paid services.

(Added bonus: If you ask for your visitors’ email addresses in return for the download you’ll be able to build up your contact list for your email marketing campaign.)

Succeeding With Content Marketing

Above all, remember that content marketing places the customer above the product. Good content is relevant (to your audience’s needs as well as to your brand), informative, interesting, up to date, and well done.

Your customers will love you for it.

Email Marketing

Email may be phasing out as a means of casual communication, but it’s far from dead.

Email marketing helps you turn a one-time buyer into a regular customer. Use your shopping cart’s built-in email marketing or integrations like MailChimp or Constant Contact to communicate with your customers.

Here are eight tips for effective email marketing.

  • Conduct A/B testing. In order to find out what drives conversion in your customer groups, create two emails; send one email to one half of your customer base, another to the other half. Find out which type of email leads to the highest click-through rate and move forward from there.
  • Write attention-grabbing subject lines. I’m not talking about the clickbait you see all over the internet. Your email’s subject line shouldn’t be exaggerated: e.g. “Click here. What happens next will blow your mind!!” Please, it’s a 20% off coupon; it’s hardly mind-blowing. But, your subject lines should contain a little character. Something like “New Releases We’re Excited About (and We Think You Will be Too)” might work a bit better.
  • Be personal. Use customers’ names within the email. While your grammar should always be spot on, aim to keep your writing casual. Address your customer like you would a friend you admire.
  • Write informative and entertaining emails. Chances are, your customers aren’t as focused on your product as you are. Instead of sending out yet another email about your product’s features, create an email that you know your customer will want to read. Think about your demographics, and write an email that’s relevant to your customers’ lives.
  • Take advantage of autoresponders. Many email marketing integrations (like those mentioned above) can be set to send emails automatically: when a customer signs up for an email list, when they make a purchase, when an order ships, etc. Use these automatic emails to build trust with your customers.
  • Pay attention to readability. No one wants to read a solid brick of text. Break up your messages to make them easier to digest. Use bullet points, color blocks, and buttons to make your emails easier to skim.
  • Don’t forget mobile responsive design. Make sure your emails can be read from all mobile devices. It would be a shame for your hard work to end up in a trash bin just because it’s difficult to read on a smartphone.
  • Include a call to action. The point of the email should be obvious to your customer. If you want them to follow you on social media, include a useful “Follow” button in the email. If you want them to download a PDF eBook, include an attachment. Make it easy for your customer to complete the action you want them to take.

These are just a few of the basic rules of email marketing. If you’d like to read more about best practices for email marketing campaigns, take a look at Vero’s recommendations for effective marketing. They have forty listed. A few of them are bound to work for your company.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads

PPC ads are another way to get the word out about your product. PPC adds tend to bring in traffic faster that SEO does, though there’s more monetary risk involved. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about pay-per-click advertising.

Using PPC advertising, you place bids on keywords that relate to your products or pages. Bids range from a few cents to over fifty dollars. The more you bid, the higher you’ll rank in a keyword search. But, you pay the amount of your bid every time a browser clicks your product, regardless of whether they make a purchase or not.

So, you want to make sure you aren’t just getting a lot of clicks, but that you’re getting clicks which lead to conversion. One of the best online marketing strategies is to create and bid on long-tail keywords. We’ve already talked about long-tail keywords in relation to SEO, and the same goes here. The longer and more specific your keyword is, the more likely it is that the person who clicks your product is also the person who buys your product. Additionally, specific keywords are often associated with lower bids. Save money; use long-tail keywords.

There’s a whole list of don’ts when it comes to PPC. Here are a few.

  • Don’t use broad keywords. The bids will be higher, and you’ll pay for more fruitless clicks.
  • Don’t direct customers to any page other than the product page. This will increase your bounce rate.
  • Don’t give up quickly. If you choose to try PPC, give it a fair test run of a few months. It could be that your ads only need a little bit of tweaking to be profitable. Of course, if you’re absolutely bleeding money, ditch and run.

Obviously, there’s a whole lot more to consider when making a decision about PPC adds, including how much you’re willing to spend on each add and how many products you want to list. You’ll also need to consider which advertiser will host your product (Google AdWordsMicrosoft Bing Ads, and Yahoo Search Marketing are among the most popular). But, this should be enough to kickstart your research.

Final Thoughts

So, if you’re sitting in that empty shop, hoping that someone walks through the door, try out a few of these eCommerce marketing techniques. Likely, something will catch on, and you’ll start moving product. Once you’ve had some success with the techniques above, you can move on to more advanced ecommerce marketing.

And when that traffic does roll in, keep at it! Analyze, analyze, analyze, whether that be via built-in sales analytics or an integration with Google Analytics (which is free at its lowest tier). Use those tools and knowledge to keep building your customer base and craft a better marketing strategy.

When the numbers start to climb, don’t just sit back and watch the sales; find out what’s working and persist in it.

Liz Hull

Liz Hull

Liz Hull is an eCommerce Writer for Merchant Maverick. In her two years with Merchant Maverick, she has tested and reviewed over 40 eCommerce platforms and published two ebooks on the topic of online selling. Liz has also been published in Startup Nation and Home Business Magazine Online. Liz has a BA in English and Spanish from George Fox University.
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