Ecommerce merchants have many options for acquiring site traffic, building customer relationships, and ultimately improving sales and profitability.
Enumerating all of the marketing tactics available and creating an ecommerce marketing playbook of sorts may encourage new campaigns and help ensure that retailers are not in a marketing rut.
Reading and writing email is one of the most common online activities, according to a 2011 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew found that 92 percent of American adults on the Internet used email.
This frequency of use makes email an excellent option for ecommerce marketing.
“If I were to add up all the revenue I've generated over the years and divide it by marketing channel,” wrote marketer and ecommerce entrepreneur Brandon Eley in his book, Online Marketing Inside Out, “email would easily take the lion's share. What's great about email marketing is that it's one of the easiest types of marketing campaigns to carry out, the benefits are instant, and when implemented correctly the return on investment is substantial.”
Consider sending emails that offer discounts or specials, the opportunity to enter a contest or receive a giveaway, or that have valuable content like articles.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the practice of changing a site's structure with the aim of making the content of that site easier for search engines — Google and Bing for example — to both understand and index.
Good site structure should make a page easier for human visitors and web crawlers alike. To this end, Google published Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide PDF and regularly answers questions about SEO on its Google Webmaster YouTube Channel.
There is a dark side to SEO. Avoid any SEO consultant promising to get almost magic results, recommending keyword stuffing, or using excessive redirects. All of these tactics, along with many others, can hurt a site's reputation.
Pay-per-click advertising can be extremely successful for ecommerce businesses, since ads may be purchased even with a tiny budget, results are easy to measure, and much can be done to monitor and maximize conversions.
It is important to note that this tends to be a short-term marketing strategy, since its aim is to immediately boost site traffic. Combining PPC with other long-term marketing tactics can be a great way to build a business.
As a marketing tactic, content marketing is the practice of publishing great content in order to engage potential customers, earn relationship-based sales, and develop long-term, repeat customers.
This tactic is best described with a few examples.
Imagine an online retailer of vegetable seeds and gardening supplies that publishes a how-to blog. The site's blog has articles that describe how to build window boxes for flowers or how to make a raised garden bed using salvaged pallets. Anyone who reads and even uses one of these tutorials to build a window box will be predisposed to also purchase from this supplier, which is now seen as an expert.
Likewise, an online retailer of electronics and computers with a YouTube channel that demonstrates how to clean up a PC's disk and remove computer viruses is going a long way to winning customer loyalty.
Content marketing also helps to increase traffic as there is simply more content on a site for search engines to index and searchers to find.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing seeks to engage potential customers, familiarizing them with a business, and earning trust and respect for that business.
In some sense, social media marketing done right humanizes a retailer. Shoppers will stop looking at the retailer so much as a business, and start to think of it as a group of people who have similar values as the shoppers and who also happen to sell products online.
An excellent example of social media marketing may be found in Tom's, an online retailer and manufacturer of shoes and eyewear known for giving away a pair of shoes to a needy child for each pair it sells. The company has 1.8 million followers on Facebook and more than 274,000 relationships on Google+.
Posts on these social media sites may alternatively promote new Tom's products or showcase the good the company is doing in poor nations. The key is that the social media channel shows shoppers that Tom's cares about many of the same things that they do.
Contest marketing is frequently used in conjunction with email marketing and discounts. A typical example will have site visitors or social media friends enter to win a prize — perhaps free merchandise — in exchange for providing an email address, name, and a social media like or share.
Everyone entering the contest may also receive a coupon good for 10 or 20 percent off of the regular price of the product being featured in the contest.
Everyone entering is added to a retailer's email subscriber list, and will begin taking part in regular email marketing.
This tactic both helps to boost email lists, encourages social media interaction, and, in many cases, will garner immediate sales thanks to the discount coupon.
Display and Video Advertising
Display ads — online or in print — and video advertising are good tactics for building awareness — letting potential shoppers know that a store exists and what it has to offer.
Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer known for its great customer service, frequently bought print advertising as it was starting out.
More recently, YouTube has greatly expanded its pre-video advertising options. An online retailer can display television-like commercials promoting its products before popular and related videos.
Online retailers are not limited to their own sites. They can make sales via a number of marketplaces or even offline channels.
Amazon, Sears, Newegg, eBay and other similar channels allow merchants to sell products on their sites for a fee. Often these marketplace sites get significantly more traffic than a merchant's own site and may lead to many new sales.
This playbook of ecommerce marketing ideas provides a general description of some of the most popular and effective marketing tactics available. Ecommerce marketers should mix and match these to build a successful promotional game plan.