Ecommerce marketing is a continually evolving field wherein the marketing tactics that worked last year may not be effective in the coming year.
What follows is a checklist of sorts. Look at each early to determine if it makes sense for your ecommerce business.
1. Responsive Design
Mobile devices may have accounted for between 31 percent and 43 percent of all ecommerce-related holiday site traffic in the United States, depending on which data source and which time period one chooses.
If one uses the lower number (31 percent of ecommerce-related site traffic) that IBM reported shortly after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, mobile still accounted for about 1-in-3 site visits. Add to this the fact that many computer makers are starting to merge tablet and laptop, creating a new mobile subclass, if you will, and it is likely that mobile devices will soon dominate Internet usage.
If an ecommerce site does not already have a responsive design, meaning that it adapts to the size and capabilities of a user’s device, 2014 is certainly the year to make this happen.
2. Rich Content
“The idea of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by creating and curating relevant and valuable content,” according to the Content Marketing Institute.
This definition gets right at the heart of ecommerce marketing in 2014. Some experts predict that online shoppers will become more fickle in 2014 as they are given an increasing number of shopping choices and options. One possible way to counteract this sort of fickleness may be to provide useful or entertaining content that will keep shoppers coming back.
This rich content can take several forms, including improved product descriptions, better or even provocative product photography, video content, blog content, or social media content.
Mr. Porter, an online retailer of men’s apparel, is a great example of content marketing in action. Its online publication, The Journal, always has interesting and relevant content. Similarly, American Apparel’s not-safe-for-work product slide shows and very provocative Tumblr page entertain and engage shoppers, creating lasting customer relationships and generate repeat sales.
3. Site Performance
There are several practical and pragmatic reasons to improve site performance in 2014, including that fact that faster sites are likely to convert better (Amazon has reported that 100 milliseconds in additional load time can decrease sales conversion by a full percentage point).
Quick loading sites may also do better in search engine results pages, since Google and other major search engines use site speed as a consideration in ranking algorithms.
Work with server experts in the IT department or at a hosting provider to improve site load times in 2014.
Microdata is an HTML standard aimed at helping search engines and browsers better understand the content on a web page and thereby provide a better user experience.
For ecommerce marketer’s, the primary benefit may be in how search engine results appear. As an example, Google will include additional information about a product or a page on its search engine results page, when microdata is offered.
5. Multi-channel Sales
When brick-and-mortar retailers open new locations, those new stores generally increase the chain’s revenue and profits. In a similar way, selling across multiple channels online can also increase an Internet retailer’s sales and profits.
The Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Newegg, Rakuten (formerly Buy.com), and Sears are just five of the many marketplaces that retailers might expand on to in 2014, creating the opportunity to dramatically increase exposure to traffic, customers, and sales.
Consider using integration tools like ChannelAdvisor to manage and automate product submissions and manage order processing.
6. Social Login
There are plenty of good reasons to encourage shoppers to register on an ecommerce site. From the shopper’s perspective this creates the opportunity to review orders, look at order history, or, perhaps, earn points in a loyalty program.
Merchants like to have customer information since it can lead to personalized offers or marketing that in turn generates additional sales. The catch is that shoppers don’t really like have to create individual user accounts on dozens of shopping sites and keeping track of the many and varied passwords.
One way to streamline account creation is to allow social login, meaning that shoppers can create an account in one or two clicks using an existing Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or similar account.
Every one of these services offers some form of social login, and there are even interfaces or services (Gigya is an example) that consolidate social login into a single tool set or script.
7. Free, Two-day Shipping
Free, two-day shipping offers could become a staple of the ecommerce industry in 2014. Regular Practical Ecommerce readers have already learned about how Amazon Prime and ShopRunner may be changing consumer expectations about how long free shipping should take, and about how payment solutions companies like MasterCard are also trying to offer free, two-day shipping options for online shoppers.
Rather than bucking this trend, online stores should look for ways to market free, two-day shipping offers in 2014, using expedited shipments to increase average order value, reward loyal customers, or, perhaps, get new customers.
8. Live Chat
Live chat can be an effective ecommerce conversion tool, providing customers with answers and help just when they’re making a buying decision, and for support questions.
Online competition is likely to increase dramatically as new ecommerce merchants enter the market, existing online sellers seek continued growth, and brick-and-mortar retailers boost online sales efforts. Live chat, which is very inexpensive, can provide a huge competitive advantage even if it is only offered for a few hours a day.
With services like Olark offering easy to implement solutions for as little as $15.00 per month, adding live chat is simply something online retailers need to do in 2014.
9. Plan Email Marketing
Email marketing remains a very important sales driver for online retailers. Planning and scheduling marketing emails well ahead of time can allow ecommerce marketers to focus on other tactics during peak selling periods. As an example, if a marketing department found itself scrambling for a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year email on December 24, how much more effective could that department have been if those emails had be planned the prior January, designed mid-year, and scheduled in, say, October.
Start your annual email plan with a good definition of who will be receiving the emails, what action each email should elicit, and how the email’s success will be measured.
10. Plan Promotions
Just like email marketing, other ecommerce promotions should be planned well in advance, including pay-per-click marketing plans, banner advertising plans, contest marketing, or even the use of traditional media.
To complete the 2014 ecommerce marketing checklist, be certain to plan well and stick to that plan.