Marketing & Advertising

2016 Ecommerce Marketing Checklist

Ecommerce marketing can be a long journey, with many twists, turns, and even sudden stops. Last year’s best campaigns might not work this year. Business owners and marketers should therefore look for the tactics and the activities that will drive the company toward success this year and, perhaps, next.

My annual ecommerce marketing checklist has focused on technologies like microdata (see 2014’s list) and strategies like automating email messages (see 2015’s list).

This year, the priorities focus on planning and getting more organized.

1. Collect Better Data

Maybe you have a favorite coffee shop. You stop by that shop about the same time every day. You’re a regular customer, and the barista knows you by sight. Sometimes you don’t even have to wait in the line. Instead, your coffee is just waiting for you when you come in.

Think about the good experiences you may have had at a coffee shop. Being recognized by the barista is an example of customer data — a person recognizes you. Online it is a system, but the aim is the same: Provide a personal experience.

Think about the good experiences you have had at a coffee shop. Being recognized by the barista is an example of customer data — a person recognizes you. Online it is a system, but the aim is the same: Provide a personal experience.

In a very loose sense, this imagined coffee shop example shows a couple of ways that a business might use customer data to improve purchase experience, by simply recognizing a repeat shopper and offering to expedite service.

In the ecommerce context, this might be some form of personalization, showing a shopper that you recognize him and offering a couple of favorite items. This type of enhanced shopping experience becomes possible when an online store begins to collect good customer information.

In fact, collecting customer data is the first step toward what some call big data. But small businesses don’t need to focus on data science. Rather, just know that with customer information comes the ability to personalize the shopping experience, predict sales tends, improve conversion rates, and compete on value, not just price.

In 2016, commit to collecting more and better customer data. Look for solution providers that will let you put that data to work in personalization.

2. Use the Data You Collect

Don’t wait to use customer data until next year. Start to put the information you collect to good use right now, in 2016.

Here is one example. Many email service providers offer a way to inject ecommerce order data into an email list. Thus, you could create a segment or group around all of the customers who purchased a red, plaid baby blanket, for example.

Now imagine that you are about to put red, plaid baby blankets on sale, and you are planning to send out an email promoting them at 25 percent off. Do you really want to send this message to the customers who just bought a red, plaid baby blanket at full price? Probably not. So use your customer data to personalize the message.

Folks on your list who have not bought a red, plaid baby blanket get the sale offer, but customers who already own the item see an offer for a matching red, plaid teddy bear, for example.

This sort of data-driven, email marketing personalization might boost conversion rates 600 percent, according to an Experian study from a couple of years ago.

This year, use customer data to personalize email offers and dynamic web content, like related items.

3. Schedule New Product Introductions

In 2016, plan marketing activities well in advance. This includes scheduling new product introductions.

The aim here is to come up with a recipe of sorts for how a new product line is introduced to your shoppers. Include several marketing touch points, like content marketing, social media, email, and on-site merchandising.

Also, know if the new product line is supposed to be popular with your repeat customers or attract new customers.

4. Plan for Sales and Special Offers

You are probably going to put some retail products on sale during the Christmas season in 2016 — such as a weekend special for Black Friday and Cyber Monday .

Moreover, if you sell, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, for example, you’ll likely have a promotional campaign leading up to March 17, and a clearance sale starting March 18.

Sales should not be a surprise. You should realize that you might want to promote a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirt leading up to St. Patrick's Day, and, perhaps, include it as a closeout or clearance the item after the holiday.

Sales should not be a surprise. You should realize that you might want to promote a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, and, perhaps, include it as a closeout or clearance the item after the holiday.

Your store’s sales and promotions should be planned events, in other words. Set goals, pick dates, ensure you have products and that you bought those products at a good price, know how the sale will be promoted, and have a plan for measuring, to learn if you met your goals.

5. Plan Your Content Marketing

Follow the Boy Scout motto of “be prepared.” Plan your content marketing editorial calendar at least one quarter (that’s three months) in advance.

The folks at the Content Marketing Institute recommend asking these four questions as you plan and prepare your content calendar.

  • Who are you creating content for?
  • Why are you creating content?
  • What resources do you have at your disposal?
  • How can you stand out?

Once you know the answer, you can start to think about the sorts of articles or videos that you’ll want to publish and distribute. Set publication dates for those articles and videos, and you have a content marketing schedule.

6. Plan Your Email Marketing

If you have already figured out when your retail business will introduce new product lines, have sales, and publish content, you should have a good idea of when you need to send emails and what those emails should do.

To this, plan to automate. Consider an automatic email series, like a welcome series or a post-purchase series. Look for ways to maximize sales or conversions.

7. Plan Your Advertising

As you read through this checklist, notice that each item has generally taken fewer words to describe than the ones before it. “Plan Your Email Marketing” is a shorter section than “Use the Data You Collect.”

The reason for this is that each item builds on previous ones. Consider item 6: “Plan Your Email Marketing.” If you’ve thought about product introductions, sales, and content, you should have a really good idea of what to include in your emails and when to send those emails.

You’ll still need to think about your budget, your particular tactics — do you buy banner ads or spots on Pandora? — and the ad creative. But these should flow from the promotional decisions you’ve already made.

8. Update Your Site for Accessibility

The final task on your 2016 ecommerce marketing checklist is to make certain that your website is accessible to all of your potential customers, including those with disabilities.

Use a service like the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool or PowerMapper to identify web accessibility problems on your site — and fix them.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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