The Zaius Guide to Ecommerce Marketing

INTRODUCTION

Today, we can (and do) buy almost everything online: clothes, groceries, mattresses, stars — you name it, and there’s probably somewhere on the internet where you can get it. 

Most brands and retailers today rely on ecommerce to earn revenue. In fact, it’s hard to survive in retail today without an online store and ecommerce strategy.

But how do consumers decide what to buy online, when, and who from? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about ecommerce marketing and strategies to help your brand’s marketing stand out from the crowd.

WHAT IS ECOMMERCE MARKETING?

Many of our decisions as consumers are influenced by ecommerce marketing, which is the practice of driving traffic and revenue to an online business.

For example, a business owner may have a store that sells books in addition to an online store where she also sells books. The online store is ecommerce, and any activity the owner does to get people to buy books from that website is ecommerce marketing. 

This is often done through various digital marketing channels, using both paid and unpaid strategies in social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). However, ecommerce marketers can also use offline techniques, such as direct mail, as part of their ecommerce marketing strategy.

So the same bookstore owner might send out emails letting customers know about a sale, publish blogs about the top books to read this year, post literary content on Twitter, and mail coupons for online discounts all as part of her ecommerce marketing strategy. 

The main goal of ecommerce marketing is to increase sales directly from the online store, but site owners may also have goals surrounding increased brand awareness if they want to grow traffic or boost lifetime value.

THE EVOLUTION OF ECOMMERCE

Many of us can remember back when there was no such thing as ecommerce — only brick-and-mortar. But once the internet came into existence, Google was invented, and phones became smart, the emergence of ecommerce was a natural next step.

However, with virtually unlimited access to every corner of the internet, online shoppers today have more options than ever before to pick and choose the product they buy. No longer are they limited to the inventories of the ten or so stores in their neighborhood — they can now access thousands of options to meet their needs.

On the other side of the equation, the standards for ecommerce sites are much higher due to immense competition — online brands can’t get by on the fact that they’re one of the few options. They have to put in the time, money, and creative thinking to stand out, which is where ecommerce marketing comes in.

Without ecommerce marketing, it’s likely that your brand will find it hard to get buyers’ attention. With average ecommerce marketing, you may gain enough interest to get by. But with a top-notch ecommerce marketing strategy, you could watch your small business or single-product DTC brand eventually reach unicorn status.

THE RETAIL APOCALYPSE

You’ve likely heard of, and maybe noticed, what has been dubbed the “retail apocalypse.” This refers to the trend of many legacy retailers closing their doors for good — an estimated 75,000 stores in total. This has largely been attributed to the rise of ecommerce and the competition created by so many businesses thriving online.

However, on the other end of the argument, reports show that brands will find it hard to navigate the B2C marketing waters without any brick-and-mortar presence at all. 

So which side is correct? Are physical retail stores doomed to fail, or will businesses that lie solely online inevitably lose the battle against Amazon? At the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter much either way whether you do or don’t have a physical retail space — what matters is how you’re leveraging ecommerce marketing. 

In order to be a successful business owner today, it’s imperative that you craft an intelligent ecommerce marketing strategy that truly differentiates your brand and connects with buyers.

ECOMMERCE MARKETING ESSENTIALS

Every good ecommerce marketing strategy includes a few essentials. While not every business  follows every single one of these practices, they’re generally considered to be a standard among online business owners.

Brand

Having a solid brand is the foundation of successful ecommerce. If you think about the unicorns in the retail space such as Away, Casper, and Glossier, they’ve all built great and immediately recognizable brands. However, brand goes further than just beautiful design, a cool logo, and a slick Shopify page. It’s equally important to consider messaging, mission, and user experience when you’re crafting a brand that delivers on a specific promise to your buyers.

Advertising

Instead of featuring a single item that the shopper viewed, try showcasing a product category that they spent the most time browsing. Because they were not compelled enough to make a purchase while shopping, your communication should address that. We typically find that one of a few tactics works here, depending on the individual shopper’s friction point:

Email Marketing

Email marketing is huge for ecommerce because it allows companies to communicate directly with current and potential customers that have interacted with the brand. Email campaigns can be creative, informative, or funny to communicate your brand and products to a new customer. Additionally, notifying your email list of sales, giveaways, new products, and other opportunities often has the power to drive repeat purchases and create loyal customers. 

SEO

SEO is often undervalued in ecommerce, but can be incredibly powerful. If your ecommerce website ranks high for certain keywords that are pertinent to it, far more people will organically find your site. In the bookstore example, it would be ideal to be the first result for the Google search “bookstore in Boston.” With solid SEO, more people will click on the top result than if it were five results down or not on the first page. Keyword research can help determine which words you want to rank for to get more traffic.

Content Marketing

Providing consumers relevant content that informs and entertains can put your brand on the map. For those who are looking for trusted resources during their product research, your content can help guide them through the customer journey. Content can be created in the form of blogging, ebooks, videos, podcasts, and much more — the opportunity to provide value to your customers in creative ways is unlimited. This method of inbound marketing is incredibly effective for establishing loyal customers — even in ecommerce.

Social Media

The major platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn will likely make up the bulk of your social media strategy, but there are others you may want to consider as well. It’s important to have a presence on social media because it’s where a large portion of your target audience is already spending their time. Engaging with your customer base, posting relevant content, and starting conversations are all essential to an effective ecommerce marketing plan.

Again, these are only a few types of ecommerce marketing you’ll probably want to consider as part of your strategy. Influencer marketing, partner marketing, and event marketing, for example, are other channels that have been extremely beneficial to ecommerce businesses to gain new website visitors or improve their conversion rate.

However, these marketing tactics are a great starting point. What works for best you will largely depend on your business, and it may require some testing and experimenting to find out which tactics are the best fit, which channels are most conducive to your individual goals, and where you should invest your budget.

THE BEST EXAMPLES OF ECOMMERCE MARKETING

You can implement every marketing tactic known to man and woman, but if you do the bare minimum with their execution, the results will leave much to be desired.

Here are a few ecommerce companies that we feel are especially effective in their marketing campaigns:

Casper

Abandoned cart emails are a given when it comes to ecommerce marketing since customers already showed intent to buy by adding the item to their cart. A good cart abandonment email serves as a way to remind customers of items they were considering and leads them back to the product page, encouraging them to complete the checkout process. 

Mattress retailer Casper does a great job with this marketing tactic by using an attention-grabbing headline and including amusing reviews from current customers. With a mix of creative copy and user-generated content, it’s hard to ignore their Return To Cart CTA.

Outdoor Voices

outdoor voices marketing

Retargeting is an advertising technique used to get products back in front of those who may have browsed your site without purchasing. This could have been due to a number of reasons, whether they didn’t have the funds at the time or just weren’t totally convinced they needed it. Retargeting can help re-engage people that may have been interested but never converted to a customer. 

After visiting the Outdoor Voices website, the athletic apparel brand uses retargeting to promote items you may be interested in on multiple websites across Google Display network and multiple social media channels. This advertising tactic is a great example of how an omnichannel campaign can be incredibly effective when you combine impeccable branding and retargeting.

Blue Apron

ecommerce marketing blue apron

Getting a customer to purchase once shouldn’t be your end goal — you need to prioritize customer retention. If a group of buyers hasn’t engaged with your brand at all in more than 30 days, it may be time to implement an at-risk customer campaign to get them back. 

Blue Apron offers a personalized recipe based on past selections along with a 50% off coupon to at-risk customers. Ideally, this will spark the buyer to give Blue Apron another chance and remind them of how much they enjoy the product itself.  

Kylie Cosmetics

Online retailers can use social media in a variety of ways: to showcase their products, to interact with their customers, and to build their community — or perhaps all of the above. Take Kylie Cosmetics, the beauty company started by reality star and social media mogul, Kylie Jenner. 

As you might expect, social media was a huge part of the Kylie Cosmetics marketing strategy. With 110 million followers, Kylie Jenner is one of the most followed accounts on Instagram. So it’s no surprise that her business has upwards of 20 million followers as well, making it one of the most popular brands on social media.

But Kylie’s team isn’t just posting glamor shots of their famous founder all day. They wisely mix up the content with user-driven testimonials, useful how-tos, and product announcements to keep building buzz.

Anthropologie

anthropologie ecommerce marketing

In ecommerce marketing, you should always be looking for more ways to gather customer feedback in order to learn more about what they like, what they don’t like, and what they want from your brand.

In their feedback campaign email, Anthropologie emphasizes that they care about what you think and are constantly looking to improve. Additionally, they offer a coupon code to anyone that takes the time to fill out the survey, making the campaign a win-win for everyone.

There are endless ways to engage your customers through innovative campaigns. For more ideas and ecommerce marketing tips, check out our Zaius Essential Ecommerce Campaign Playbook where we outline 9 different campaigns for growth.

THE FUTURE OF ECOMMERCE

In all these examples, you can see the content is personalized to the buyer. Great ecommerce marketing can offer you the pillow you were browsing, a recipe based on the kind of food you like, or an expertly-timed survey. 

While there is certainly an art to the perfect email, Instagram, or blog post, your marketing efforts will fall short without the data and analytics to back it up and make it all relevant to each individual buyer. The future of ecommerce depends on how well marketers combine art and technology.

Today’s online shoppers want marketing messages to be personalized to their experience — they want you to predict what they need and when they need it before they even know themselves. In order to do this, you have to leverage customer data.

Ecommerce and online marketing practices that are based solely off of guesswork will not hold any weight when it comes to creating a memorable brand and earning loyal customers. 

Collecting data gives you insights into customer behavior that will inform your next move and create more impactful and delightful interactions. By making marketing decisions based on customer-centric data, you can deliver targeted and relevant messages that buyers will respond to.

Ecommerce businesses need to rely on a variety of marketing tactics to get by, but the companies that use data to power those efforts will be the ones who truly stand out and succeed.