What do a Hand Forged 1060 High Carbon Black Steel Blade Full Tang Samurai Katana Sword and a 7,541-Piece Lego Millennium Falcon™ Replica have in common?
First and foremost, they're both awesome.
Second, if you have kids under the age of three, you probably don't want them playing with either — one is a choking hazard and one is a katana.
Third, you can buy both through the magic of something called ecommerce — a.k.a. the sale of products or services online. Ecommerce is a business staple for companies across virtually every industry.
Here, we'll examine some ecommerce marketing strategies your business can employ to land and retain as many customers as possible.
Ecommerce Marketing Plan
Your ecommerce marketing plan is essentially the sum of the ecommerce strategies and tactics you choose to implement. The most effective plans aren't randomly cobbled together — they're designed with intention. They're often guided by a general marketing philosophy or underlying structure.
For instance, the inbound methodology can be applied to an overarching ecommerce marketing plan. In this case, you would tailor your ecommerce marketing efforts to attract visitors, convert those visitors into leads, close deals and turn them into customers, and delight them once they've purchased your products or services to turn them into promoters.
There are a number of different strategies to consider when constructing your plan. Here are some of the most effective options worth exploring.
Maintaining a blog is one of the better ways to attract potential customers to your site organically. By creating quality content relevant to your industry, you can project a sense of legitimacy and trustworthiness to prospects.
If you give strangers an incentive to visit your site through your content — beyond material specific to your product or service — you generate interest that might ultimately turn into action. Regardless of what you're selling, maintaining a blog for your site is a cost-effective way to prove that your business is an authority in its space
2. Contribute guest posts to other websites.
Guest posts have the potential to expand your online visibility. Not only can it better establish you as an authority within your industry, contributing guest posts affords you more domain authority for your ecommerce site — leading search engines to believe your site is more reliable and worth ranking higher.
You can accomplish this by identifying sites with keywords relevant to your products and reaching out to the people behind them. Sometimes, you won't even need to create a post of your own. You might be able to just expand upon one of a site's current posts with relevant context or an infographic that links back to your site.
3. Try referral marketing programs.
Referral marketing combines two of the most powerful underlying assets to any ecommerce marketing strategy — word of mouth and incentives. A solid ecommerce referral program allows customers to relay your messaging to prospects who trust their judgment.
Research indicates that word of mouth is directly responsible for 19% of all purchases and influences as much as 90% of them. So a significant part of your ecommerce marketing strategy has to be tapping into that trend. Referral marketing is one way to do that.
By offering some sort of incentive — like a discount or small gift — to your customers in exchange for their referral of new prospects, you're putting yourself in a position to retain current customers while expanding your base.
Here's an example of a referral program from Stitchfix.
For more information on referral marketing, check out this article.
4. Leverage social media.
A well-maintained social media presence is an invaluable component to a successful ecommerce marketing strategy. That being said, ecommerce marketing over social media might not look like marketing for a conventional business, brand, contractor, or publisher. And not every social media platform is optimal for ecommerce.
Ecommerce is an inherently visual medium. Very few consumers are willing to buy a product based solely on text. The success of your social media efforts often hinges your use of imagery to capture attention and generate traffic to your product pages. That makes Instagram one of the better platforms to complement your ecommerce marketing strategy.
If possible, you should consider incorporating shoppable content — interactive content that allows your visitors to buy immediately — into your ecommerce marketing strategy. That can mean anything from strategically placing display ads within a social feed to adding additional tags that take users directly to a shopping cart.
5. Drive user-generated content.
Driving user-generated content is the practice of finding and fostering ways for your customers to promote your business. It's an excellent way to facilitate word of mouth for your company. It drives traffic to your ecommerce site while building an authentic following of interested customers.
User-generated content can come in many forms. One of the most effective ways to encourage it is through competitions — offering prizes to customers that promote your product in some form. You could also use promotional hashtags on social media or maintain review platforms where customers can share feedback about your product.
One way or another, getting your customers to actively promote your product on their own provides a new degree of trustworthiness and a relatively inexpensive source of potential traffic to your site.
For instance, Starbucks launched its #WhiteCupContest campaign in 2014. Customers were encouraged to draw whatever they felt like on the chain's white cups. The winners' designs would be used as limited edition templates for Starbucks' cup design. In just three weeks, the company received over 4,000 submissions — generating plenty of buzz and free promotion.
If your business has any sort of ecommerce presence, you stand to gain a lot by exploring and employing different ecommerce marketing strategies. Many of the available options can be as cost-effective as they are valuable.
No matter how you choose to structure your ecommerce marketing plan, make sure it's dynamic, multifaceted, and well-maintained. Putting one of these plans in motion will take some effort, but if done correctly, that effort will pay off in spades.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.