Ecommerce Marketing Strategy Guide: How to Create a Stellar Plan

February 15, 2017 Erin Higgins

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With the bevy of ecommerce platforms available today, setting up shop on the internet has become a far easier task than it once was. But the hurdle for today’s ecommerce companies isn’t getting started—it’s how to keep going.

If you’re having a difficult time getting your brand to take off, you’re probably in need of a solid ecommerce marketing strategy. Lucky for you, we’ve developed this handy guide to help you design a custom ecommerce marketing plan that will help you achieve maximum success for your online business.

This guide is broken up into several chapters outlining the different areas of your ecommerce marketing strategy that you’ll need to develop. In chapter one, we’ll discuss the importance of an ecommerce content marketing strategy and how you can develop content for your ecommerce site that will best appeal to your target audience. Chapter two details how to use SEO to get the best visibility for this content. In chapter three, we’ll go over how you can use paid campaigns to build out your audience, and chapter four will demonstrate how email marketing can help you nurture and maintain that audience.

Using the information provided in this guide will assist you in building a stellar ecommerce marketing plan for your online store that will bring a higher level of success. Ready to start? That’s the spirit. Let’s get to it…

 

Chapter One: Ecommerce Content Marketing Strategy

Ecommerce content marketing—including site content, blogging, ebooks, videos, infographics and more—is the heart of all your other digital marketing efforts. Without valuable, relevant content that is designed specifically for your target audience, it will be tough for you to convert visitors. So how do you develop a strong ecommerce content marketing strategy?

1. Assemble Your Content Team

Your first step is to find a talented team of content creators who understand your product and brand culture. This might be a more challenging task than you'd expect. Remember that your content team develops everything that is necessary to lead your site visitors through the buying cycle (more on this in point three). Content is not only responsible for your initial impression with potential customers, but whether or not they like your brand enough to purchase from you instead of from a competitor.

I know what you’re thinking—can’t I just develop the content myself? Well, in truth, you could. But be aware that great content takes a lot of time and effort, even with an all-star team. As they say, the world wasn't created in a day (more like 98 million years). Additionally, handling content as a one-person show can make it difficult to release new content consistently.

Using professional content creators will also help your brand appear more reputable, which is crucial to developing brand trust with consumers. If you don't have the time or resources to hire a whole team yourself, consider outsourcing your content to an agency. Believe it or not, in the long run, this could ultimately save you money.

2. Get to Know Your Target Audience

Before you begin creating new content, you need to make sure you know who your target audience is and what kind of content they'll be interested in. Skip this step, and you risk wasting valuable time and resources on content that won't convert. The best way to determine who your potential customers are and what they're most interested in is to develop buyer personas. These are profiles you create based on general interests and demographics that you collect through research, surveys, and interviews. Here are some ways you can obtain information for your buyer personas:

  • Examine the customer contacts you currently have in your database and look for common trends and characteristics.
  • Make logical assumptions about interests based on your own knowledge of your brand and target audience.
  • Interview a collection of customers or people who are interested in brands and products similar to your own.
  • When relevant, include forms and surveys on your website and landing pages. However, don't add more fields than necessary.

Developing a well-researched buyer persona will help you better understand the needs, interests, and pain points of your potential customers. With this information in your grasp, you can create high-value content that will increase conversions.

3. Focus On Providing Value

Your third step is to critically evaluate the quality of content you release. Will your target audience find it useful? Does it have standalone value? If consumers don't see value in your content almost immediately, they'll probably abandon it. Great content isn't just a sales pitch in a Hamburglar mask. Truly great content intrigues consumers, helping them develop trust in your brand that guides them further down your sales funnel.

The key is to stop thinking of yourself as a company that sells a product. Instead, reflect on how consumers feel about your business.

Let’s take Coyuchi as an example. Coyuchi is an organic home linens company based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. When you visit their site, you’ll notice that nothing on their homepage screams “Buy me! Buy me!” Instead, you’re immediately immersed in the culture of their brand—calming, clean, and cozy.

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Let’s take a look at some of the content they produce for site visitors. First up, their blog:

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Notice that none of the blog topics are blatantly about selling Coyuchi products. Instead, they focus on topics that they know their target audience will find enticing—“The Art of Yarn-Dye,” delicious recipes, a how-to guide for buying bedding, and even a home makeover giveaway. All of these are relevant posts that provide value to the reader.

Next, let’s take a look at their product catalog:

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Doesn't look too much like a typical product catalog, right? No big, red price tags. No cut-out coupons. It almost feels like a magazine that the consumer might save and keep on their coffee table.

While these particular strategies may not work for every brand, it is an excellent example of using content to establish brand feel. The main thing to consider here is that your content, like the content in our examples, should align with the buyer's journey—awareness, research, consideration, purchase. The awareness phase is when the buyer realizes that they have a need (i.e. I just bought a new bed, and now I need a bedspread). The consideration stage is when they research which products or brands are available to them—this is where your content really comes into play by convincing them to choose you in their purchase stage. Keeping in mind this outline of the buyer's journey will help you develop great content.

4. Create a Content Calendar—and Stick to It!

Even if you’ve never been one for day planners, you should have a content calendar. Not only will a content calendar help keep you on track, but it makes it very easy to see how often or not you’re producing new content.

However, your content calendar isn’t just for reminding yourself when to publish. Use it to set deadlines for topics, content briefs, social media updates, external distribution, and automated emails. In fact, let’s change things up and call it a content and promotion calendar. After all, if you don't make the push for your content to be seen, was it ever really written?

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Chapter Two: SEO for Ecommerce

So far, we’ve established that great content is crucial. But, you can’t just post something and expect customers to come flocking. That’s because great content also requires great SEO. Without SEO for ecommerce, you’re going to face some rough roads ahead. Optimizing your site content will help you appear higher in search results, which can be an incredible help in getting new leads and conversions. But where do you start?

SEO for ecommerce is one of the bigger beasts of the marketing world, so we're going to break it down to the basics: keyword research, on-page SEO, and link building.

1. Keyword Research

Effective SEO for ecommerce begins with the right keywords. Without thorough keyword research, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time, effort, and money. For the most part, you should choose long tail keywords (three or more words) with low to medium competition. In order to determine the number of monthly searches and competition level, use a keyword tool like Google AdWords Keyword Planner.

To get started, examine the types of products you sell and think about what people might search to find those products. For example, let's say you sell covers for different kinds of vehicles. If we simply target the keyword "car covers," we're going to have a heck of a lot of stiff competition.

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Let’s try a longer, less generic keyword:

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While the average monthly searches for “custom fit car covers” is not as high, the competition for this long tail keyword is much better. Plus, 5,400 monthly searches is still fantastic.

Even though Google Keyword Planner (GKP) can offer suggested keywords based on your inquiry, they're usually less than stellar. Instead, you'll have to put on your thinking cap and then use GKP to test your theories.

One effective way to brainstorm new keywords is to identify your niche markets. Niche markets are subtopics that stem from a larger theme. For example, a niche market for our car cover example might be car maintenance or car collections. By dipping into these smaller pools, we can identify specific, less-infiltrated markets that are comprised of relevant prospects. There are a variety of ways to find your niche markets. Some of the best include forums, related searches, Reddit, and Wikipedia.

2. On-Page SEO

On-page SEO for ecommerce is the practice of optimizing specific web pages on your site to get more organic searches and rank higher in search results. It's called on-page SEO because its deals with the content and HTML source code of a page rather than external linking (off-page SEO). When optimizing page content, ecommerce stores should be sure to optimize elements such as product categories as well as product names and descriptions. But don't forget about the elements that people don't see typically, such as your meta description and title tags.

For example, take a look at how Party City designed this product page for Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day costumes:

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Instead of just writing “Mardi Gras costumes” (which is an expensive and competitive keyword) they chose to target long tail keywords with lower competition:

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Using these keywords as their product category titles helps make their products more searchable. People trying to come up with an outfit for one of these holidays will likely end up making a purchase.

3. Link Building

Link building is the process of getting external sites to post links back to your site. The purpose of this is that it will help increase your site authority. This, in turn, increases your search value. In the "old days" of SEO for ecommerce, people would use a lot of black hat practices in order to build external links (i.e. spammy comments with irrelevant links). However, things have changed since then, and now we must focus on the quality of the links rather than the quantity. In fact, spamming other sites with your links will only result in you hurting your search value. Instead, focus on external sites that have higher authority than yours, and then post content that offers value. There are several ways you can do this: posting legitimate comments, providing guest content, link exchanges, etc.

Following these tips will help you get starting with your SEO for ecommerce strategy, but there's a lot more that we haven't covered here. To learn more about SEO, check out our latest search engine optimization ebook, "26 Advanced SEO Tips That Actually Work.”


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Chapter Three: Paid Campaign Management

Paid campaigns can be a great way to get new leads and increase sales. However, in order to make the most out of your budget, you need to make sure that your paid campaigns are managed correctly. In this section, we'll go over several paid campaign strategies and how to execute them most efficiently.

1. PPC AdWords

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) AdWords campaigns use native advertisements that can be an incredibly effective way to boost traffic and sales for ecommerce companies. When implemented strategically, your ad could be the first result a searcher sees or interacts with.

The biggest benefit to advertising on Google as an ecommerce company is that many of your target customers use Google to search for products. Well-crafted Google PPC ads will help those users searching for the type of products you offer find your store and potentially make a purchase.

Let's go back to our "custom fit car covers" keyword as an example. By targeting these keywords in a Google ad, we appear at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), encouraging people to look at our site first:

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If you use PPC best practices to target the right keywords and closely watch and analyze your bidding structure, PPC ads can deliver some serious ROI.

2. Google Shopping Campaigns

Google Shopping campaigns combine paid advertising and SEO to increase the amount of traffic you receive to your online store. Using Google Shopping campaigns, you'll be able to improve your search rank on Google and your products will show up in search results with a price and photo that link directly to your product page. Similar to AdWords PPC ads, Google Shopping campaigns are super useful because they put your products right in front of consumers who are actively searching for them.

3. Pinterest Buyable Pins

Pinterest Buyable Pins are not the same thing as Pinterest’s promoted pins—they’re the newer and hotter Pinterest advertising strategy that’s taking ecommerce marketing by storm.

Pinterest Buyable Pins are another form of native content. In look and feel, they’re essentially the same as regular pins. However, there’s one key difference: consumers can actually buy the items in your pin just by clicking on it. Pinners can tell if your pin is purchasable from the blue price tag and “add to cart” option.

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It's a simple concept, but it's very effective. Part of the reason that Pinterest Buyable Pins work so well is because most Pinterest users are already in a shopping frame of mind. They're not just planning parties or home makeovers; they're researching their next purchase. Plus, users can make a purchase without even having to leave Pinterest or enter new credit card information.

To get started with Pinterest Buyable Pins, you first have to partner with one of the accepted ecommerce platforms, including Shopify, Demandware, and BigCommerce. Once you've done that, your selected pins will display the blue price tag and "add to cart" button that allows shoppers to buy your items.

4. Social Media Ads - Facebook and Twitter

Social ads have been a popular marketing method for a while now, but their targeting abilities and potential for revenue continue to improve every year. As an ecommerce company, your first step is to identify which social media channels will work best for your brand. Generally, you want to select the one used by most of your target audience members. For example, if you sell sneakers for teenagers, it’s probably not in your best interest to run social media ads on LinkedIn.

In addition to Pinterest, most ecommerce companies find success with Facebook and Twitter advertising. Both of these platforms have their own unique advantages, and they can be an incredibly powerful way to grow your customer base. In fact, combined, these platforms have nearly two billion active monthly users.

Facebook advertising has become much more sophisticated in recent years. Using their Adverts Manager tool, you can target new or existing consumers based on a variety of demographics. For example, if we're trying to find relevant people to target for our car cover company, we could target our audience to include people who are interested in cars and own a particular make of car:

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But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Facebook also allows you to target by income, age, purchase behaviors, education, life events and more. Say you own a wedding dress shop—you could choose to target by "recently engaged" to reach new brides-to-be. Kind of cool right? And if you're not sure which targeting filters to use, Facebook's Lookalike audience feature allows you to import a list of real customers and then the social platform will do the hard work for you by finding new relevant customers.

Twitter advertising is also very useful. In fact, a user who follows you on Twitter is 72% more likely to make a purchase from your company. Similar to Facebook advertising, Twitter allows you to target people based on location, specific demographics, and interests. But, there is one cool feature Twitter ads have that Facebook ads don't—keyword targeting. Plus, Twitter ads follow a Cost-Per-Action model instead of Cost-Per-Click, so you only pay when a user retweets, favorites, or clicks on a link on your promoted tweet or follows your promoted account.

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5. Retargeting

Targeting new users based on their interests and demographics is a great way to build your customer base. But what happens to the people who visit your site without making a purchase? This is where retargeting comes in. Retargeting allows you to display advertisements for a product specifically to individuals who have already show interest in it by adding it to their cart or viewing the product page. This is an effective way to combat cart abandonment and close conversions that you otherwise might have lost.  

Have you ever shopped around on a site and then seen the products you interacted with suddenly popping up in ads on social media and other websites? That’s retargeting. And trust us, it works. In fact, consumers who view a retargeting ad are 70 percent more likely to convert.

Chapter Four: Ecommerce Email Marketing

One of the most overlooked marketing strategies for online businesses is ecommerce email marketing. While many people think that email is an outdated tactic, email marketing is actually an incredibly effective way to increase conversions. And as an added bonus, it’s low cost with high reward—for every dollar you invest in email marketing, the average ROI is about $41. But while ecommerce email marketing is filled with potential, you still need to be strategic about how you use it. In this chapter, we’ll go over some tips that will help you get the most out of your ecommerce email marketing efforts.

1. Be Strategic About When You Send Emails 

Something as simple as the time of day and the day of the week can significantly affect open rates. Tuesday at 11 AM EST is the best time to send a marketing email. Emails sent at this time receive 20 percent more opens.

 

2. Craft a Captivating Subject Line

Another element to keep in mind is the volume of emails that consumers receive. Because the average person receives about 90 emails per day, you need to make sure that your subject line catches their attention and convinces them to open your message. Try using language that conveys urgency to the reader, such as "Last Chance to Save," "Hurry," or "Ends Tonight!"

3. Draw Them in With a Killer Opening Line

Like our teachers used to tell us as kids, you need to craft a compelling opening line that will draw in the reader. Not only does this encourage a person to continue reading once they've opened an email, but it can potentially affect whether or not they open it in the first place. This is because many email browsers display the first one or two lines of an email in the preview.

4. Avoid Blocks of Text

You don't want to lump too much text together, or else you risk overwhelming the your recipients. Your objective is to make your email seem as simple and quick of a read as possible. Otherwise, you might be foiled by people's TL;DR mentality. Instead, try breaking your text up into shorter paragraphs and only include the information that is absolutely necessary. Icons and bullet points can also work well.

5. Don’t Make the Reader Guess What They Should Do

Your email’s purpose should always be crystal clear to the reader. If they’re not sure where they’re supposed to click or what offer they’re meant to look at, then they probably won’t follow through to the purchase stage. To avoid losing sales, be sure to end each of your marketing emails with an enticing and clear Call-to-Action.

6. Use Email for Retargeting

Ecommerce email marketing can also be used for retargeting. Craft an automated email to be sent to site visitors who interacted with a product without purchasing it. You’ve probably received this kind of email before: “Did You Forget Something?” While it’s a simple concept, it’s actually quite effective. In fact, people who are retargeted through email are 40 times more likely to make a purchase than those who are retargeted through social media.   

 

Conclusion

Congratulations! You’ve finished this guide and thus completed your first crucial step toward building a better and more powerful ecommerce marketing strategy for your online store. But the work isn’t over just yet. For more information on how to develop a stellar ecommerce marketing plan or for help getting yours set up, contact our team of experts at SevenAtoms today to set up a consultation.

Tell us about your ecommerce marketing plan. Which strategies have you found most helpful to the success of your online store?

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