E-commerce is a trillion dollar industry. And it’s no wonder that just about every business wants a share of this trillion dollar pie. There is a serious amount of competition out there and here’s a sobering thought – The failure rate is almost 80% and not many e-commerce businesses live happily ever after.
Most pull down their shutters.
If you are planning to start an e-commerce business or already started one, you must be able to compete with not only the well-established businesses in the niche, but also newbies who are doing everything they can to build brand awareness and add to their list of customers.
So how do you compete?
The first thing you must do is get your site right. Make sure your site offers personalized product recommendations to shoppers, is easily navigable and makes product information easily accessible. It needs to be an effective sales person, whose structure and design is backed by key customer intelligence. It must offer a satisfying shopping experience that allows shoppers to make informed buying decisions.
But that’s not all. With the amount of competition in the e-commerce domain, you must market your business well. It must become more visible to its target audience, so that your target customers shop from your site, rather than your competitor’s online store.
At first glance, this sounds super simple – All you must do is market your business and customers will come. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Your marketing efforts must not only acquire and retain customers but also improve brand reputation and strengthen your brand.
This isn’t easy.
You must craft a strategy that helps you compete and steal a march over other players in the niche. It will be fair to say that the effectiveness of your marketing strategy determines whether your e-store will succeed or not.
But its effectiveness depends on its anatomy – that is its structure. This structure needs to be strong, reliable and must cover all bases. Itshould be based on a sound understanding of your customer and must include tactics that are scalable, sustainable and can deliver long term results.
So what goes into the making of a successful e-commerce marketing strategy? Let’s put it under a microscope and take a closer look at its contours:
Sound Understanding of Target Audience
What is the profile of your target customers?
This is a mission critical question and the answer sets the stage for better, more meaningful and results driven marketing decisions.
While this information is important for identifying demand for your product and designing a website that suits the demographic and psychological profile of your target audience, it also helps you identify the sources your audience is tapping into, to gather information about products and services, before buying online.
A mammoth 81% of shoppers conduct research online before making a purchase and they must come across mentions of your products/services and your brand while conducting this research. You must therefore, know how and where they are getting the information they need.
For that to happen, you must understand your customers; know them well, especially their search habits. Here are some tools you can use for this purpose:
The whole idea behind understanding your consumers is to make sure you market the e-commerce business the way they want it to be marketed. This allows you to stay away from interruption marketing and make a conscious move towards permission based, non-interruptive (inbound) marketing.
Most online users access search engines to look for information; this includes information about products and services. Your e-commerce site and its web pages must rank high on SERPs, if you are to attract organic search traffic to your website.
(Note: This KISSmetrics guide is a must read on the subject)
Take a look at the key strategies you must keep in mind while optimizing your site for search:
- Focus on Local SEO: Claim your spot on Google My Business, get listed on local business directories, attract links from reputed local websites, earn reviews and ratings and do everything to make your online business more visible in local search. Don’t lose sight of your local customers.
- Unique product descriptions: Even if you’re selling hundreds of products on your site, make sure each one of them has a different description. Google likes that and it makes for a better shopping experience. This also helps you avoid content duplication.
- Speed up loading time: A fast loading e-commerce site is a clear marker for high quality UX; and a satisfying UX can influence search rankings.
- A Great Mobile User Experience: Yes, think about mobile as well. You need an e-commerce site that is mobile friendly because there is every chance Google will consider adding the UX a website is delivering on mobile, to its ranking algorithm.
- Social Sharing Icons: Make sure your product pages have social sharing buttons. This not only makes it easier for site visitors (potential customers) toshare on-page information with their friends and followers but also produces social signals; and these signals impact SEO.
- Deep Linking: The one great advantage of earning inbound links for your e-commerce site is that you can attract links to niche product categories deep within your website.
- URLs: The very fact that your e-commerce site will have hundreds of pages make it doubly important that you make sure all URLs are keyword optimized and have page relevance. Also, avoid the tendency to make them overly lengthy with the use of a long series of numbers and letters. Follow URL best practices.
If you get your SEO right, you’re well on your way towards running a successful marketing campaign.
No contemporary e-commerce marketing strategy can survive without content marketing. It is an essential subset of your overall marketing strategy.
Content marketing for e-commerce businesses is a tough ask, but it can be done.
The first thing you must do is integrate a blog into your e-commerce site.
Here’s what you must do on your blog:
- Provide information about your domain (content that is solutions driven). Your blog content is a means of delivering value to your target audience.
- Come up with posts that help enhance brand credibility.
- Say why you think buying your products makes sense for target users. Showcase product use (product tutorials) and their benefits.
- Run contests on your blog.
Basically, do everything to engage the attention of your target customers.
Identify niche influencers and share links to your content with them. Influencers are people who are super active on social media and blogs; they have numerous followers who implicitly trust every word they utter. These influencers are thought leaders and well-respected names in the niche and can act as advocates for your brand.
If your brand finds a mention on their time line or Twitter feed, it will get exposed to their ever growing list of followers. Apart from giving wider exposure to your brand, this mention also enhances credibility. The reputation of your influencers, rubs off on your brand as well.
But these influencers aren’t going to share your content because you ask them to. Your job is to build meaningful relationships with them. You need aninfluencer marketing strategy (this is again a subset of your ecommerce marketing strategy) in place to target influencers and make an impression on them.
Publishing content on third party websites allows you create natural links that point to your website blog or the internal product pages of your site; these have a positive impact on your SERP rankings. But, this is not the only benefit of guest blogging. The real advantage of guest blogging is ensuring your content finds a presence on sites frequented by your target audience.
They come across your content while looking for specific domain centric information that revolves around their needs and requirements. If your content is good, there is every chance they’ll remember your brand. The quality of your content will also improve brand reputation. It is this reputation that will encourage your target audience to buy from your site, when they’re in need of products/services you are selling.
Take a look at these figures:
- The number of videos from people and brands on Facebook newsfeed increased by 6x year-on-year.
- Tweets with images received 150% more retweets.
- Images are the key to optimizing social media
These figures tell you the whole story. Visual content is of utmost significance for the success of your content marketing efforts; maximizing its potential will help optimize deliverables from your e-commerce marketing strategy.
Social Media Presence
Think of social media as a key driver of your marketing efforts. It has an impact on each and every facet of brand building.
Whether it’s interacting with niche influencers, a one-on-one with your potential/existing customers, marketing your content or increasing the reputation of your brand, social media is a critical component of these activities.
Social media plays a crucial role at each and every stage of the customer’s purchase journey.
- Awareness: Social media humanizes your brand and helps you engage with target customers at a personal level. Twitter is one social network that helps build brand awareness and drive sales.
- Consideration: If you are using social media to interact with influencers, brand advocates and your target audience, you are driving conversations around your brand. The fact that people are talking about your brandensures potential customers ‘actively consider’ buying your products.
- Intent and Decision: Think about it for a second. If you are planning to buy a product, wouldn’t you trust a recommendation coming from a real person, especially a person you know? Of course you would! This is where social media enters the picture. Consumers trust social media recommendations.This drives consumer intent and their decision to buy your product.
An eye on your target audience, SEO that Google loves, razor-sharp content marketing and a strong social media presence define the anatomy of a successful e-commerce marketing strategy. Get any one of them wrong, and your strategy will fall apart in double quick time.