Take your business to new heights with this complete breakdown of how to build, implement, and execute a winning ecommerce marketing plan.
Did you make the transition from a brick-and-mortar to an ecommerce shop? Or perhaps you’re an established ecommerce business looking for new marketing strategies. Either way, the world of online marketing isn’t easy to master.
Maybe you’re checking all the right boxes when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), but you’re still not ranking in search results.
Perhaps your pay-per-click (PPC) budget is already higher than you can handle, yet you’re not seeing clicks.
It may be time to revamp your ecommerce marketing plan.
You don’t have to do it alone. We chatted with one of our own expert SEM managers, Brian Parchmann, to give you the lowdown on the latest strategies and insights into ecommerce marketing.
Armed with these tips, you’ll be primed to fuel your ecommerce store for success.
What is an ecommerce marketing plan?
An ecommerce marketing plan is a complete digital marketing strategy used to increase sales and business growth. Marketers use various tools and techniques that boost web traffic, conversions, and sales for an ecommerce business (meaning it sells products online).
From email marketing and SEO to pay-per-click advertising and social media marketing, an ecommerce marketing plan is all about creating campaigns that target customers at every stage of the sales funnel.
Any ecommerce brand can — and should — create digital marketing plans. That goes for companies with online stores and brick and mortars, like Gap, or exclusively ecommerce brands, like Alohas:
- Google Ads
- Amazon PPC ads
- Social media content marketing
- Affiliate marketing
- & more
But aren’t those all the same things you’d do when marketing for any other business type? Not quite.
Parchmann shares how marketing for an ecommerce website is unique:
“With [ecommerce], the goal is to command an expansive range of search terms that cover all angles of search on the product (size, color, model, benefits, etc.),” Parchmann explains. “With SaaS, using this same approach would likely cast a wide net that pulls in all kinds of irrelevant searches.”
So we’re working with way more keywords, both branded and non-branded. This makes it difficult to decipher which ones are most effective for finding new customers without blowing through your marketing budget.
The solution? A well-crafted roadmap that details all your ecommerce marketing campaigns and strategies.
How to craft an effective ecommerce marketing plan
Even the most savvy marketers won’t close their eyes and cannonball a brand into an ad-hoc Google Ads marketing campaign.
Why? Because doing so will likely bypass their target audience, or worse — give them a bad impression.
That’s why HawkSEM strategists and marketers take their time to study a brand’s existing digital footprint from every angle with the help of ConversionIQ, our proprietary tech. This helps us understand what’s working, what isn’t, and craft an informed ecommerce marketing plan that fills in the blanks.
Parchmann identifies three overarching stages, though the exact structure of an ecommerce marketing plan can vary from brand to brand:
“The template always touches on all stages of the conversion funnel — boiled down to Awareness > Consideration > Conversion.”
We’ll expand on those stages shortly, but first you’ll want to conduct an audit.
1. Conduct a complete marketing audit
How is your ecommerce site performing now?
Who are your competitors?
What are the marketing conditions and trends in your industry?
We always examine an ecommerce brand’s existing marketing activities and performance metrics before creating a new plan because it provides a base for measuring progress and creating goals.
Audits can focus on a handful of marketing facets. Basically, your ecommerce marketing audit should include analyzing:
- SEO (on-page, off-page, and technical)
- Paid search/PPC efforts
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
With the data mined from your audit, you can now flesh out your conversion funnel stages. First stop?
Pro tip: Looking for a tool to make the PPC audit process easier? We rounded up our favorites.
2. Build awareness
The awareness stage is when your brand first interacts with your audience. Maybe it’s a passive scroll past a shopping ad. Or maybe it’s the first time your potential customer sees your brand on Google.
But how do you unlock this stage?
Rank for branded keywords
Say you’re Jomashop, the NYC-based online purveyor of watches, handbags, and accessories. If someone types “Jomashop watches” into the search box, what comes up?
Jomashop ranks on top for the branded search:
Same for Google Shopping ads:
But they’re not top sources for the videos that come up on the search engine results pages (SERPs), so they could give their YouTube SEO a little more branded TLC:
So, developing and maintaining an online presence with high-ranking branded keywords is your first step in your ecommerce business marketing journey. Parchmann explains why:
“This is as important for ‘defense’ to establish a controlling presence at the top of the page over competitors as it is [for ‘offense’] to generate sales.”
But while awareness is a goal for every ecommerce business, it might not be the “top” goal if your business is already established.
Parchmann reminds us that new businesses must focus marketing efforts more heavily on brand awareness than well-established businesses, where scaling revenue is a more pressing goal.
Build a social media presence on your target market’s top platforms
Not every social media marketing channel is equally important for every ecommerce store. It ultimately depends on where your customer personas spend time online.
Instagram’s shop feature is a welcome tool for most brands, but not if your target audience spends most of their time on Facebook (hello, Facebook Ads!).
Step one? Find out where your audience is. You can do this through competitor research and social media monitoring.
Next, engage with them with dedicated brand social media accounts on each platform. Then you can conduct some cross-selling and try to market your new products across different channels.
You might even leverage affiliate marketing if strong brand partners catch your eye. If you’re new to that marketing strategy, affiliate marketing is a technique where brands offer commissions to affiliates, or promoters, in exchange for leads and conversions.
Affiliates could be influencers heavily involved in your brand’s niche. For example, surfing influencer Bronson Meydi is an affiliate of Billabong:
You could even offer a coupon code to your affiliates to promote on their channels and generate leads. Parchmann agrees that while influencer marketing is a fabulous social media strategy, it’s not a necessity for every brand:
“It can yield incredibly powerful results when shown to the right demographic…[but] should only be seen as one of many paths to the same destination.”
He also cautions ecommerce brands about the importance of budgeting when leveraging influencer marketing:
“Every portion of a client’s budget needs meticulous care, and if there isn’t, a) enough budget to safely support the cost-benefit, and b) a clear objective to achieve some avenue of growth, then money is likely going to be haphazardly spent.”
Tackle your non-branded keyword strategy
Parchmann noted the more expansive keyword range ecommerce marketers must consider to capture their target audience.
Say you sell dog toys. Imagine the specific material, color, and purpose for each one when generating keywords:
- “Best dog toys for chewers”
- “Best dog toys for small dogs”
- “Indestructible dog toys”
- “Natural rubber dog toys”
Parchmann says you should reflect your product specs and benefits in your keyword strategy so audiences can find you:
“We build out a solid foundation for non-brand searches to ensure we have a strong search presence for keystone products.”
But most ecommerce businesses have to deal with a ton of competition. This means your SEO efforts could be extensive and still land you on page five. Plus, keyword bids on your PPC campaigns could skyrocket if you’re not monitoring things carefully.
Search Engine Journal recommends high search volume and low competition keywords to improve your chances of traffic, though they note those are hard to identify. (Psst — a search engine marketing (SEM) agency like HawkSEM can help with that.)
3. Accelerate their consideration
Now that you’ve landed in your audience’s peripheral, how do you get them to pay closer attention? Take these steps to move into the next stage of the funnel: consideration.
Level-up your brand photos
Online retailers spend big money on product photos—and for a good reason.
Over three-fourths of customers rely on product photos to influence their purchase decisions. Think about it: Do you buy something from Amazon without first scoping out the customer review photos?
Online jewelry retailer Brilliant Earth spares no expense on lighting, high-res photography, and multiple models just for one product:
Notice how they feature two different models for the same product? That directly addresses their diverse customer base. They want to ensure that their potential customers can envision an experience with the product, even if it costs them double the modeling cost:
They also make it to the top of the SERP ads for a broad long-tail keyword:
How else can you boost customer consideration for your products?
Build authority with backlinks
Backlinks do wonders for small businesses. Every time your brand appears in a quality podcast interview, guest post, industry roundup, news release, or promotional landing page, you build authority with search engines.
If you search “best dog toys for small dogs,” Google presents a few blog roundups near the top of the page:
Tough Plush, GoDog, and Goughnuts are mentioned in that first article from Rover. Now, how did they land at the top of the SERP for that query without posting their own article?
- They built a solid and trustworthy reputation, gathering positive reviews, customer loyalty, and perfecting their product to become a niche leader.
- They might have a backlinking strategy that prioritizes outreach to industry players like Rover. Perhaps they sent them a product discount, offered an affiliate partnership, or proposed a link exchange relationship.
Bottom line? You need to be active to get backlinks, either through a solid marketing strategy or dedicated outreach.
Backlinks boost your topical authority in your niche, reinforce your credibility, and boost your SEO juice on Google. All that, in the end, will increase sales for your biz.
4. Prime them for conversion
The next set of marketing tips is dedicated to your bottom-of-funnel customers — aka the ones ripe for conversion.
At this stage, customers are choosing between you and your competitors. They might even have your products in their shopping cart, but haven’t pulled the trigger in the checkout process.
How can you sway them to hit the buy button?
Track performance metrics
You’re seeing conversions, but where are they coming from: Social media? Referral? Direct traffic?
Arguably one of the most important aspects of an ecommerce marketing plan is the performance tracking.
Why? Because you can boost your conversions if you know what’s driving them. Similarly, you can ditch ROI-tanking marketing efforts if you see they’re not boosting sales.
Let’s say your monthly online sales decreased by 40%. You’re ranking for keywords and generating traffic, but people aren’t buying. What gives? Parchmann invites you to look deeper with these evaluations.
- User experience – “Is the checkout process easy? Is there help (like a live chat) clearly available if needed?” You might also offer some FAQs under your product descriptions to ensure your website visitors have all the information they need. (Insert answer to What’s the role of chatbots in e-commerce marketing?)
- Product accuracy and transparency – “Are costs transparent prior to reaching the checkout page? Did the ad the user clicked on accurately reflect the product online?”
- Competitor analysis – “How do we compare to competitors? Consider price, rewards and discounts, checkout processes, customer ratings, product offered, delivery times and options, and overall user experience.”
Finally, Parchmann encourages ecommerce marketers to focus on retargeting campaigns to reach interested buyers:
“Along with resolving all the potential user experience issues that may be the cause [of cart abandonment], running remarketing campaigns is critical to keeping those items top of mind for them in the following days.”
Here are a few more important ecommerce KPIs to keep tabs on:
Tip the scales with mindful remarketing
Notice any stragglers in your customer shopping carts? They’re so close to buying, but for some reason, your marketing tactics haven’t sealed the deal.
You can create dedicated PPC remarketing campaigns with more aggressive ad copy to speak directly to those readers.
But PPC isn’t the only answer.
You can remarket through SMS updates and discounts, email follow ups, loyalty programs, and more.
Toronto-based juice cleanse delivery service Total Cleanse leverages their email marketing list to remind customers about abandoned carts:
Our client 686 offers a gentle incentive right on the checkout page. The user-friendly, gamified incentive for free shipping is both subtle and persuasive:
What’s brilliant about this tactic is that it’s a super suave upsell. 686 isn’t pushing the customer to buy more; rather, they’re simply helping the customer imagine a benefit if they do buy more.
Read more about how we increased ecommerce apparel brand 686’s revenue by 562%.
Parchmann’s advice? Don’t use remarketing goals as an excuse to drown customers with ads, notifications, and pop-ups.
“Toeing the line of a strong marketing presence and being spammy can be razor thin, but there are a number of measures that can be taken to avoid falling on the wrong side.”
His method of choice? A frequency cap.
“Whether on social or display/video on Google, setting a frequency cap will ensure you are not serving ads to the same user more than a certain number of times a day.”
Another proactive measure? Feedback questionnaires.
“If someone wants to be removed from an email list, provide a quick form that asks their reason for leaving. This is extremely valuable data on what went wrong and/or what could be improved.”
Feeling overwhelmed? We created an easy-to-follow template to give you a bird’s eye view of your marketing efforts.
It’s easy to get lost in the metrics, methods, and meticulous details when launching an ecommerce marketing strategy.
But Parchmann emphasizes the most important aspect:
“Always consider the customer experience. We may want to be aggressive with our marketing strategies, but we always need to keep the human aspect of how we interact with our audience top of mind to set the stage for success.”
Need help putting all your ecommerce marketing goals into a cohesive plan that keeps your target audience top of mind and delivers high conversion rates and revenue?
HawkSEM is ready to jump straight in.
Our diverse roster of clients include ecommerce businesses in the lifestyle, apparel, and tech niches, garnering us extensive experience landing ecommerce brands at the top of the search engine results.
Are you ready to make your ecommerce business rain with revenue? Book a call with HawkSEM today.