From building your merchant accounts to optimizing ads, here’s everything you need to know about e-commerce marketing.
Here, you’ll find:
- What e-commerce marketing is
- Different types of e-commerce ads
- How to leverage organic and paid social tactics
- Best practices for creating effective product ads
With the convenience of online ordering, speedy delivery, and a wide range of products and services that can be browsed through virtually, it’s easy to see why e-commerce is booming.
For marketers, this means more potential customers — and more competition. That’s where a solid e-commerce marketing strategy comes in.
We’ve laid out everything you need to know about the state of e-commerce marketing today, from the latest social media trends to ad options and everything in between.
What is e-commerce marketing?
The aim is e-commerce marketing is to drive awareness, interaction, and sales to a business that sells products or services online.
E-commerce marketers can do this through paid digital avenues such as pay-per-click (PPC or paid search), display ads, paid social ads, remarketing, and more.
Organic, non-paid methods of e-commerce marketing include organic social media posts, SEO content, an optimized website, and email marketing.
A well-rounded e-commerce strategy often includes a mix of paid and organic efforts.
Build your e-commerce marketing plan
The basic steps to building your e-commerce marketing plan don’t deviate much from a standard marketing plan for any business.
First, you want to define your ideal client persona. (Most companies have a few different target audience personas they’re marketing to.) Keep these personas in mind when making decisions about copy, images, and other ways to attract the right people to your offerings.
From there, determine which tools and platforms you want to use to manage your program. These tools could be anything from Google Analytics and CRM software (like HubSpot) to Shopify and BigCommerce.
As far as social media (which we’ll dive into more below), it’s wise to create accounts on the major platforms. Plus, many of these boast e-commerce-specific features.
You also want to establish your goals and KPIs so you can measure your campaign’s success properly. You can do this among your internal team, or partner with an experienced digital marketing agency to help with the workload.
How to get started with e-commerce ads
Paid search campaigns are one of the most effective ways for e-commerce brands to attract traffic and, ultimately, new sales.
Rather than mostly relying on keywords, e-commerce paid search campaigns focus on images and product feeds that feature accurate and optimized product listings, thorough descriptions, and eye-catching headlines paired with accurate inventory availability.
As we’ve highlighted before, the steps to getting started with e-commerce search ads include:
- Choose a product data input method: There are a few different ways to input your products into the Google Merchant Center. The one you choose will depend on things like how many products you have and which e-commerce platform you’re leveraging.
- Optimize your Merchant Center settings: This involves things like enabling automatic updates and connecting to your Google Ads account so you can be eligible for free listings.
- Set up your e-commerce Shopping ads campaign: Decide which campaign you want to run (we recommend starting with standard Shopping). Then, split products into separate campaigns and ad groups, and separate out searches based on specificity.
- Optimize your campaigns: Once you’ve run your campaigns and gathered some data, you can decrease bids on anything the underperforms and increase bids on what’s producing the highest conversion value.
- Export successful campaigns to Microsoft Advertising: If you’re seeing positive returns on Google with your paid search ads, consider transferring those campaigns to Microsoft Advertising — they’ve made the process easy.
Boost sales with e-commerce remarketing and proper tracking
Remarketing, also called retargeting, is a type of ad that highlights your product or service to a targeted audience of people who have already visited your site or mobile app. Setting up dynamic remarketing will show users specific products they’ve previously viewed on your site.
This type of marketing can help combat obstacles e-commerce brands often run into, such as cart abandoners. Remarketing can be an effective way to nurture your funnel and turn “window shoppers” into customers.
Search Engine Journal reports that tracking is also crucial to e-commerce success. Their top metrics to keep an eye on are:
- Sales conversion rate
- Website traffic
- Email opt-in rate
- Customer lifetime value
- Average order value
- Customer acquisition cost
- Shopping cart abandonment rate
Pro tip: Remarketing is evolving with 2023’s sunsetting of third-party cookies. However, social platforms and search engines are working to create privacy-minded tracking options in their stead, such as Chrome’s FLEDGE and Google’s Topics.
E-commerce SEO tips
Of course, all businesses should follow the standard SEO practices for best results when it comes to traffic and rankings online.
But with e-commerce competition being especially fierce, brands in this industry often have to get creative — and strategic — to truly stand out.
Pinpointing the right keywords is a solid place to start with e-commerce SEO. Brands can do this in a few ways, including leveraging Google Keyword Planner, manually searching to see what already ranks organically, and leveraging tools like SpyFu and Semrush.
Other e-commerce SEO tips include:
- Use relevant product titles and descriptions (pivotal to a well-running Shopping campaign on Google and social as well)
- Create a Merchant Center account (as mentioned above)
- Ensure your site is properly reported and set up with canonical info
- Keep CRO in mind and regularly test layouts, filters, and product images
Lastly, consistency is key to avoiding common SEO errors. This means monitoring things like how your products are organized, keeping inventory up to date, leveraging img tags and metadata at a product level, and making sure image sizes are consistent across your site.
Choose the right e-commerce platform
From paid search to display ads to social media and CRM software, there are a variety of platforms you can use for your e-commerce marketing. The ones you opt to use will depend on a few different factors, including your bandwidth, budget, and goals.
Overall, when you’re exploring e-commerce ad platforms, a few things you want to consider are:
- If your various vendors integrate together cohesively
- Where your audience is already shopping
- What types of e-commerce ads are most successful for your brand
- How you can use seller ratings in your ads
Explore e-commerce email campaigns
If you’ve ever purchased something online (and the odds you have are very high), you’ve likely also been the recipient of an e-commerce campaign email.
Email remains one of the most popular (and successful) digital marketing strategies around, and that especially goes for e-commerce brands.
Often, brands will create an opt-in option for customers to sign up for emails when checking out on their websites.
Much like remarketing, email campaigns can also be an effective way to combat cart abandonment. It’s also a great way to let your audience know about a special offer, upcoming sale, or other deals they might be interested in.
Pro tip: The most successful e-commerce emails often include eye-catching visuals, concise copy, and an unmissable call to action (CTA).
Leverage e-commerce content marketing
Creating high-quality e-commerce content can do wonders for your SEO. Once you’ve done the front-end work of defining your audience and determining where your content will live on your site, you can start building your content strategy.
This plan should include:
- Ways to illustrate what makes your brand different from others in the space
- Creative methods for educating your audience and helping them problem-solve
- An emphasis on storytelling
- Plenty of on-brand, high-quality visuals
How often you create content will depend on your goals and bandwidth. Creating a content marketing calendar with planned-out posts around things like your keywords, outside-of-the-box initiatives, and new company updates will keep you organized and on track.
Understand e-commerce social media
There’s plenty of value in e-commerce brands leveraging social media platforms, both paid and organically.
That’s because social media is a direct, engaging way to reach users where they already are. It’s also effective in that it’s unobtrusive and seamless.
Creating organic social media content is a great way to raise brand awareness and attract followers. By regularly posting content, you can show off your company aesthetic, get creative with your marketing, and increase followers without spending a dime.
If you’re just starting out with the paid side of social media, aka paid social, you can try out boosting organic posts that are seeing decent engagement on platforms like Instagram.
You can also reach out to industry influencers who have their own engaged followings and explore an ad partnership with them in exchange for products, services or a fee.
The main social media platforms also offer standard ad options that allow you to do things like create and monitor a campaign, target a specific audience, and showcase products while directing potential buyers to your site.
Another reason it’s worth being active on these platforms: they’re often adding new tools and features that are beneficial to e-commerce brands.
Explore e-commerce paid social
Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest offer shoppable posts that allow you to link items in your images that go straight to the product page on your website (or even allow users to check out in the app) for a seamless buying experience.
E-commerce paid social ad types vary by platform, but some of the most common are:
- Static ads that feature a single image
- Carousel ads with multiple images to view or swipe through
- Video ads that show a product in action or from multiple angles
- Collection ads that show multiple products in one image
- Story ads that are only viewable temporarily and don’t live on your permanent page
- Interactive ads with stickers, pop-ups, or other add-ons
- Shoppable ads that take user right to the item or checkout page
Optimizing your store for mobile “means more than having a responsive design,” as Shopify explains. It also means you’re designing your e-commerce site with mobile visitors in mind from beginning to end.
And with Statista data showing m-commerce slated to double from 3.5% of total U.S. retail sales in 2018 to nearly 7% in 2022, keeping mobile in mind will be more crucial than ever.
Luckily, there are quick fixes you can perform to ensure your site is mobile-friendly. These include:
- Making call-to-action buttons large and easy to see
- Keeping links far apart so they’re easier to click
- Keep navigation menus organized
- Anchoring things like “add to cart” buttons so users don’t have to scroll to add items
So many aspects of business taking place online. So it’s wise for e-commerce marketers to use all of the tools and tricks at their disposal to stand out. That means leveraging the latest tech and connecting with their customers to beat the competition.
Define your ideal customers, create a multi-channel approach that takes advantage of paid search, social media, email and more, and stay on top of the latest industry trends. From there, you can create a strong e-commerce marketing plan that’s both agile and built to last.
This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2020.