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TL;DR

MarTechExec Takeaway

“When it comes to reaching your target audience today, ecommerce marketing is no longer optional. Undeniably, the customer journey starts and often finishes online. Ecommerce marketing is now more critical than ever.” — Lana Moore, Executive Editor at MarTechExec (@martechexec)

Definition

Ecommerce marketing refers to the promotion of goods and/or services online with the intent of driving sales and raising awareness about the brand’s online store and products.

Guiding Principles

Ecommerce marketing sounds simple enough. Just taking your marketing tactics and orient them ecommerce, right?

Slow down. You’re going to need to think more strategically than that.

You can’t stand out without personalization

Make an effort to create personalized experiences for your consumers with retargeting, product suggestions and personalized displays. Users will be more comfortable sharing personal information if you use it to provide them with more value.

Omnichannel has pros and cons but you need to consider it

With ecommerce competition growing, it’s important to get your brand out there wherever you can. Utilize all channels available to you to discover new audiences and consumers.

Don’t be afraid of technology

AI, chatbots, smartphones, VR…the list seems never ending these days. It’s important to not be intimidated, but instead, embrace what’s on the tech horizon if you want your ecommerce marketing to run smoothly.

What is ecommerce marketing?

Ecommerce marketing can be tough to define. It brings together tactics from all over digital marketing and focuses it on the online purchase of a brand’s products.

This can blur the lines of what is and isn’t ecommerce marketing for many. To start differentiating, you’ll need these terms and some background on this marketing strategy.

Terminology

Omnichannel — multi-channel approach to marketing that seeks to provide the user with a seamless online experience across devices and even into brick-and-mortar stores.

M-Commerce — ecommerce that is conducted on a mobile phone.

Conversation Rate Optimization (CRO) — process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who convert.

Conversion Funnel (Buyer’s Journey) — the journey a customer takes from becoming aware of a brand and it’s product/service to navigating the ecommerce site and finally converting.

Product Listing Ads — one of AdWord’s ad extensions, this appears in a search query and includes the product image, price and merchant name.

Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliant — any company that accepts card payments must host their data securely using a PCI compliant hosting provider.

Average Order Value (AOV) — tracks the average dollar amount spent each time a customer places an order online. AOV equals total revenue divided by the number of orders.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) / Lifetime Value (LTV) — predicted net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer.

Point of Sale (POS) — the point in which a customer buys a product, such as a cash register.

How ecommerce marketing became a norm

The dawn of ecommerce came in 1994 when a large pizza was ordered from Pizza Hut’s website. The introduction of broadband internet boosted ecommerce even more.

In fact, in 2003 more than 20 percent of Americans had access to broadband in their homes. This easy access to the internet in Americans’ homes meant more people began to research products online.

The emergence of Amazon and eBay further catapulted the commonality of ecommerce. And the popularity of these sites spurred on the number of people who were now buying products online.

As technology evolved to include mobile devices and social platforms, the use of ecommerce marketing became critical for brands.

Benefits of ecommerce marketing

How often do you order something from Amazon? If you’re a prime member, you’re likely part of the 30 percent who order off Amazon every week.

And that’s just Amazon. Studies find that 80 percent of the online population has purchased something using the internet.

To state the obvious: people love online shopping. And that’s why you need ecommerce marketing. It’s more than just getting in front of customers online, it's about catering to modern consumer behavior.

Easy access to data and analytics

Customer data is easy to collect and process under ecommerce marketing.

You can get their contact information. And having that contact information means you have an easier time building a relationship with the customer.

You can also learn more about their interests and the things they follow. This allows you to create more personalized experiences for your customer. In fact, 75 percent of consumers are morely to buy from a brand that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on part purchases or knows their purchase history.

Further, the amount of data ecommerce marketing collects allows for more thorough analytics. Brands can easily calculate and evaluate sales effectiveness, customer effectiveness, marketing campaigns, product mix, customer engagement and more.

“[Data] and content have become assets within today’s businesses with several use cases to be acted upon: Performance, impact and loyalty. These three drivers, which will be focused on to better optimize marketing efforts, are critical for all marketing orgs going forward. This will force more traditional retailers — like brick and mortars — to shift the mix of their business towards an ecommerce approach” — Leah Pope, Chief Marketing Officer at Datorama

Omnichannel creates consistent experiences

Omnichannel shoppers have a 30 percent higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel, according to Google.

Tracking the different ways you interact with customers allows you to find new and better ways to build relationships and create consistent experiences.

And that leads to higher engagement and loyalty. In fact, companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement retain 89 percent of their customers, compared to 33 percent for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.

Ecommerce retailers can easily keep a constant eye on consumers’ buying habits and interests, like we mentioned above, with data and analytics. This means you have a head start in finding the channels your customers are using.

And that means you can tailor your interactions with customers so that the conversations are seamless across channels.

“I predict new customer experience tools will emerge that thoughtfully take into account all aspects of the customer journey and will incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to get closer and closer to the consumer.” — Susan Marshall, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Torchlite

“Ecommerce and physical stores are not mutually exclusive, in fact they need to be as interconnected as ever. Consumers expect to find you and browse your products in both the virtual and physical world.” — Mohannad "Mo" El-Barachi, General Manager at SweetIQ

Challenges of ecommerce marketing

Ecommerce marketing seems like a no-brainer. However, just as with many marketing strategies we use, it’s not without its obstacles.

In order to effectively use ecommerce marketing to meet your goals, you need to understand the challenges that lay ahead of you.

Measuring ROI is difficult

A lot of marketers find it hard to prove their return on investment with ecommerce marketing. Part of the problem is being able to determine the right key performance indicators (KPI) to measure. There’s an abundance of KPIs to choose.

The list goes on and on.

The trick is to define a hierarchy of your ecommerce metrics. From there you can prioritize the optimization of your marketing strategy.

Remember that you shouldn’t save optimization just for when your KPIs are slipping. Keep adjusting and polishing your marketing activities and strategies to meet your goals.

Omnichannel is hard to manage

Times have changed. Fifteen years ago, a consumer typically used two touch-points when making a purchase. Only 7 percent used more than 4 touch-points.

Today, however, consumers use an average of 6 touch-points and nearly 50 percent regularly use more than 4 touch-points.

It takes sound planning and investment to adequately track and optimize performance across the different channels. Without that infrastructure, you run the risk of wasting time and money on ineffective marketing efforts.

Customer mindset remains a mystery

For many, creating positive and relevant experiences that address the ever-shifting mindset of the customer is a challenge. However, offering a positive customer experience is a huge competitive differentiator, which makes it critical.

Remember, studies show that 95 percent of customers will share bad experiences with others.

As there is a minimum chance of direct customer to company interactions, customer loyalty is always up in the air. Providing a positive experience that meets the customer’s mindset is clearly the way to stay ahead.

But how do you do that?

The post-click experience may be a key way to start. In a MetaPack survey, 77 percent of respondents said that they would like to see ecommerce sites they use regularly offering loyalty programs that rewarded them with free or quick delivery.

It also found that 55 percent wanted the freedom to change their delivery after placing an order online. Talk about a changing mindset, right?

Ecommerce marketing tactics that work

There’s an abundance of digital marketing tactics to chose from when it comes to ecommerce marketing. Knowing what will work for you largely depends on your brand and its goals.

However, there are some key tactics that stand out as winners on the regular.

Content marketing

Content marketing provides value to customers, which makes them more interested in what you have to offer. In fact, 82 percent of consumers have a more positive opinion about a company after reading custom content.

It also builds brand awareness by educating consumers on your product and brand. Studies show that 70 percent of consumers prefer to learn about a brand through articles instead of through advertisements.

Email marketing

When done correctly, email marketing yields an enormous 4,300 percent ROI for businesses in the United States. Email marketing, essentially, pays for itself, and then some, but it can also play a significant role in reducing the costs of your other marketing efforts.

The power of email marketing is that not only are you able to segment your lists and target specific sections of your audience, but you can also retain visitors and customers.

Video marketing

It's the “content trend of 2017.”

It’s been found that 4 times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.

Not only that, but people spend on average 2.6 times more time on pages with video than without. So when you offer video content to your audience, you’re garnering more interest and engagement.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Audience and person-based targeting require intensive research and feedback. However, once you have an understanding of who is buying your product and who is just browsing, you can create better ads tailored to their interests and bid accordingly.

It’s important to consistently optimize your ads in order to increase your click-through rates (CTR). Some people might respond to “free shipping,” whereas others are more likely to click on “no hassle returns.”

Dynamic Retargeting

By definition, dynamic retargeting is an ad strategy that allows merchants to personalize every ad delivered based on criteria relevant to actions taken by the user.

Dynamic retargeting ads have to do with a previous piece of content or product viewed by the user. Retargeted ads are also 70 percent more likely to convert than any other type of advertising.

How can we expect ecommerce marketing to change over the next 3-5 years?

We reached out to several experts in the industry to hear how they believe ecommerce marketing will evolve over the next few years. The most common themes we found in their responses included an increased focus on mobile, customer experience, and artificial intelligence.

Mobile search is the default

The year 2015 brought on Google’s search algorithm update, often referred to as Mobilegeddon. Since then, marketers have been hyper-focused on making sure their mobile efforts are up to par.

“The layout of a mobile site/app and its content has to REALLY stand out from its competition and avoid the overall content shock effect ecommerce marketing can impose on users. It’s important to make sure your mobile site/app is user-friendly because if your users can’t figure out how to search for products and order from their mobile device, they’ll just leave the site. There’s no guarantee they’ll go back to their PC to return to your website either.” — Bret Bonnet, Co-Owner/Founder at Quality Logo Products

Augmented reality is elevating user experience

The use of augmented reality brings a whole new experience to the way consumers experience online shopping. The more marketers integrate these tools into their campaigns, the more it will define the ecommerce experience.

“With AR, we will know how a sofa will look in your living room without it physically being there. Plus, you will know whether it fits into that specific spot you want it to be. The days of buying a sofa and hoping it will look good and measuring the area so that it fits will be gone.” — Stan Tan, Digital Marketing Manager at Selby’s

“AR will iterate on the direction that 360 photography has been going by providing an even more immersive online experience of the product to the customer before purchasing. Think visualizing a garment or outfit on one's self via an AR mirror experience, or visualizing how a piece of furniture would fit into and interact with your space.” — Brendan Binger, Founder at Quarry Design Group

Customer experience will shape ecommerce marketing

The more divided among devices customers are online, the more important it is to make sure you’re providing a seamless experience.

“Ultimately, it will feel like an email really has been created exclusively based on the subscriber. This will include much better predictive technology for items likely to become future purchases, accurate delivery timing for maximising impact and recognising the optimum frequency to drive customer lifetime value on a truly one-to-one basis.” — Becs Rivett-Kemm, Email Wrangler at Conversio

“In the future, AI will go even further than chatbots, allowing for a more automated and yet still personalized end-user experience. In order to deliver this, ecommerce platforms will come with better, stronger analytics capabilities powered by big data and machine learning.” — Adriana Tica, Chief Executive Officer at Idunn

“Ultimately, a seamless approach to marketing — one that transcends brand delineation — ensures a cohesive experience for the consumer, start to finish.” — Seth Worby, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at Champ Internet

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be a game changer

Artificial intelligence has the potential to open many doors for marketers. As the technology becomes more refined, we expect it will have a big impact on ecommerce marketing efforts.

“AI will have a far greater ability to get to a more interactive, or even personal shopper-mode solve for consumers. Evolving as it learns, sees patterns, and nuances beyond pure quant stats.” — Rob Albertson, Managing Director at Bandwidth Marketing

“Using AI to personalize the customer journey is a huge value-add to retailers. Retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see sales gains of 6 to 10 percent, a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).” — Haig Newton, Chief Technology Officer at ConversionPoint Technologies

“Automation and AI are not new trends, but they’ve found such traction with ecommerce advertisers that their staying power is solid and getting stronger with each product release.” — Casey Wilson, Vice President of Digital at Chacka Marketing

“As we look to 2018 and beyond, we’ll see that the biggest advancements will center on how customer data is collected, interpreted, and then used to support both human and artificial intelligence. No matter how advanced machine learning and AI tools become, marketers will always need to rely on human interactions, empathy, experience and insights to build engaging — and highly successful — campaigns.” Armand Thiberge, Chief Executive Officer at SendinBlue

Conclusion

We’ve gone from ordering books and knick-knacks off Amazon to buying our groceries from mobile apps like Instacart. As we move forward, ecommerce will continue to dominate.

To keep up with the ecommerce boom, you need to understand the benefits of ecommerce marketing and leverage the proper tactics to stay ahead of the competition.