From pay-per-click advertising to blogging and from search engine optimization to analytics, ecommerce marketing is broad, diverse, and, potentially, complex. The aim is to find those activities, promotions, and tactics that generate profits.
Five years ago, Practical Ecommerce published an article describing the skills critical for ecommerce entrepreneurs. The suggestions were, perhaps, counterintuitive: be able to write, know how to learn, and be a skilled listener. These skills were about the strategic capabilities that entrepreneurs require.
Building on these skills, here is a set of tactical capabilities that should help your ecommerce marketing succeed.
1. Writing, Content Marketing
The ability to write is, essentially, the ability to communicate online. Every ecommerce product description, every blog post, every how-to article, every about us page, every video script is an act of writing. Done well, writing will help drive your ecommerce marketing. Done poorly it will bring laughter and embarrassment.
An example should make the point. This actual message was sent to thousands of subscribers in support of a retailer’s “Sizzling Saturday” sale.
“If you have been waiting for the best year of the Spring, your patience is paying off! At [name of retailer removed] it’s izzling [sic] Saturday this weekend, and for one day only you can save big! Plus see the week-long savings, too!”
Clear writing is a requirement for ecommerce marketing success.
2. Data Analysis, Analytics
Successful marketers examine facts and statistics to make good decisions about how to invest in marketing and promotion. This ability to consider facts and understand the implications of statistics is called data analysis. It is important for modern ecommerce marketing.
In a November 2015 article about how challenging it can be to quantify the impact marketing analytics is having on a business, Harvard Business Review reported three observations:
- According to a survey, companies plan to increase their investment in marketing analytics 73 percent in the next three years;
- Data analysis is impacting many areas of marketing, including customer acquisition, marketing mix, customer retention, social media, segmentation, and promotion strategy;
- Marketing organizations are not as effective at processing data as they should be.
Those ecommerce marketers that can more effectively use and understand data are more likely to succeed.
3. Testing and Data Collection
Closely related to interpreting and analyzing data is the ability to collect facts and statistics about your company’s marketing performance.
This marketing skill encompasses the ability to properly set up Google Analytics or similar, optimizing it for your ecommerce business with specific, meaningful reports. It includes understanding how testing works and using testing platforms like Optimizely or similar. It also includes the ability to glean data from each software package your business uses — such as sales data, email reports, or order management.
In this example, measuring or collecting information about when respondents entered a contest makes it easy to see the impact that email marketing had. Thus, monitoring how the campaign did might lead to making better decisions in future campaigns.
If you can collect good information about how your marketing is performing, you are more likely to make good decisions based on that information.
Graphic and website design are online marketing fundamentals. The way an ad, an article, or even a product detail page looks can have a significant impact on how the marketing message or even the product is perceived.
“Campaigns are about raising the profile of brands or moving customers in a specific direction to buy a company’s products or services,” wrote Liz Alton in a 2013 HubSpot blog post. “One of the critical elements of getting people to buy is trust. Brands are essentially the way that customers code a specific offering in their minds: this brand represents quality and luxury, or this brand represents comfort and value.
Alton continued, “Regardless of what your target customers hold in highest esteem, a brand is shorthand for that. Every piece of creative you release — blog posts, brochures, Google PPC campaigns or Nimlok booths at trade shows — says something about a brand. If the design is less than professional and aligned with the brand’s core messaging, it can undermine years of work and good impressions. By contrast, good design speaks volumes to a company’s professionalism, quality and positioning in the market.”
How your site, your ads, and your brand materials look matters for ecommerce success.
The ability to write code can be a huge advantage for marketers. This ability may be as basic as understanding HTML and CSS so that you can do a better job of posting articles in WordPress. Or it might be the ability to develop your own marketing tools and reports.
By some estimates, half of all digital marketing jobs require at least some technical expertise. This is the case because so much of what is done online requires at least an understanding of coding.
Learn to code and you will have more control over your marketing. With more control, your chances for success increase.
Ecommerce advertising must be planned, created, purchased, executed, and measured. And it must be done in many channels, using many forms of media, including pay-per-click advertising on search engines and on social media sites, display advertising, native advertising, mobile advertising, video commercials, and more.
The effective ecommerce marketer understands how advertising works and seeks to get the very best possible return on investment.
Ad management is a high-end marketing skill that can take a long time to learn and even longer to master. But it is worth the effort. Advertising can drive sales and profits.
7. Email Marketing
To paraphrase the Direct Marketing Association, an email address can define you online. It is, to an extent, your digital name, and email marketing may be one of the best ways to reach ecommerce customers. You can communicate directly to consumers who know your business and are interested in your products.
In fact, a survey by the Direct Marketing Association of digital marketers found that many believed that email marketing was, in fact, the most effective marketing tool.
Learning to effectively market via email may be the single best thing you do for your ecommerce marketing.
8. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation can reduce marketing expenses, increase conversion rates, boost average order value, and, in some cases, even improve shopper experience.
As a skill, marketing automation is about managing the processes and workflows in an automation platform like Marketo, Infusionsoft, or even MailChimp.
For your ecommerce marketing, find the automation tools that work for your business and master them.
9. Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the process of making your web pages easy for web crawlers to access and index. The idea is that if Google, Bing, and other search engines can easily find and catalog what is on your page, it can more easily list your site on the appropriate results pages.
The SEO aim is not to trick search engines with fake content or keyword stuffing, but rather to help search engines locate and understand your content.
Done well, SEO will help make your site easy to find, which can lead to marketing success.