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Ecommerce Marketing 101: Personas, Traffic Drivers, Advertising Channels & More

Ecommerce marketing is the practice of driving top-of-funnel traffic to convert into sales and customers. And there are hundreds of ways to go about it.

From focusing on organic traffic and SEO to using Facebook or Google ads to drive targeted traffic, you can mix and match paid strategies with non-paid strategies all in an effort to figure out which mix converts the most people.

But not marketing strategy is even static. As marketing tactics and marketplace algorithms evolve, so too must your strategy in order to win the highest return on ad spend – as well as return on operating costs associated with non-paid strategies like SEO.

You may have once heard: “If you build it, they will come.”

It’s a great quote, from a great movie.

Unfortunately, when it comes to ecommerce marketing, this notion is completely false. When you build it, they don’t necessarily come.

In a constantly changing and increasingly competitive environment, you need to make more effort to grow your online sales.

For many businesses, this is the biggest reason why revenue goals aren’t met.

With US ecommerce revenue slated to hit $4.9 trillion in 2023, you don’t want to miss the boat.

On one hand, simply building a modern, feature-rich, and user-friendly website may seem like a daunting task (hint, hint: it doesn’t have to be with the right resources).

But even doing only that, you’re only halfway there.

Unless you’re pounding the pavement to build awareness, your ecommerce website will exist in a vacuum.

And that’s not good for anybody – the business owner, the employees, and the people who want to buy your products.

In order to effectively grow an ecommerce business – whether or not you have a retail presence – you need a well-thought-out ecommerce marketing plan to drive brand awareness and increase sales. And there’s no way around it.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Within this blog, we’re covering the following topics:

  1. Creating and Executing an Ecommerce Marketing Plan.

  2. Marketing Channels, Tactics & Tools to Consider.

  3. Building a Marketing Team: In-House vs Agency.

Based on this article, you’ll have the information you need to confidently build an ecommerce marketing plan that can effectively scale your business and accomplish your goals.

Remember, there’s no “magic bullet” when it comes to building brand awareness and driving ecommerce sales.

The principles we’ve outlined should be defined as “best practices” but your team’s ability to think critically and get creative will be the “special sauce” your brand needs expedite sales growth.

Creating and Executing an Ecommerce Marketing Plan

“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

Another valid quote. This time, by Benjamin Franklin.

To be clear, there’s no shortage of literature around “how to develop a marketing plan.”

In fact, that topic keeps many authors, teachers and high-priced public speakers employed. And justifiably so.

Many tried and true principles remain relevant today, but with the continued evolution of ecommerce, this isn’t the time to get complacent.

Without a well-thought-out plan of attack, the chances of accomplishing your marketing goals will be slim to none.

And without an understanding of the ecommerce marketing landscape, you’re at a severe disadvantage.

We’ve applied the foundational elements of crafting a marketing plan, injected some time-savings tips and applied our backlog of ecommerce-specific advice to ultimately create this 12-step plan that is perfect for building your online store.

With the information provided, you can confidently create an ecommerce marketing plan from scratch by yourself, with your team, or alongside a more experienced agency partner. Here are some time-saving tips and advice for before you start.

1. Seek out mentors and advice.

Find companies or individuals who have already built and scaled a successful ecommerce business, ideally within the same industry. Then, ask for their advice.

  • How did they get started?

  • What marketing channels produced the biggest ROI in the short term?

  • Did they use an agency? If so, which agency?

  • What technology did they use to track data?

  • What SaaS products were most helpful and effective?

There are tons of online groups where you can ask these questions. BigCommerce’s own community group is only one.

2. When possible, hire experts.

Quite simply, the breadth of knowledge and experience that a talented marketer can bring to your business can’t be understated.

The time and effort you’ll spend learning about and slapping together digital marketing campaigns can be spent on more meaningful work.

If you’re a startup, consider hiring a freelancer to help with more nuanced parts of your business like branding, paid advertising, or website maintenance.

If you’re an established business, consider hiring an experienced agency.

They’ll bring a new energy, fresh perspective, and skills that complement your in-house capabilities.

3. Be honest with yourself.

Without quality products, the appropriate funding and a capable team, a path to success does NOT exist. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

But don’t bank on one social influencer’s Instagram post to compensate for these shortcomings. It just doesn’t happen that way.

There’s no shame is starting small and DIY-ing your digital marketing in the short term. But it’s important to set realistic expectations and outline a roadmap for growth.

How to Build an Ecommerce Marketing Plan

As you’re laying the groundwork to your ecommerce future, it’s important to go through these exercises while writing your business plan to ensure that your methods and strategy are well thought out and will pass the test of time.

It can’t be overstated: these are the prerequisites to creating an effective marketing plan and building a successful business.

1. Executive summary.

Now that you’ve gathered substantive advice from knowledgeable mentors, the big picture overview will come into focus.

By writing an Executive Summary, you’ll be taking the first steps to crafting your ecommerce marketing plan.

2. Goals & objectives.

Make your goals and objectives VERY clear and specific.

Once you begin to execute, there’s no shame in amending your goals if they turned out to be too low or too high.

Eventually, your primary focus should be creating realistic, attainable goals. And then, layering in “stretch goals” to really excite the team.

That being said, make sure to include specific goals and metrics, such as:

  • Increase sales by X% during the slow season.

  • Increase AOV by X% on Black Friday & Cyber Monday.

  • Increase email marketing conversion rates by X%.

3. Mission statement & value proposition.

  • What’s the purpose of this company?

  • What do you do?

  • What don’t you do?

You (or the company leadership) must be able to answer these basic questions.

Not all companies need a philanthropic element to the business (which would be nice) but there needs to be a clear mission and value proposition.

4. Target customers, personas & markets.

Know your audience.

If you don’t have a clear understanding of who you’re targeting, what characteristics define them and where they’re located — you’re bound to run inefficient campaigns that waste money targeting low-converting, unqualified individuals.

Make sure you know the following:

  • Age ranges.

  • Gender breakdown.

  • Geographic location.

  • Purchasing power.

5. Situation analysis.

“You can only know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been.”

Therefore, perform a thorough assessment of the current state of the company, the competition and the overall marketing plan.

Leave no stone unturned. A better understanding of your current situation will lead to better decision-making, and eventually, better results.

6. Pricing & positioning strategy.

Ensure your pricing and positioning provides real value to your target audience.

Forcing products upon your target customers that they deem to be overpriced is a losing proposition, especially when price comparing is SO easy these days.

Therefore, do your research!

Of course, there are opportunities for testing and refinement throughout your product’s lifecycle, but by doing a little more work up front, you’ll be better off in the long run.

7. Distribution & fulfillment plan.

Even if you’re starting small, you should have a clear understanding of the distribution and order fulfillment requirements that will evolve as you grow.

Whether you are packing and shipping yourself, overseeing a small team, or leveraging a third party fulfillment shop, you need to know whether your fulfillment processes can meet the demand of your upcoming marketing push.

After you’ve written your plans, be sure to spend a good chunk of time tweaking, refining, and evolving them over time.

Ecommerce Fulfillment Tools

Find more shipping and fulfillment tools for your store.

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