When it comes to creating a digital marketing strategy, there’s a lot to consider. With ecommerce marketing, that consideration will directly impact both your top line and bottom line. Considering your strategy from both the customer’s perspective and a strategic ecommerce marketing perspective is critical to delivering the best results.
But what are these considerations? How should you go about deciding which ones take priority? And what are some of the differences between the specific parts of each consideration? Here’s six considerations to help you shape your very own ecommerce marketing strategy.
The six considerations covered throughout this article are;
- The customer journey
- The customer experience
- Acquisition vs retention
- Inbound vs outbound
- Multi-channel marketing
- Owned, Earned & Paid media
The customer’s ecommerce journey
The first consideration of any digital marketing strategy, especially when focused on ecommerce, should be the customer’s journey. “Customer journey” is a phrase thrown around a lot in marketing circles, but it ultimately means identifying the most suitable channels, messages and times to communicate with your potential customers.
There’s an increasing amount of evidence supporting the depreciation of marketing funnels, in favour of customer’s bouncing between a traditionally linear path of awareness, consideration and purchase. That said, these three key mindsets still exist. Therefore, it’s as important as ever to develop your ecommerce marketing journey for these mindsets.
Your focus at this first stage is to make your potential customers aware of your service or product offering. Ecommerce sites can do this by focusing on content which answers consumer’s problems, with the product/s on sale helping answer this issue. Bare in mind however that it’s not about going in with the hard sell at this point, or even explaining the benefits of your offering. Rather, it’s simply making your audience aware that you have a potential solution on the market.
At the stage of consideration, you can start selling the features, benefits and unique selling points of your products or services. This is the stage at which your audience want to learn more about your “what” (rather than your “why” and “how”) as they’ll likely be comparing various different solutions on the market. Showing your USP’s are key at this stage, but it’s still not about the hard-sell. Think customer reviews and user-generated content.
Now is your opportunity to get the sale. Depending on the products you’re offering, the awareness, consideration and purchase phases may occur over a very short (think a single session) or very long (think 100+ sessions) time period. Purchase is the point at which a consumer has identified they need a resolution to a problem, and is ready to invest. Promoting price or delivery options is about right at this stage.
And let’s not forget retention, which is an equally important part of the customer journey to consider, too. We’ll get into acquisition vs retention a little lower down, but it’s important to remember that customers are some of your most loyal brand advocates.
The customer’s ecommerce experience
Next up, experience. Many consider “customer journey” and “customer experience” to be the same thing, but personally I think there’s a subtle difference. Customer journey focuses on taking customers from one point to another, whilst the customer experience is more interested in how the customer feels during that journey.
What the customer experiences when on-site makes up a massive part of this emotional connection (known as UX). Using tools such as Hotjar and Qubit to improve the on-site experience can dramatically improve overall ecommerce performance. But split-testing doesn’t stop on-site. Split-testing everything from paid ads to email CTAs can help understand what emotional connections work best with customers. It’s a data-driven psychological mash-up, and is ever-evolving.
And let’s not forget that not all customers (or product segments) have the same emotional requirements. Segmenting your customers to create highly personalised experiences is key in unlocking the true value behind your customers and the data they allow you to hold on them.
Segmentation & Persona marketing
Utilising customer data from your CRM systems to create customer segmentations can help define different emotional groups. Taking this one step further, creating a persona for each of your segments can help really understand each group and create campaigns which are much more likely to produce the results you want.
Different personas will likely have different demographic, socio-economic and attitudinal factors including how they perceive online shopping, what drives them from awareness to purchase and how they prefer to be communicated with. Understanding all of this and more will help shape your overall digital marketing strategy and add a really valuable data-layer into your marketing approach.
Customer acquisition and retention
Understanding the nuances between your customer acquisition and customer retention strategies is important when looking to put together successful ecommerce campaigns. It’s rare that you’ll produce a campaign which achieves both of these top-level goals, so splitting your efforts across the two is advisable. Some companies even structure their digital marketing teams in this way, with customer acquisition managers and customer retention managers.
The split between customer acquisition and customer retention can sometimes be simplified into a channel-by-channel approach. For example customer acquisition may cover search and affiliates, whilst customer retention focuses on email (CRM) and direct mail. Whilst I understand the reasons for this, I don’t think it is (or should be) that black-and-white.
By thinking about customer acquisition and retention as their own specialist topics, and allowing them to be channel-agnostic, means better results. For example, Pay-per-click remarking lists (RLSAs) can be utilised to offer existing customers special offers, and email marketing can use campaigns such as ‘refer a friend’ to acquire new customers.
Ultimately, I beleive there should be no correlation between inbound/outbound marketing and customer acquisition/retention.
Acquiring new customers is tough. Convincing your audience to purchase from you over the competition in the marketplace can be a challenge. However, by focusing on the customer journey and experience specifically related to acquisition the task can become much more realistic.
Awareness is a much more crucial step in customer acquisition as audiences may not even be aware of your product offering, or that you exist as a company. Comparatively, existing customers who you want to secure repeat purchase from are already aware at least of your brand’s USP and belief.
Whilst awareness’ importance is over-indexed with customer acquisition, when it comes to customer retention the focus generally falls to consideration. With customers aware of your brand and USP already, cross-selling additional products or services usually results in a fairly quick processing of awareness. Again, this depends on the ticket price of the product you’re offering.
Getting repeat purchases is arguably even trickier than customer acquisition. However, there is one benefit to customer retention – existing customer data. Using existing customer data in the right way can make highly personalised campaigns which are likely to result in a much more profitable retention campaign.
Inbound and outbound marketing
We’ve already touched upon inbound and outbound marketing in previous sections, but defining a clear inbound and outbound marketing strategy can help dramatically improve effectiveness of the overall ecommerce marketing strategy. Unlike previous topics covered, inbound vs outbound marketing is a more internal marketing perspective, and not one which directly impacts the customer.
Inbound marketing relies on customer’s actively seeking out your brand, products or services. It’s often considered the ‘natural’ interest in your ecommerce strategy, however there’s lots of paid methods of boosting your visibility for those looking for a solution. For example, someone searching for a solution to a muddy garden may see a number of paid ads, one of which offers garden dehydration tablets.
Just because your audience is coming to your ecommerce site without you first going directly to them, do not consider this a natural interest. Even organic search is continuously worked on to ensure maximum visibility. There’s a whole industry on SEO, after all!
A few inbound marketing channels may include;
- Organic search
- Paid search
- Affiliate marketing
- Some social media
Outbound marketing on the other hand relies on your business actively seeking out customers who may be interested in your offering and then communicating with them. Email marketing is the commonly identified outbound marketing channel, but there’s a number of other mediums out there too.
As you’re going to customers it’s important to ensure your targeting and messaging is as personalised, useful and timely as possible. Outbound marketing is generally considered the more spammy of the two methods, but that’s generally just because of historically poor execution when it comes to outbound (think spam email or bulk-social ads).
A number of outbound marketing channels may include;
- Email marketing
- Paid social ads
- Direct mail
Multi-channel marketing is closely related to customer journey and experience, focusing on the connection between different channels and how they combine to create a seamless customer experience. This can be in one of two main ways; Either online-to-online (for example from pay-per-click to email marketing) or online-to-offline (for example email marketing to direct mail).
It’s important to consider both of these approaches when considering how your strategy works across multiple channels, and to also consider both online-to-offline and offline-to-online – if you have physical store locations, that is.
A good place to start is to understand how different channels can support each other – To do this, make a matrix of your commonly used channels and consider how each one supports the others. This can really help form some hypothesis which you can then test and analyse using real-world data.
Using data to understand how channels work together is key. This is a process known as attribution modelling, and there’s some valuable insights to be taken from in-depth research. For example, it may be that social media has a very low Return on Investment when considering a traditional last-click attribution model, however if flipping that to a first-click model (which prioritises awareness over purchase) social media’s ROI is likely to sky-rocket.
Understanding the true value of each channel beyond the Google Analytics default attribution model is an important step in maximising Return on Investment of any ecommerce marketing strategy.
When it comes to measuring online-to-offline or offline-to-online attribution, the waters can get a little muddier. It’s pretty hard to identify offline actions that have impacted online sales (or visa versa) however Google and similar companies have launched initiatives to try and understand this behaviour in more detail.
One case study of this is Google’s in-store conversion tracking metrics within AdWords, utilising mobile geolocation and ad clicks combined with traditional retail KPIs such as average order value and conversion rate to estimate true Adwords ROI. It’s early days for online-offline attribution modelling, but this is a promising and exciting area for ecommerce marketing over the next few years.
Owned, Earned & Paid media
Finally, there’s the consideration of earned, owned and paid media. First of all, let’s understand what each one is.
Owned media is any media which you and your marketing team create yourself, for example an article or piece of content.
Earned media is any media which a third-party creates about you, for example an article about you or a link to your content.
Paid media is any media in which you make payment to acquire, for example PPC ads or a paid press article.
Whilst owned, earned and paid media traditionally comes from a search strategy, applying it to an overall ecommerce strategy has a number of benefits. Considering your ecommerce marketing strategy from these three perspectives helps to inform a strategy which combines more elements – Creating a more multi-channel strategy and improving the customer journey and experience.
In conclusion, there are a number of top level considerations when forming any digital marketing strategy. Specifically for ecommerce, understanding the customer’s overall experience with your brand both online and offline will help maximise sales/profit, whilst ensuring a seamless strategy across various channels will help to drive the most out of your bottom line.
Disagree with any of the above? Think there’s other key elements to be considered in an ecommerce strategy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.