Marketing an eCommerce Business
I’ve come across countless people, online and in-person, who want to know the best way to market their eCommerce store.
This is a good question to ask before and after launching your eCommerce business. The problem with answering this question though is that there is no “best” way to market an eCommerce store.
There are plenty of proven marketing methods. But, none of them are silver bullets and all of them will take a lot of testing and trial and error.
In this post, I will share a number of the most effective methods for marketing your eCommerce store.
But, first, it’s important to cover why and how you should test various marketing methods or channels.
Testing your Marketing
There is a never-ending list of ways you could market your eCommerce store or any other business for that matter.
However, you should not put all of your efforts into one particular method.
Instead, you should test a number of different methods on a small scale, track the results, and ramp up your efforts/spending on the methods that are showing good results.
If you put all of your marketing eggs into a single basket, you run the risk of failing with that particular basket and becoming discouraged. Rather, you should think of all of your marketing efforts as a learning opportunity.
How do you do test different marketing channels?
Step 1: Begin with a channel you think will be effective (e.g., Facebook advertising).
Step 2: Determine what you will try and how long you will try it. Usually a test period of 7-14 days is appropriate.
Step 3: Run your marketing through your chosen channel and measure the results.
Here is a very high-level example of what you might do to test a marketing channel.
Let’s say you decide to run a few Facebook ads. What you don’t want to do is to create a single add and spend $1,000 promoting it to Facebook users.
A better approach would be to create 3-5 Facebook ads. Each one should be testing different aspects of the ad itself, such as the copy, the images, the call to action, etc…
Create 3-5 ads that have similarities as well as difference. Schedule them to all run simultaneously for 7 days. Run them against the same audience.
Set a budget between $5-$10 per day per add. This means that over the course of 7 days you will spend between $105 and $350.
Now, after you’ve run your ads for a week, you can measure certain aspects of each ad.
Metrics to measure and review for each ad include:
(1) Number of impressions
(2) Percent click-through rate
(3) Percent conversion
(4) Average conversion value
(5) Cost per acquisition
With these metrics, you can determine which ads were most effective and then drill down to see what aspect of the ad made it work better than the others.
Was it the image, the copy, or the call to action?
You can continue testing by iterating on the ads that were most effective. Once you know what works best, you can then begin to ramp up the spending for that ad.
This type of testing takes planning and patience. But it can be performed on any type of marketing channel. It will allow you to be as effective as possible and potentially outperform the competition.
So, what are the marketing channels for an eCommerce store?
When we talk about marketing methods, what we really mean is marketing channels. That is, where are you finding customers, how are you engaging them, and how are they reaching your store?
We’ve already given the example of Facebook advertising, which falls into the paid advertising channel. Below we’ll cover this paid channel more in-depth, as well 9 other channels you can test out for your eCommerce store.
#1 Paid Advertising
Paid advertising is exactly what it sounds like, paying to advertise your eCommerce store or products. Online the two largest channels for paid advertising are Google and Facebook. If you have a unique customer segment that is better accessed through other channels, you should certainly promote your store there.
I’ve already provided an example of using Facebook for paid advertising. There are plenty of in-depth strategies for paid advertising that we don’t have time to cover in this post, but for a really good lesson on Facebook Advertising, check out Facebook Ads for Beginners: Retention and Loyalty from the Shopify Academy.
Offline paid advertising is usually found in newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, and television. Again, be sure to know who your customers are and where it makes sense to connect with them.
If you decide to use offline paid advertising, remember to test and iterate for these paid channels as well.
#2 Content Marketing
Content marketing is the creation of online material that is related to your product and will be interesting to your target customer segment. Examples of content include blog posts, YouTube videos, ebooks, infographics, and webinars.
When producing material for a content marketing strategy, be sure to focus on information or topics that will be interesting or helpful for your customers. Content is often produced in the form of how-to articles, lists, or long-form blog posts such as the one you’re reading right now.
You can find topics to write about by visiting forums related to your product or service. Take a look at Quora, Reddit, or Facebook Groups to see what people are asking about. Then provide content that answers their questions.
Use social media and/or paid marketing to promote your content and build an audience.
#3 Social Media
Social media is a great way to get in front of potential customers, who are looking for content related to your product. There are a number of social media strategies that can be used to effectively promote your Shopify store.
Build a Following
Whether you are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social platform you should focus on building an engaged following. Some eCommerce stores have a good experience selling directly from these platforms, but others use them as a way to build a community or an audience that will purchase from them down the line.
Social media is a great way to interact with people and get them interested in what you’re doing. Share helpful content, tips, and information related to your product or store. You can also use social media to promote the content that you create on your blog or Youtube channel.
One strategy is to become involved in groups or forums where people are discussing topics related to your product. Examples include Facebook groups, Reddit forums, topics on Quora, or hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. The goal of a social media strategy is to become a positive member of the community, who contributes useful information in a helpful manner.
You should definitely avoid spamming groups and blatantly promoting your shop. This type of activity will cause people to be annoyed and they may begin to ignore you or even block you from participating.
Paid Promotion on Social
While social media is a great platform for connecting with a lot of people quickly, it’s also a very crowded, competitive environment. Often times online stores find it necessary to use paid promotion on social to really get the word out.
In the case of Facebook pages, even if you have thousands of followers, only a few hundred may see any given post that you publish. This means that you will actually have to pay money just to ensure that all of your followers are seeing your post.
Most social platforms allow you to choose a goal when using paid promotions, such as clicks, visits to your website, purchases, or even new followers. As with everything you should experiment and see what works best. Overall you want to focus on accomplishing a good Return on Investment (ROI) for your social media spending.
The objective of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is to rank high on search engines results for topics related to your eCommerce store. If you were selling astronaut socks, you may work to rank for words such as “Astronaut socks” or “Footcare in space”.
Most SEO is focused on ranking in Google searches because Google is the number one search engine on the planet. Outside of the Google headquarters, nobody knows exactly how their search engine algorithm works, but we do know some of the more important aspects.
Here are some of the most important things to remember when working on your SEO strategy.
(1) Backlinks – Google relies on other websites to inform the algorithm of a website’s value or quality. They do this by ranking sites higher when other sites provide links for their audience to visit that site. Reach out to related sites and blogs to see if they would be willing to link back to your site.
(2) Keywords – Google will scan your site to understand its content and topic. Using words that are related to your product throughout the site will help your site rank higher.
(3) Comprehensive, In-depth Content – Google ranks sites higher when they consistently produce high-quality content. This usually means long-form blog posts of 2,000 words or more on topics related to your store’s product categories.
For a really in depth look at SEO for your Shopify store, check out this post from Backlinko called The Definitive Guide To SEO In 2019.
#5 Influencer Marketing
Influencers are people with large followings on platforms such as social media, blogs, or even podcasts. Influencers usually focus on a particular topic that they are experts in or share insights from experts on that topic.
They are a good channel to use for marketing purposes because they have large audiences of people who are interested in a narrow topic. To find people in your industry who have large followings you can ask customers where they go for information or you can use a service to find and pay influencers to market for you.
#6 Offline Events
Another option for promoting your eCommerce store is offline events, such as conferences and speaking engagements. Again you need to find events that are relevant to your Shopify store and that will attract people who are truly potential customers.
Most industries have annual, national conferences where enthusiasts gather from around the country. Additionally, you should be able to find local groups or events that are interested in your product category. If you can’t find a local event, you may consider launching your own. You can use services like Meetup or Eventbrite to promote your event and track those who plan on attending.
Publicity is a strategy aimed at getting existing media channels to promote your eCommerce store. Examples of media outlets include newspapers, magazines, blogs, podcasts, radio shows, and Youtube channels.
You want to use publicity as a marketing channel when you have something newsworthy to share with the world. Examples include:
(1) Launching a new product
(2) Breaking a usage barrier
(3) A PR stunt
(4) A big partnership
(5) A special industry report
When reaching out to media outlets, ensure that their audience is a good fit for your product or service.
Do your best to not just provide information, but to tell a story. If you can possibly engage their audience from an emotional perspective, even better.
Before launching into a publicity strategy be sure to understand what your objectives are and then make a list of media outlets that you think could help you achieve those objectives. Then, reach out directly with a well-crafted pitch.
Once you’ve been successful at getting a media outlet to share your story, make sure you are active in promoting it yourself. Strategies for promoting your story include link sharing sites, such as Reddit, Hacker News, Quora; sharing on social media, and promoting it yourself with social ads.
#8 Email Marketing
One of the most common pieces of advice that I see for marketing your business, is to build and utilize an email list.
Email marketing is so powerful because it requires an opt-in from the consumer. It is a low-risk option for them to connect with your business and begin interacting on an on-going basis.
You can build your list through a number of different strategies. Four popular strategies are:
(1) Give away campaigns or contests.
Offer potential customers a chance to win one of your products for free, by adding their name and email address to your email list. Make sure you offer one of your actual products, as you want to attract people who are interested in what you are selling.
(2) Discounted Coupons or Velocity Campaigns
Offer potential customers a discount on your products when they sign up for your email list. Usually in eCommerce this type of approach requires a steep discount ~ 50% to 75%.
Create a quiz that reveals something about the customer, and offer the results when they sign up for your email list. Do your best to relate it to your product. For example: If you sell running shoes, offer a quiz to help the customer determine the type of runner they are.
(4) Free Content
Offer your customers free content, such as eBooks, infographics, or lists. Again, do your best to ensure they are related to your products and require an email opt-in.
Once you’ve begun to build a list of email subscribers you can use the list to educate your potential customers about your product, offer them incentives to make a purchase, and invite them back after they’ve made a purchase.
#9 Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs are agreements between your store and another entity (e.g., blogs , topic specific websites, social media influencers, or Youtube channels) in which you offer a commission or percent of each sale the affiliate is able to generate for your store.
Using affiliates can be an effective marketing strategy because oftentimes they already have a large following on social media, their blog, or email list. Their audience is generally interested in the topics they discuss and trusts them as experts.
As with all of the other marketing channels, it’s important that when working with affiliates you ensure they have the right audience to match your product and that you start small and test.
Once you find an affiliate or group of affiliates that provide consistent results, you can begin to ramp up your efforts in this marketing channel.
#10 Community Building
The final marketing channel we will discuss in this post is community building. The strategy here is to build a community of people interested in a topic related to your product or service.
Over time you can cultivate a community of potential customers who see you as a trusted authority. They are happy buying from you and recommend your product to their friends and families.
Effective places to build online communities include Facebook groups, Reddit forums, Slack channels, LinkedIn Pages, and Quora topics.
Offline communities often start through online efforts, because the internet offers the ability to connect with a lot of people quickly. Offline communities may be regular gatherings with discussions, panels, or guest speakers. You can use platforms such as Meetup or Eventbrite to promote and manage your offline communities.
If you like to do a deeper dive on these marketing channels and others, I recommend you read Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. This book is very helpful in learning about various marketing channels and how to test them.
Now it's Your Turn
Now that we’ve covered 10 marketing channels that have proven to be effective and how to test those marketing channels, it’s up to you to make it happen.
Pick 3 of the channels that you think would be the most effective for your particular eCommerce store and plan out a 7-14 day trial with each.
Remember to plan, test, and iterate. In this way, you can begin to master the marketing for your eCommerce store and find economic success along the way.
If you have any questions on what we’ve covered here, please let us know. You can always leave a comment, chat with by using the chat widget in the bottom right corner of any Mochi page, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.