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Ecommerce Marketing

Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce Marketing

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Designer taking picture of hat

Milliner taking photo of her hat creation to post to e-commerce and social media sites

Tooga/Stone/Getty Images
If we look at the marketing strategies that a large number of ecommerce businesses employ, we notice that some of them operate online, but market as if they are a brick and mortar business. Others recognize PPC as the only worthwhile marketing effort. Still others want to rely on cultivating affiliates who would push sales for them. And then there are those who have found great success in social media marketing.

So what is ecommerce marketing? Which method of marketing works best for an ecommerce website? No one has the exact answers. In this article, I will explore most of the popular methods that ecommerce businesses employ.

A Great Website Is One of the Best Marketing Tools for Ecommerce
This is such a basic truth that it should not require elaborating. An ecommerce website is not merely about hosting, domain name, and fulfillment. In ecommerce, you transact your business online. Your website is your storefront. It better work well. Among other things this means that your website should:
  • load fast. Customers are fickle, online customers all the more so.

  • accommodate the different ecommerce navigation preferences of different customers. Some prefer a hierarchical category-subcategory route, while others like to use the search box. Some like to follow your product recommendations, others like to read lists of top-selling products.

  • religiously work on ecommerce security. At the time of writing this article, I am in the minority, but the day is not far when security will be widely recognized as the killer ecommerce app. Remember, you heard it here first.

  • look good and read well. Ecommerce images play 3 roles. They should (i) look good (ii) load fast (iii) and compel the customer to buy. Likewise the product descriptions on your site should be friendly to the human readers as well as to search engines.

  • promote rapid and convenient checkout. Money spent on improving your shopping cart conversion will be the best money you ever spent.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Quick question: when was the last time you used a search engine such as Google? If you are like most users, the answer is probably, "the last time I accessed the Internet." Search engine usage is so prevalent that, barring social networks and email sites, they are a significant source of online traffic.

So, if a customer visited Google.com and typed, "buy red widgets," and your ecommerce website showed up, you are likely to get a lot of free traffic. How do you increase the likelihood of Google ranking you higher? Well, that is where ecommerce SEO comes into the picture. Among other things, SEO includes a serious link building effort.

Affiliate Marketing
Using agents and partners who push your products to their audiences, is what affiliate marketing is all about. If you follow some of the basic principles of good affiliate marketing program design, the financial incentive could be enough to get several affiliates to work hard to sell your products.

Referral Marketing
Though referral marketing has many similarities with affiliate marketing, it is different in the important dimension that here people use their personal relationships and networks to refer customers to you. Also, the referral may be entirely selfless. Read an article about affiliate marketing vs. referral marketing for ecommerce websites. Referral marketing is also a close cousin of the age-old "word of mouth" marketing.

Advertising
No marketing discussion can be complete until we talk about advertising. Advertising could be in offline media such as newspapers, magazines, and billboards. But most ecommerce merchants prefer the comfort of measurable advertising methods such as pay-per-click.

Is That It?
No! There cannot be a truly comprehensive list of marketing strategies for ecommerce. We have only begun scratching the surface. There is public relations, email marketing, social media marketing, and lots more.

You understand your offering as well as your customer. You understand your business limitations. Use this understanding to devise your ecommerce marketing strategy. And once you implement it, remember to test, test, test...

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