E-commerce is defined as the buying and selling of products or services exclusively through electronic channels. There are three basic branches of e-commerce; the most popular form of e-commerce being ‘online shopping’ or a business to consumer (B2C) model. In this form of e-commerce, consumers pay for products/services to businesses and get the desired services. The second form of e-commerce is the selling of business to business (B2B) products or services. In this form, the retailers or businesses procure products/services. The third form of e-commerce is a process of exchange of goods/services between consumers. There are several platforms available which help attain these goals including eBay, Etsy or newegg. com.
E-commerce in USA has been on a rise since the past few years. In 2016 alone e-commerce sales across US were in access of 360 million dollars. The numbers grew to 409 million dollars in 2017 and the predicted amount of revenue in 2018 is 461 million dollars. The below graph shows the predicted revenue up until 2022.
There are several key considerations an ecommerce business owner should take into account for the creation of the e-commerce platform for your business. The marketing of the business is hugely dependent on the website and its performance. Following are the key considerations one should take into account for the website creation:
• Inventory and Product Catalog
• Payment Methods
These considerations should be in any business owner’s mind before they create the platform for selling their products/services.
Now let’s take a look into choosing your primary e-commerce marketing channels and the factors that play a role in it. The primary channels that are used in the marketing are:
• Display Advertising
• Email Marketing
• Pay Per Click Advertising
• Digital PR
• Search Engine Optimization
• Affiliate Marketing
• Social Media Marketing
• Influencer Marketing
There are several factors that play a role in the selection process of these marketing channels. The marketing channel that finally is chosen, is chosen after taking several factors into account. ROI, effort and cost are the primary things that play a role in selecting these channels. A right combination according to the business needs of these roles is decisive in the channel selection.
These are the 7 considerations that should be taken into account:
1- DEFINE YOUR PRIMARY MARKETING OBJECTIVES
Defining your primary marketing objective is essential in determining what channels you would use to market your product or service. A marketing campaign starts by identification of the goal. The most commonly used goals are:
• Brand Awareness- This includes business recognition and familiarity with your business, brand, products and services. If this is the goal, digital channels that provide strong brand awareness should be taken into account.
• Sales Generation- Most marketing campaigns are targeted towards generating sales online. People are getting more comfortable shopping online by the year as shown in the stats above.
• Lead Generation- Many businesses use digital marketing channels to generate potential customers for their businesses. This can be done through various channels.
• Educate Potential Customers- Some products or services require customer education before they can be sent further through the sales funnel. There is a huge market of customers that do not know if a specific product or service exists.
• Traffic Generation- Some websites generate revenue through selling affiliate products or services. In order to do that, they require a large amount of traffic influx.
After defining the campaign goal, allocating the budget is very important for your marketing campaign. Since some marketing channels are more expensive than the others, defining a budget helps you eliminate some of the marketing channels from the mix. As shown in the chart above, display ads or PPC advertisement campaigns cost more than the other marketing channels. If a business is operating on a tight budget, these two channels will have to be eliminated from the mix and the business will have to look into other channels. Budget allocations would also include the following costs:
• Fee for advertisement manager and staff
• Content creation service fees
• Fee for graphic design
• Fee for photography and videography
A set budget has to be defined before the marketing campaign begins so that ROI can be measured at the end of the campaign in order to deem the campaign successful or not.
3- IDENTIFYING THE RESOURCES
Maintaining a digital presence would require personnel that have expertise in these fields. One should identify the resources that are present in-house are enough for your marketing needs or would the business need to outsource the marketing needs of the business. The skills that are absolutely essential for running a successful ecommerce business are:
• Strong development skills
• Strong creative skills
• Strong research skills
• Strong social skills
Each marketing channel has its strengths and weaknesses. A business needs all of the above mentioned skills in order to generate the optimum results for the business. Some of the channels are not appropriate for a certain business niche. The best way to go around with it would require the combination of the resources at hand and then using the most suitable marketing channels to execute the marketing campaign.
4- IDENTIFYING THE TARGET AUDIENCE
Knowing and understanding your target audience is THE most important thing to consider while creating your marketing campaign. There are a few questions one should ask before getting into the marketing campaign.
Who are they?
What are their pain points and challenges?
What platforms do they engage on?
What type of content do they consume?
What do they buy and when?
These questions are very important in order to determine the right marketing channel for the growth of the business. The target audience and their demographics can be determined through extensive market research. For instance if the business model is based around business to business selling of products/services, two of the best channels that one can use are marketing through LinkedIn and SEO. These are the two channels that can bring the optimum results for the campaign. The failure to identify the right kind of audience for your ecommerce business can lead to not only unfavorable results for you as a business, but also it can result to poor consumer experiences which should be avoided by businesses very carefully.
For instance, if an online boutique for women that sells and delivers only in Florida chooses the wrong audience for its marketing campaign on Facebook, and their ad for cute crop tops appears on my timeline (let’s suppose I am a resident of the UK) and I click on the ad, only to find you after reaching the landing page that the online boutique does not deliver outside of Florida, let along in the UK. How disappointed will I be? Hence, measures must be taken in order to avoid the factors that can lead to poor consumer experiences on your ecommerce website.
5- COMPETITOR ANALYSIS
Looking at what your competitor is doing is always a good place to start when you’re identifying what your marketing channels should be. Keeping a close look on your competitor’s marketing strategies can be identified using the tools available to you. One way of looking at the back linking strategies of your competitor is through ahrefs. That would give you a powerful insight on how the competition is executing its SEO campaign.
Another way of doing it is examining the social media accounts of the competitor. How often do they post? What ways do they use to interact with their consumers? What type of content they are creating? What type of offers or discounts do they post for their consumers?
Doing a thorough competitor analysis and then building your marketing strategy would surely go a long way for your business. There are two ways of going around with it:
1. Adopting a similar marketing strategy to your competitor and relying on the quality of the product and marketing campaign.
2. The other way to go about it to avoid the marketing channels that your competition is using and looking for different channels where the competition has low reach.
It is difficult to find a channel with low or no competition but if your team can think out of the box, it is a nice way to go about it.
6- WHAT CHANNELS OFFER YOU THE MOST ADVANTAGES
Some marketing channels will offer you more advantages than the others. Some marketing channels have strict policies and terms and conditions, while others are lenient. Depending on the type of business, one should look for marketing channels that offer most advantages. A few questions should be kept in mind when deciding that:
• Is your target audience on the channel?
• Are your competitors using the marketing channel?
• What are the costs of using a particular channel?
• What channel offers a better ROI?
• What channel has the most suitable T&C’s and policies according to your business?
If the answers to the above questions are positive, go ahead with using the channel for your marketing needs.
7- MARKETING IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT
Understanding that marketing is a marathon and not a sprint is extremely important. There’s always a saturation point for a certain marketing channel. One could spend all of the marketing budget they have in a day on PPC advertisement and call it a day but as said before, there’s a saturation point. The business would have to look for alternatives in order to keep generating sales. A proper strategy has to be in place in order to select the most suitable marketing channels for the business and this includes remarketing strategies.
In this digital world where consumers have everything at their fingertips, if your online presence is not acceptable to them, that is marketing budget wasted to bring the customer to your site/store. A good mix of multiple marketing channels is what will bring your desired results in the longer run. Customer retention would require different marketing channels than the channels required to acquire the customer.
Sohail Rupani is a senior SEO strategist at PNC Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Orlando. He specializes in SEO and SEM techniques. He is passionate about technology and loves to analyze the tech industry in his spare time and stay in touch with the latest happenings. He also writes technical articles about SEO and digital marketing. .