It doesn’t matter if you have a brand new Shopify store or have been using WooCommerce or Magento for several years, you still need a robust ecommerce marketing strategy. If you’re new or not a marketer, you might wonder what a digital strategy is and how it affects your ecommerce business.
Most people wrongly talk about marketing strategy. Instead of explaining the overarching plan (strategy), they lay out seemingly endless marketing tactics they’ll use to reach their target audience. Yet they (wrongly) call them strategies.
You can have all the marketing tactics in the world, but without a clear strategy, you’ll get nowhere. At best, your results will leave you frustrated.
We’ll cover what strategy is, how to build an ecommerce marketing strategy that matters, and how goals, KPIs, and tactics all play a part.
What’s An Ecommerce Marketing Strategy?
Let’s start with the basic questions: What is an ecommerce marketing strategy and why do we need one?
Strategy is the overarching plan of how you’ll win the game you’re playing. It’s the grand plan that can be communicated in a concise sentence or two.
Imagine you’re selling car tires online. Your strategy could be: Sell the best premium tires for supercars to customers in the USA with next-day shipping.
Domino pizza had a great strategy that doubled as their promise: Your pizza in under 30 minutes, or it’s free.
Notice how they don’t promise to make the best-tasting pizza or offer the widest range of toppings or extras.
Your ecommerce marketing strategy needs to go into a little more detail about how you’ll reach potential customers and increase brand awareness but is still the overarching plan.
For our tire shop, their ecommerce marketing strategy could be:
Communicate we sell the best premium tires with next-day delivery (the offer) to high-income individuals aged 40 to 75 in mainland USA (target client) who own supercars by using a range of owned, paid, and earned media (channels/tactics).
Within this sentence, you have who the target is, the problem we’re solving, and how we will reach them. It doesn’t cover tactics, KPIs, or goals but sets out how we will win the game we’re choosing to play.
How Is Marketing Strategy Different from Tactics or Campaigns?
Many wrongly refer to tactics as strategies because they lack clarity on why they are different. Hopefully, you now know what a marketing strategy is and how to create one for your ecommerce business. But how do tactics fit in?
If strategy is the overarching plan, tactics are the exact action steps you’ll take to complete the goal of convincing people in your target audience to become customers. You might try a range of tactics, but your strategy stays the same.
With our car tire shop, they could try traditional marketing such as print adverts or radio, social media (like TikTok videos or Instagram Reels), pay-per-click (PPC), email marketing, and more. All of these are tactics that will help them reach their ideal customer and sell more tires.
They might decide to organize their tactics into campaigns. These usually have a specific time duration and measurable outcomes. Again, they work within the strategy but won’t redefine it if a particular tactic doesn’t work out.
By organizing tactics into defined marketing campaigns, you can work within a budget and time frame that allows your efforts to perform. You also have a finish date, allowing you to analyze the overall performance and cost.
You’re committed for a certain period, but it’s not ongoing. You can decide at the end to roll out the campaign over a longer term or try another marketing tactic.
So, that hopefully clears up the difference between marketing strategy (plan), tactic (action steps), and campaigns (defined events).
How Can I Devise An Effective Ecommerce Marketing Strategy?
A successful ecommerce marketing strategy for an ecommerce brand includes your offer, who you are trying to reach, where they are, and what channels you’ll use to connect with them. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
The product or service you’re trying to sell. It could be car tires, Jewelry, home interior products, or cigars. You should be able to communicate your offer clearly, not just in general terms.
For example, don’t say: We sell Jewelry.
Instead: We sell high-end custom Jewelry priced between $1,000 and $50,000.
Who are you trying to reach?
Again be clear about exactly who your target customer is. The clearer you are, the easier it is to know what tactics to use and where to direct your marketing efforts.
Back to our Jewelry example, it’s best to avoid: Women aged 18 to 65.
Instead, define your target as: Women aged 40 to 65 that earn $125,000 per year and work in management or C-Level jobs.
Where are they?
If you know where your target client is, you can easily get in front of them. For our Jewelry shop, they could only sell products within Mainland USA or only in Europe. Again, be specific.
What channels you’ll use
You can talk about channels without mentioning tactics! It might be hard but it’s possible. Will your focus be on paid vs owned vs earned?
Just as a side note:
Paid media means running some form of adverts.
Owned media are those you can control (blog, website, social, email).
Earned media refers to content created by a 3rd party (reviews, awards, user-submitted).
Our Jewelry brand might focus on paid and owned while letting earned occur due to excellent products and customer care. Or they might do a Zappos and invest the budget into earned media.
There are no right or wrong marketing channels to invest in, but you should try to maximize your impact across the ones that work. Again, this easily slips into a discussion about tactics, not strategy!
How Does Marketing Budget Factor Into Strategy?
A robust strategy takes the budget into consideration. However, your ecommerce marketing budget really comes into play when working on different tactics and campaigns.
You’ll want to ensure you have the cash and resource to test different tactics for long enough that you can make a qualitative decision.
For example, you need at least 6 months before you can measure if your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy has worked or needs a new approach. You might need 2 months and $500 to test social media ads or retargeting.
So you can include your budget and a time period in your ecommerce marketing strategy, but it’s best to leave these two elements to your tactical plan.
Building The Ideal Marketing Strategy For An Ecommerce Brand
As you now have a road map for building an ecommerce marketing strategy, you can start creating one for your ecommerce brand. The one you build for your ecommerce business will be different from the next company, but that’s fine.
Again, your ecommerce marketing strategy should define how you will win the game you intend to play. Even with two similar ecommerce brands, they will have different strengths and weaknesses and want to compete in their own way.
As your ecommerce business grows and the markets develop, your marketing strategy will change. That’s perfectly normal. But remember, your ecommerce marketing strategy should last for a longer time period. If it’s frequently changing, you either have a big issue or you’re mislabelling tactics as strategy!
Everything comes back to strategy as this is the plan that defines your why.
You can have all of the marketing tactics in the world. But without the right ecommerce marketing strategy, you won't get the results you deserve.
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