This is the thirteenth post in a blog series about how to launch an eCommerce business years 1-3. You can view the previous week’s post, “3 Proven Ways to Mature Your Website” here.
Marketing a new eCommerce business takes patience. You probably won’t strike gold with your first campaign (or your second). But over time, you’ll learn what strategies works for your business.
After all, you’re doing something reealllyy hard. It’s not easy competing with every other brand in the world for customers’ attention. It’ll take some time to get your strategy down.
The good news is that thousands of other companies have been where you are. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. To help guide your strategy, we’ve outlined 7 key behaviors of successful eCommerce marketers:
Every company does some level of prospecting, which is marketing-speak for reaching new customers. Most business will start out with organic prospecting, like social media posts or one-off emails.
Once you’ve made it to about six months, you’re probably ready to ramp these up with some paid prospecting tactics. Popular examples include social media ads, Google ads, and ads that appear on websites (such as display or native ads).
A reasonable goal is to get 3-6 different ad sets in front of customers over the next six months.
2. BURST TIMING
As you begin prospecting, it’s important to consider the most efficient way to showcase your ads. Too many eCommerce companies end up blasting their audience with the same ads over and over again.
One way to avoid overexposing your audience and seeing your click-through rates drop accordingly is by implementing burst timing—i.e. pushing ads out aggressively over a short period of time.
Burst timing has numerous benefits: It helps solve the frequency problem, and it allows you to maximize your ad spend by only running during peak purchasing times. Burst timing is a fantastic tactic for new eCommerce businesses who are just dipping their toe into paid advertising.
Once you’ve ramped up your prospecting efforts and started attracting new leads, the next step is retargeting those same customers with ads.
Think of yourself as a store owner who sees a potential customer walk inside, pick up an item or two, then leave without making it to the purchase counter. Similarly, you have witnessed someone land on your website, browse through your inventory, then fail to convert.
This is the eCommerce equivalent of “the one that got away.” And you should be actively trying to win back their affection with every tool at your disposal.
Most visitors don’t convert on their first visit to the site, so it’s important to begin retargeting as soon as you possibly can. More likely than not, the retargeting phase is where most of your visitors will convert.
Like prospecting ads, try to get 3-6 different retargeting ad sets in front of customers over the next six months.
The most widely used form of retargeting is pixel-based (or cookie-based) retargeting. This form of advertising may not be around forever. But for now, it remains the best way to reach customers who have shown genuine interest in your product with highly targeted ads.
4. SET A SALES GOAL
You’re now at a place where you can expect to start earning some modest but sizable income from sales on your website.
For example, new eCommerce companies may try reach at least 3,000 to 5,000 total lifetime sales by the end of their first year. This may seem like a lot, but it’s more doable than you think.
By leveraging your organic and paid advertising campaigns, combined with some badass guerrilla marketing, you’ll be surprised at how the numbers start to grow.
5. BEGIN EMAIL CAPTURE
Emails are still an excellent way to reach customers with targeted messages. If you’re not currently using email marketing, I would highly encourage it. Most sophisticated companies put a $5 value on a new email address. It’s definitely worth spending some time and energy developing.
To learn more about creating a robust email strategy that drives revenue for your business, check out our previous blog on email marketing.
6. BEGIN COLLECTING REVIEWS
When’s the last time you bought a product without looking at its star rating or reading a review first? Reviews are a life-line for online shoppers who want to make sure they get what they pay for. For us eCommerce folks, they can lend enormous credibility and create a groundswell of support for your product.
Oddly enough, the optimal review score is not a perfect 5.0 but around a 4.7. Why? Because people don’t trust 5-star reviews. Humans are amazing at detecting BS. Imperfections in grammar and formatting, therefore, actually make for a more credible review.
Early-stage eCommerce companies should spend at least an hour a day hustling reviews.
Generate reviews at any and every opportunity, whether that’s through follow-up emails, phone calls, or even hand-written notes. Turn glowing reviews into testimonials for your website, or go a step further and ask for a Zoom call so you can record and upload their video recommendation.
7. OPTIMIZE YOUR CONVERSION PATHWAY
Lastly, make sure your website isn’t making it unnecessarily difficult for customers to convert. Sources of friction include:
- Loading delays (due to issues with a payment processor)
- Aggressive pop-ups (asking you to provide info or add more items)
- Long purchase forms
- Broken links or images
- Inconsistent use of fonts or branding
If your checkout process is overly complex, customers are likely to second-guess their decision and leave the site early. Go through your website and identify ways to reduce friction and make purchasing even easier.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Starting an eCommerce business is like building a rocket in your garage and expecting it to take you to the moon—it might not work, and even if it does, there’s a good chance you’ll get hurt along the way.
The good news is you’re not the first person crazy enough to try this. There are many others (myself included) who have tried, failed, and tried again. By learning from our many (many) mistakes, you can launch an eCommerce business that makes it safely to orbit and beyond.
In this blog series, you’ll get a step-by-step guide to creating and launching your eCommerce business years 1–3. We go over how to create a functional brand, set up your website, and develop an advertising strategy that scales with you. We’ll go through the various pros and cons, so that you can feel empowered to make the best decisions for your business.
My name is Chris Franks, and I’m the founder and CEO of CleverFunnel, a digital marketing agency that focuses on using straightforward, data-driven strategies to drive real results for our clients.
I’m also an avid lover of indie music, fly fishing, baseball, and sunscreen (although that’s more of a genetic necessity). I wrote this with the hope that my story could help other young entrepreneurs achieve their goals, without losing their savings (or their sanity) in the process. If any bit of this helps you, it’ll have been worth it.