Ecommerce has been on a rollercoaster over the last few years. Lockdowns in 2020 pushed even the most online shopping adverse consumers to checkout online, while retailers struggled to keep up with demand. By 2022, inflation, ongoing supply chain issues and a looming recession have presented challenges for even the biggest direct-to-consumer brands.
Despite these challenges, the market is still undeniably huge, and growing. In 2021, ecommerce sales globally amounted to 4.9 trillion US dollars, and this figure is forecast to grow to 7.4 trillion by 2025.
With so much potential, competition, and a big holiday season just around the corner, now’s the time to get creative with your ecommerce marketing strategy. In this article, we’re sharing 16 ecommerce marketing strategies. From the new and emerging to the tried and true, there’s plenty to experiment with on your path to D2C domination. Let’s get into it.
1. Don’t make ads, make TikToks
TikTok advises brands, “don’t make ads, make TikToks” and the ecommerce brands who have taken this advice to heart have benefitted from major growth as a result.
It’s easy to see the “unhinged” content from TikTok’s most famous brand accounts like Duolingo, ScrubDaddy, and RyanAir and worry that your brand can’t strike that same tone. But, while these brands have done an incredible job of embracing the platform and making it work for them, there are other ways to get results from the platform.
TikTok isn’t just about humor, it’s a platform for education and entertainment. Think about what your brand has to offer the world — can you educate? Inspire? Can you poke fun at yourself? Can you lean into a niche? Can you shout about your sustainability initiatives?
Whatever it is, get clear on the type of content you want to create and start experimenting. Jump on trends as they arise (slow content approval processes are a no-go here, on TikTok, sometimes never really is better than late) and, soon enough, you'll find your voice and your stride.
Growing an organic TikTok presence is extremely time-consuming. The content takes longer to create than any other social platform, and staying on top of the ever-evolving trends is a job in itself. So, if you don’t have the resources, dip your toes in with some influencer activity or a direct response campaign to see if the platform feels right for you. Whichever way you go, remember, don’t make ads, make TikToks. Aim to entertain above all else, be self-aware, and let your brand’s personality shine.
2. Build a content marketing strategy
If you don’t have a blog up and running already, get started today. A content marketing strategy doesn’t have to be overly complicated or resource-heavy — if you’re under-resourced, one of the best investments you can make is bringing in an expert to help build your content pillars, perform some SEO research, and create your first month of briefs. It’s also important to ensure an SEO expert has reviewed the technical setup of the blog, and you are clear on how to use meta titles and descriptions, keywords on images, and headings.
From there, even a one-person team can work to publish one or two blog posts a week and distribute them through social platforms and your newsletter. Slowly, you’ll start to rank and see traffic increase. From there, you can continue to expand, creating long-form content and guides, video content, a podcast, ebooks, and more.
Check out the two examples below from cookware company Great Jones and toilet paper subscription service Who Gives a Crap. Both are examples of how a blog can evolve over time and provide audiences with a mix of product-focused, educational, and brand-forward content.
3. Leverage user-generated content
Social proof is incredibly effective. User-generated content results in 29% higher web conversions than campaigns or websites without it, and UGC ads get 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than other ad types.
UGC looks different for every brand, fashion, beauty, and homewares brands will often benefit from being tagged by happy customers wearing or using their products — so long as your brand is granted permission by the creator and tags them in the re-share, sharing organically is simple.
Other types of UGC include short customer testimonials, these can be incredibly effective when used in paid social promotion, reviews on site, and quotes from happy customers in organic and paid content.
There are all kinds of ecommerce loyalty programs out there — here are three to consider:
Points program: Customers are rewarded a certain number of points every time they make a purchase, and can gain access to swag, discounts, or gifts with purchase after they reach a certain amount of points. You can add layers to this kind of program, encouraging customers to share UGC, subscribe to your newsletter, or follow you on social platforms to gain extra points.
Tiered loyalty programs: Tiered loyalty programs combine points with a tiered system that helps customers ‘graduate’ to another level of savings. The best example out there is Sephora’s Beauty Insider program where the top tier — Rouge — save a huge 20% at their Spring Savings events. The bottom tier — Insiders — save just 10%. The Rouge tier is unlocked once the customer has spent a certain amount in a calendar year.
Multi-brand loyalty program: For retailers with more than one brand under their umbrella, a multi-brand loyalty program will allow your customers to earn and redeem rewards across all brands in your portfolio. Take Gap as an example. In 2021, they announced a new integrated rewards program where customers shopping online or instore at Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta could earn points at every store. It created a customer base who were loyal to not just one of their stores, but Gap Inc. as a whole.
5. Own secondhand selling
Re-commerce, reselling, secondhand selling, the circular economy — whatever you want to call it, it’s here to stay. It’s a wonderful thing for the environment — especially for industries like fashion, kitchen appliances, and electronics where waste and environmental concerns are a major concern to consumers. But many businesses have concerns that offering used items on their own site, or embracing the reselling movement in another way will cannibalize their market.
In fact, the opposite is true. 65% of all shoppers use some resale or recommerce service already, and enabling this will only help your brand build loyalty, boost its reputation for eco-friendly practices, and expand your reach. Andy Reuban, the CEO of a resale solution called Trove, said that branded resale programs have also been proven to drive significant incremental revenue at great margins. It’s a win for everyone.
There are plenty of ways to embrace the resale movement. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program is an example of a completely customized resale shop — it’s perfectly aligned with Patagonia’s ethos as a brand and expands their reach considerably.
If building a program like this is out of reach, companies like ThredUp will help you create a branded storefront using all their existing functionality. New and emerging apps like CICON are bringing circular economy wardrobe management tools together in one place, enabling users to easily repair, restyle, rent, resell, donate, or recycle items of clothing. Integrating with an existing app like this will help eliminate some of the heavy lifting, plus you’ll benefit from the knowledge of people who have been there, done that.
6. Optimize your website for search
Ecommerce SEO is a specific skill. It’s not just about those content-rich pages that help you rank, or your technical SEO setup. It’s about highly-optimized product pages that get your products to the top 10 results of the SERPs and help you rank in the ‘Shopping’ section.
Best case is to have an SEO expert in-house to make constant optimizations to your entire site. But if that’s not possible and it’s been a minute since your last SEO overhaul, grab the help of an expert and start optimizing your entire site, with a focus on product pages that are optimized for specific keywords.
Overall, a great user experience will go a long way to help you rank, so focus on the things you know customers want. Include information on materials, ingredients, size and measurements, multiple photos (both styled and flat), and, if you are a fashion or beauty brand, showcase a wide range of different body types and skin colors.
7. Use lead generation quizzes
Beautiful, full-page lead generation quizzes have become a mainstay for ecommerce brands for a reason. If your product can be confusing to new customers, or you offer a lot of different solutions, a quiz can help people quickly identify which products are most suited for them.
In addition, you’ll benefit from receiving not only their email address but a whole host of information on the problem they are looking to solve with your product. This will give you the data you need to personalize your lead nurturing emails, SMS, and retargeting efforts.
Take a look at this example from hot sauce company Heatonist. It takes customers through a series of questions and finds 6 products that match their taste.
Quizzes like this can be easily set up using a third-party, no-code tool like Jebbit, or you can build your own.
8. Try marketplaces
Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay can help people from all over the globe shop your brand and, in many cases, this may lead them to become loyal customers with your store directly.
Most marketplaces come with high selling fees and other caveats to consider, so it is important to be strategic about the products you list and how your brand appears. Aim to create a small number of best-selling products with compelling listings that show off what your brand is all about. With this, you’ll be more likely to bring people over to your main store where customers can shop your full collection.
9. Remix your influencer strategy
Influencer marketing is hardly new, especially not in the ecommerce space. But it can be easy to fall into the trap of using the same influencers, sending the same or very similar briefs, and relying on the same platforms.
Take a look at your influencer strategy and consider how you could shake it up with some TikTok talent or talent in a different niche, or how you could collaborate with an influencer on a special-edition product. Take Ambitious Kitchen as an example. Monique is best known for her delicious, fail-proof recipes, but she also makes on-camera appearances and her followers know her for her beautiful skin. So, when Volition Beauty partnered with her to create a chocolate macadamia face mask, it felt completely natural and, better yet, the partnership cuts through because her feed is not cluttered with similar products.
If influencers, affiliates and other partners have already been a huge success for your brand, consider how you could own the program. For example, Seed, a probiotic company, is known for being committed to sharing the latest scientific research on all things gut health. So, instead of partnering with influencers and affiliates like every other brand does, they have built a sophisticated partner program called ‘Seed University’ that has their partners lodge an application and go through a short course to truly understand the science behind the product.
10. Keep new customers engaged with personalized email playbooks
It’s likely you’ve set up some simple email journeys to welcome new customers and ensure they receive all the right transactional emails at the right time. In a platform like Ortto, you can take your email strategy to the next level by setting up Playbooks that keep your customers engaged, educate them on recently purchased items, and recommend complementary items.
Playbooks allow you to quickly and easily set up a number of emails that are sent at a specific cadence, for example, every three days. You can use this kind of Playbook to help your new customer quickly get the most out of your product, and suggest some add-ons along the way.
For example, let’s say you’re a kitchen appliances company with a high-powered blender. Your first email will be sent as soon as the item has been delivered, and it will share some simple tips for getting set up, along with FAQs answered. Three days later, you can check in with a set of recipes from an influencer to encourage your customer to start using the product. In another three days, you might send an email containing tips for getting the most out of the appliance — this could include some add-on products that expand the capabilities. In another three days, it might be time to ask your customer for their thoughts and feedback.
This is a simple setup that will go a long way to help your new customer get the most out of your product while cross-selling other items in your range and acquiring that all-important feedback.
11. Reduce abandoned carts
Ahhh abandoned carts. The bane of every ecommerce store’s existence. Working on recovering those lost carts can go a long way to bringing in extra revenue and helping your business grow.
Setting up an abandoned cart flow in Ortto is easy. Go to new campaign, and choose Journey. Take a look at the templates available with your BigCommerce or Shopify integration and you’ll see an Abandoned Cart Recovery Journey which includes both email and SMS. With this template, you can simply add your email content and personalize elements like discount amount to quickly start bringing new customers in.
Consumers now expect to receive an abandoned cart email, so make sure yours stands out with snappy copy, great images, and a clear CTA.
12. Focus on cross-selling with bundles and last-minute offers
Upselling doesn’t have to feel forced or pushy. In fact, when done well, upselling feels as though it is helpful to the customer.
The first step is to consider which products really do make sense together. What are you seeing customers buy together already? Are there common problems that groups of your products solve? With this information, you can start to create some bundles, just like mindbodygreen has done with their gut health bundle+ and glow from the inside out+ bundle.
If you’re not ready to bundle products, consider a last-minute pop-up offer on a product, right before the transaction finishes. For example, if you’re a company selling protein powder and you’ve recently launched bars, you could offer anyone who is checking out a 3-pack of your bars for 50% off. Next time, they might add them to the cart themselves.
13. Use live chat to upsell
Live chat is commonly used for customer service inquiries, but what about using it to grow? Consider how you can use a live chat tool to target browsers on specific pages.
For example, let’s say someone has been on a specific product page for about 15 seconds, you could pop up the chat and offer 10% off or ask if they have any questions about the product.
Alternatively, when someone adds something to cart, you could pop up in chat and ask them whether they want to add a complimentary product — like a bicycle helmet with a bike.
14. Embrace SMS
SMS is a tool every ecomm marketer needs. High open rates, low cost to entry, great customer experience. The key is to use SMS when the time and message make sense. Transactional messages are the most obvious, but promotional offers that expire after a specific period are also highly-relevant messages for SMS.
You could also use SMS to re-engage customers who have dropped off. A simple, “Hi, [first name]! We miss you and want to see you working with us again. Here’s 20% off your next purchase. Head to [link] to set it up.”
Instagram is a marketplace of its own, and many brands do have a lot of success using shopping tags to generate more sales on Instagram. Setting up an Instagram Shop is fairly straightforward and can be done through your Meta Business account.
Once it’s set up, you’ll need to sync your product catalog and manage orders from your ecommerce platform directly. With the product catalog in place, you’ll be able to tag posts and stories, implement influencer tagging, use in-app checkout (available in the US only) and add products to the Explore shop.
Check out this example from West Elm.
16. Build anticipation with pre-sales and waitlists
Sometimes keeping your customers' waiting can build a lot of anticipation and demand. In recent years, pre-sales for major collaboration, big new launches, or in-demand products have become commonplace and, as a result, customers are willing to jump on board early.
Consider the launches you have coming up, and which could be presale or waitlist material. You want a buzzy item, and you want to feel confident about a launch date. Then set up a simple presale or waitlist page for the item and create buzz through your organic channels like social and email. Sustainability-minded brands like Foemina, Everlane and Pangaia do this frequently to not only create buzz, but better anticipate stock levels that will be required.
If pre-sales or waitlists are not possible with your logistics, consider how wishlists could be incorporated into your website to help users add items they are not ready to buy or that are sold out and coming back soon. Then you can set up simple email journeys to alert customers when these items come back into stock or go on sale. Winnings Appliances have an ‘Add to project’ feature that acts as a wishlist for the customer while helping them along their renovation journey.
When it comes to ecommerce marketing, the possibilities are endless. Work your way through this list and test drive some new initiatives. Soon, you’ll learn what sticks and you’ll have a strong strategy in place ahead of the holiday rush.