Developing and executing an e-commerce marketing strategy: Part I

Written by: Paula Ferrai

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With the continual evolution of the e-commerce sphere, combined with heightened competition and resulting market saturation in recent times, it is imperative that businesses constantly search for new ways to stand out and stay ahead. The days of relying on creating a shiny new website lit to build brand awareness are long gone: having a product is the first step, developing ways to funnel traffic and conversions requires a thoughtful marketing strategy.

Creating a robust e-commerce marketing strategy is the first and most important step on your journey to becoming an e-commerce success story. Having a clear vision of your goals and objectives allows you to see the bigger picture, and makes charting the easiest route to your clearly defined end-goal possible. It is therefore essential that you first define your goals and objectives roadmap before you start rolling out a litany of marketing endeavours. Doing this the other way around is simply stabbing in the dark.

Part I of this two-part article series will focus on how to develop your e-commerce marketing strategy, including the why’s and how’s to set up your key objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your e-commerce business. Part II will focus on best practice principles for each marketing channel.

It is important to develop decisive clarity on the what, why and who before the how. In other words: plan first, execute next. Let’s get started.

Goals and objectives

It is important to clearly set up and define the goals and objectives that are specific to your business. Since different e-commerce sites aim to sell different products to different audiences, these varying elements will define which strategies to implement and execute. The more detailed and granular you are, the clearer the roadmap to achieving your goals and objectives becomes.

Your goals and objectives must speak to the impact you hope your business will have on the market, and define ways and means in order to achieve them. Of course, goals and objectives will differ depending on the current status of your business (i.e. whether you’re just starting out or whether you are looking to revamp or optimise your current e-commerce efforts). It is a good idea to be specific in certain areas: for example, increase sales online by X% in the first 3 months, or decrease the percentage of abandoned carts in the checkout process by X amount. Creating an executive summary is a good way to start. 

Mission statement and value proposition

Before you can present your website to your audience, you first need to intrinsically understand what your business is all about. Every business needs to have a clear vision and mission statement informing its value proposition. Without these vital components of a brand identity, your efforts are likely to flounder before you have even written your first line of code.

Before any platform coding takes place, you need to take time to answer vital questions such as “Who are you? What is your brand purpose?” “What do you do?” “What don’t you do?” By answering these questions you will have a good idea of your brand purpose which will serve as your North Star metric to guide every business decision from the onset.

Target audience 

It is crucial that you know your audience well in order to be able to communicate with them successfully. If you do not clearly define who you are speaking to, your marketing endeavours will be completely aimless, like trying to hit a dartboard from across a dark room with a croissant.

Create audience personas to investigate the characteristics, habits, likes and dislikes of your target audience to inform your marketing messaging. By understanding the variations of your audience’s values and pain points, you are able to craft meaningful marketing efforts that speak to them directly. User personas help you to create meaningful user journeys which can help identify where and how you can communicate with each of your potential audience types and address their needs.

Pricing and positioning strategy

If you hope to make a bang with your e-commerce site, then you need to realise you are in the business of providing value to your customers. And the best way to provide value is by ensuring your products are affordable and competitive

Your pricing and positioning strategy is a fine line to walk: price yourself too high and you lose customers overnight, and price yourself too low and people think your products are of less quality and you don’t turn a profit. There are a number of tricks you can employ when it comes to pricing and positioning, but know that your pricing will affect how your customers view your brand and products. If you can’t price-match your competitors, then try other ways to improve your value-add for your customers, like charging less for shipping or offering a longer free trial period, for example.

Distribution and fulfilment plan

This is the lifeblood of your business and if it fails, so does your business. Having a strong and fail-safe distribution and fulfilment plan is of paramount importance to get right, because it only takes one unfulfilled order for a customer to leave your site, never to return.

Take time to understand each step in the distribution and fulfilment process, from click to delivery and everything in between. Because, when a plethora of possible issues in the entire process occur, you or your team must be able to quickly identify the issue and most importantly, how to effectively resolve it without causing too much hindrance to the process. Starting off small is an easy way to get an understanding of the sequence, but be sure to learn how to increase capacity and speed for when the demands of rapid expansion and growth come knocking.

KPIs

KPIs show you the continuous status of the performance, successes, and shortcomings of your operational output, providing tangible metrics to affect change when required. Like any other business process, it is essential that you create clearly defined KPIs to align your marketing strategy in order to ensure you are taking the right steps to achieve your goals. Of course, depending on the type of business you have your key metrics will be different. We have devoted an entire article to the importance of setting up KPI’s specifically for e-commerce businesses

Summary

As you can see, developing an e-commerce marketing strategy requires a lot of time and planning in order to create a roadmap of how you plan to make a success of your business. Before any marketing asset is created or released, there is an entire process which needs to be completed first. Without devoting time to creating the foundational planning phase, how can you expect to know how and why you are doing what you are doing, and who you are hoping to engage with. Don’t stab in the dark hoping to get conversions by simply existing online, start sowing the seeds of your e-commerce success by planning first, and executing next.

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Paula Ferrai
Author info
Paula Ferrai
Paula leads our Marketing & Communications team. Her career started 20 years ago in advertising, and she’s since picked up a wealth of experience both in the corporate and agency worlds. She loves scuba-diving and dreams of swimming with dolphins again.
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