I specialise in Facebook advertising but I often talk to my clients about the importance of a multi-channel approach to marketing. It’s safer to avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket. Instead, you should spread your efforts and aim to reach potential customers in different places.
Some channels will help to build your brand and community; others are more about boosting sales and customers. A blended approach offers more stability, and a good mix of channels will complement and feed into each other.
But which are the right marketing channels and strategies for your online shop?
There is no one way to build a marketing mix and what works for some might miss the mark for others. As with any action you take in your business, you’ll see better results if you find the best approach for you, regardless of what others are doing.
Research your options, starting with my summaries below, and focus on quality over quantity. While a mix of channels is key, it’s usually best to start small with just a couple of channels and to master them before you branch out to test new approaches.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’re ready to diversify, I’ve covered eight of the most effective marketing channels and strategies for eCommerce below.
Marketing channels and strategies for eCommerce
Email marketing can offer high returns and, even as a Facebook advertising specialist, email is the one channel I recommend to every indie retailer. It’s an effective channel and when you build an email list, you own that data.
Email gives you a direct line to your existing customers (so you can increase lifetime value), as well as being a great way to attract new potential customers (think offers or promotions offered when a website visitor subscribes via email).
You can set up automated emails, like an “abandoned cart message” to catch those almost-purchasers. Or send out manual, in-the-moment campaigns or communications to boost sales.
Beyond sales, email marketing can help you to develop a relationship with your audience and build trust and loyalty. It’s a favoured channel for distributing content (87% of marketers rely on it for this) and for telling stories and sharing updates. When you bring your audience along with you, they’ll feel more invested in your brand.
Social media marketing
Social media can help you to grow awareness of your brand, build an engaged audience and connect with partners, influencers and collaborators, among other benefits.
While there is no cost to access, social media can eat up a lot of time and there will be associated costs. Photography, videography, copywriting, community management… Even when you’re doing it yourself, that time and energy costs money in your business. The key is to have a strategy and to focus on the select channels that your target customers spend their time on.
Your social media content shouldn’t be all about selling, but you can certainly use these channels to boost sales. 75% of shoppers say they use social media as part of the buying process and 55% say they’ve made a purchase after discovering a product on social media. With the introduction of Facebook Shops and shoppable tagging, buying and selling via social media is easier now than ever before.
Social media advertising
Advertising on social media can help you to reach new audiences and engage the people who are already following you. It’s relatively affordable, you can set an upper budget and with careful targeting, testing and optimising, it can deliver impressive returns.
Advertising isn’t about quick wins or overnight success. Facebook and Instagram ads (my speciality) work best as part of an integrated, medium to long-term strategy.
They’re effective because the data Facebook holds allows you to target potential customers based on multiple factors and indicators. As you test ads and learn more about your audiences and how they’re responding, that data gets more valuable to you. Use it to improve performance and to support decision-making in other areas of the business.
The internet is made up of lots of tiny slices — little segments and niches where people come together because they have shared interests, goals or values. As a brand, you could bring your community together in one location (a Facebook Group, for example) to create a space for your biggest fans or keen followers to unite and interact.
In most cases, however, your community will be spread across various channels. Community marketing or management involves being present and engaged with your people where they are. It means asking for feedback and input, listening and responding, and being visible and available to your customers and your wider audience.
When you invest in community and serve your people well, you’re building a network of customers who will champion your brand.
Content marketing is creating and sharing resources or materials that educate or entertain. When your potential customers turn to the internet in search of information, inspiration or fun, your content could be just what they’re looking for. And when you serve your audience in this way, you’re helping to build trust and an emotional connection.
While content marketing should be strategic and aligned with your brand, it doesn’t usually aim to sell—at least not directly. Instead of promoting your products, your content should provide relevant, useful information that your audience will find valuable.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. When the target customer gets to know, like and trust you via your content, they’ll think of you when they need something (or when a friend does).
Common Thread Collective: eCommerce content marketing: 32 examples from 10 brands
ActiveCampaign: 16 killer content marketing ideas (with detailed examples)
PR and influencer marketing
PR and influencer marketing both present the opportunity to get your brand or products in front of an audience that is already well established. As consumers, when we’re given a recommendation by a person or media outlet that we trust, we’re much more likely to buy.
In both cases, it pays to have strong knowledge of your audience — who do they follow, what do they read, listen to, watch or subscribe to. When you know that, you can seek out the people or publishers that fit best.
To get them on board, you’ll need to present your brand or product in an engaging, consistent way and find an angle or story that helps the influencer or publisher to promote what you’re offering.
Common Thread Collective: eCommerce influencer marketing – 10 steps and 33 examples
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
On-page SEO is the process of fine-tuning your website and other searchable content (i.e. video, blog post) so that it can be found easily by your target customers.
To rank on page one of the search results, your content or site needs to closely match the searcher’s intent. When your potential customers turn to a search engine to look for answers or solutions, what questions are they asking and what words or phrases are they using to search? What are they really looking for?
The more you know and understand your target customers’ behaviour, the easier you’ll find it to optimise your content so that it meets searcher intent.
Other ways to boost your position in search results include technical SEO (is your site set up in the right way and is it running well?) and off-page SEO (links into your site from relevant or authoritative sources).
Search engine advertising
Another opportunity to get your shop listed at the top of those search results is with advertising. With the right keywords and a decent budget, you can essentially pay your way to the top of the search results page.
Google’s advertising platform gives access to both Google and YouTube, and paid ads are positioned at the top of the page when a user makes a relevant search. Much like with Facebook and Instagram advertising, Google holds a lot of data and so it gives advertisers the opportunity to target carefully.
With these ads, often called Pay-Per-Click (PPC), you’re meeting potential customers where they are when they’re actively seeking out a product or solution. It can be effective but it does require a sound strategy—both to find the right keywords and stay within budget.
ActiveCampaign: Are Google ads worth it for small business?
Ready to test new marketing channels and strategies for your online shop?
I’ve covered eight of the most effective channels here and I hope it’s left you feeling inspired to try something new.
But before you start, remember this…
It will pay to have a clear idea of what you want to get from each channel and what sort of experience you want to create for your audience there.
The more you understand your target customers and their needs, preferences and behaviours, the easier you’ll find it to grow your business in a sustainable and meaningful way.