March 7, 2021

Ecommerce Marketing; what makes it different & why is it essential for maximising sales?

Dr Peter Mowforth

Let’s start by looking at traditional digital marketing before going on to differentiate between that and ecommerce marketing.Traditional marketing is all about broad engagement between the business and those with whom the company is likely to do business. This is commonly driven by creative individuals who are keen to make brands and products desirable, liked, cool and attractive. Key Performance Indicators commonly include the following:

When traditional digital marketers engage to do ecommerce marketing they often operate in ways that can be generic for ecommerce businesses that may take a narrow focus around the marketing having to pay for itself and to do so quickly. Common mistakes made by non-ecommerce specialised marketing agencies include:

  1. Social mediaWhile there is a strong connection between ecommerce and social media in China, in most of the rest of the world, the connection is generally weak (ref). This isn’t always true. In some areas such as fashion or where celebrities are involved, social can be crucially important. However, for most retail, and particularly with wholesale products, focus around social media is highly unlikely to maximise your sales potential (ref, ref).
  2. SEOSEO is the ultimate in marketing. If you are anywhere near the top of the organic listings for the keywords that connect your products with your potential customer searches then you are in a very strong position with your business. Unfortunately, given the almost unlimited competition against you from mature sites with telephone-number marketing budgets then achieving this is really the highest of all marketing mountains to climb. Not only are costs high to reflect the amount of work that’s needed but the time it takes to achieve half-reasonable rankings can be measured in years. Although SEO should always feature in any marketing plan, expectations need to be realistic. Payback is for the long-term.
  3. AdwordsAn important problem faced by pure marketing agencies is that they often have to work in isolation from the technical implementation of the website and its associated supply chains. This means that the marketeer is unlikely to know details around any supply chain purchasing or warehousing operations. A common mistake is to be spending money on paid advertising for products that are not available for sale.
  4. Non-optimal FeedsModern ecommerce websites are very busy places. Stock levels are in continual flux, new products come online and old products become discontinued while prices change. The main ecommerce marketing feed for Google may need to be almost continually updated as well as updates for third party marketplaces. Traditional marketing companies are usually limited for managing these types of operation. The result is that when they try to do it things can quickly go horribly wrong - see here.With ecommerce, ultimately, there is only one KPI, and that’s profit. While other lesser KPIs can be helpful to help make progress actionable, it is the obsessive/compulsive focus on maximising profit that drives the business, largely to the exclusion of other factors. In many ways, thinking too hard about the other factors simply adds noise, and often complexity, to the process.

The top five factors that impact ecommerce marketing performance are:

  1. Sell items that are in demandThis is one of those rather obvious points that’s sometimes so obvious it gets forgotten. The marketing task here is to use the plethora of available marketing tools to ensure that you are selling things that customers want to buy. Having competitors is a good thing; if there aren’t any then the market is telling you something. In fast changing markets such as fashion, understanding seasonality and trends is probably the single most important thing to get right. If others don’t want to buy what you sell then no amount of fancy marketing can change that.
  2. Optimise pricingIf potential customers want to buy something then getting the price right is probably the second most important thing to get right. The key marketing task here is to either manually or automatically check your prices against the competition. In general, the perfect position to be in is where you at or around about being the cheapest but with a better website, service quality and fulfilment (ref).
  3. Website factors Those doing the ecommerce marketing should provide frequent feedback to those involved in designing, managing and maintaining the website. This often comes from analysing the website analytics. A good ecommerce marketeer knows how to identify ecommerce-specific problems with the website. These typically revolve around the basket/payment process, the category/product page visitor behaviours and the ratios of desktop-to-tablet-to-mobile conversion rates (which are different for different markets).
  4. Ensure that what you sell is visible to your potential customersEven when everything else is right, if your potential customers are unable to see what you are selling then you will get no sales. With ecommerce, the marketeers starting point is usually with Google shopping quickly followed by the main marketplaces (e.g. eBay and Amazon) followed by affiliate and referral sales. Just being on these channels is often not good enough. An example of just one of the issues that impacts ranking on Google shopping can be with the effective use of GTINs and MPNs (ref).
  5. StockA key problem that a stand-alone marketing company can have with ecommerce is related to stock inventory. When a customer wants to buy from you they want to know the price and when they will get it. As stocks run down then the correct marketing solution is where you start by closing down (or upping the price on) those feeds to channels that make you the least profit so leaving you with the most profitable channels.

If there were six items in the list then sixth would be email marketing - simply because it’s probably the cheapest way to get sales. The broader point here is that every type of ecommerce marketing has a cost and a conversion ratio which combine to yield the marketing cost to get the sale. This calculation is one that should define your ecommerce marketing strategy and should be under continual revision. Many of the calculations needed for ecommerce marketing optimisation require knowledge of margins.Traditional digital marketing agencies that are aligned more with social aspects of marketing use staff that are more likely to show creative flair. Ecommerce marketing people are numbers people who are more usually grounded in the world of analytics, business optimisation, maths and computing.

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