How do you approach your ecommerce marketing?

Posted by Paul on April 25, 2014

Let's be blunt - the way in which you approach the marketing of your online business will be one of the most important factors in your success or failure. Are you following a structured, well-thought-out strategy? Or are you doing random little bits here and there without knowing for sure if they're working?

By definition, marketing actually covers a lot of things that people wouldn't necessary think of when they hear the term marketing such as market research, product design, competitor analysis, product pricing and so on.

In fact if we look at the four Ps of traditional marketing; Product, Price, Promotion, Placement, we can see that promotion seems to be the area most ecommerce businesses focus on (getting more traffic). Really they should be considering the whole and devising a clear marketing strategy based on this.

If we use a slightly simpler marketing model and break the process in to 3 main parts, we'll see how understanding the whole can be translated in to better marketing spend and higher conversion rates:

  1. Product
    This is your product niche. Not necessarily unique to you but you are the specialists.

  2. Target Market
    Your best customers, the enthusiasts who know your products almost as well as you do.

  3. Channels
    The places and ways you get 1 in front of 2. Often this is eBay, Amazon and your website but also methods of advertising are included in this such as email campaigns.

Often ecommerce startups think that all they need is traffic. They assume a conversion rate of something like 1% and assume they just need x number of visitors to make y number of sales.

This is the mistake that comes from not knowing enough about your target market and how to connect with them via the most appropriate online channels.

Obviously the target market will be very different for every product niche, but if you can't put together a written profile of your ideal/most common buyer you'll be able to target them so much more effectively.

Now I'm not saying that every customer of yours will fit this profile and you should neglect those who don't, you may well have more than one customer profile. But you may be able to identify a few common themes. You should at the very least be able to answer:

  • Age?
  • Sex?
  • Occupation?
  • Geographic location?

If you have enough of them, looking at past orders is a great way to find this information.

The most obvious way to use this information is with facebook ads which allow you to show your ads only to users who match criteria like those above. Google AdWords allows you to very specifically target a geographic location. You may find certain luxury goods would sell well in London and the Home Counties but not so well in Liverpool.

If we expand our definition of "channel" to include social networks, forums and websites rather than just online sales platforms like ebay and Amazon then once we've done the research above we can make informed decisions about which websites to have a presence on. If we're targetting women in their 20s and 30s then facebook may be ideal and a facebook page essential. If we're targetting 18-25 year old computer gamers then perhaps Reddit is the place to gain some exposure.

Another use for this information is on the website itself - does the design appeal to your demographic? If you're targetting a younger audience is the design bright and colourful and visually appealing? Are your product descriptions speaking in the tone and language that appeals most? For a great example of an online shop that does this right just look at

If you only take one thing away from this article, it would be this:

"Write a marketing plan that includes research on exactly who your target market are and a plan for reaching them via the most appropriate channels. Do not just guess, look at actual orders and real-life data.

Greatly simplified it might be that you're selling to 20-30 year old females and that one of your marketing tasks will be to post 1 post that appeals to this group per day on facebook, which may not necessarily be a product."

Do you agree or not? Was anything not clear? We try to answer all comments posted below!

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