E-Commerce and Online Marketing

If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re either an entrepreneur who’s just starting out or an online marketer who’s looking to take their skills to the next level.

You might be wondering where traditional retail stores fit into this new world order. After all, wouldn’t all shopping happen online now that so much of the world is connected to the internet?

The truth is that while online shopping has exploded, so has the usefulness of offline retail. E-commerce isn’t one dimensional, and neither is marketing.

Let’s explore how e-commerce and online marketing work together, shall we?

E-Commerce Is Changing

If you’re reading this, you’re either an entrepreneur who’s just starting out or an online marketer who’s looking to take their skills to the next level. My advice would be to consider the second scenario.

As an entrepreneur, you might be wondering how – or even if – you should get involved in the e-commerce world. After all, isn’t retail a competitive space? Won’t your product sit on a shelf for someone else to purchase?

To put it simply, no. It won’t. It’ll be yours, and it’ll be up to you to make sure that shoppers know about it.

What’s more is that when a customer purchases your product via email or social media, you’ll earn commission, not cost-per-acquisition (CPA) as with traditional advertising.

Now, that might not seem like a major advantage to you as an entrepreneur but, believe it or not, it can be. One of the biggest issues that small businesses across all industries face is getting their products in front of potential customers. Even if you have an amazing product, unless you’re able to get the word out about it, it’ll remain hidden. 

So how can you get customers to try your product or service? You can use marketing to do that. Traditional marketing – like radio ads, magazine spreads, and billboards – is still effective but, with more and more people turning to the internet for answers, it’s become more like a needle in a haystack than ever before.

Because of this, marketers are turning to digital marketing to find their customers. And, because consumers have grown to love online shopping, digital marketing became one of the biggest and most effective spheres of business.

E-Commerce and Marketing Work Together

Let’s explore how e-commerce and online marketing work together. In simple terms, when a potential customer (shopper) clicks on a product or service located on a website, that click can be tracked – similar to how a TV commercial might display an advertisement and the specific site can measure the effectiveness of their online marketing.

While web analytics can definitely be a useful tool, I prefer to think of e-commerce/online marketing as a collaboration. This collaboration between e-commerce and online marketing can take place at different times: from the product development stage all the way through to the point-of-sale (when a customer makes an actual purchase).

For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you already have a product that you’re trying to sell online (whether or not this is the case, it’s a lot easier to talk about a product that you already have).

The Product Development Stage

Your first step as a marketer is to determine the target audience for your product. If you don’t have a clear idea of who your audience is, you can’t effectively market your product. The good news is that you don’t need to; the internet is full of information on demographics, psychographics, and digital behaviour that can help you pinpoint your ideal customer. (If you’re looking to develop a new product, consider this article from the MIT Press. It’s an extensive guide to consumer behaviour and the product development process – worth a read!)

Once you know who your target audience is, you can determine how – and where – you’ll pitch your product. This part is a bit more technical and requires some research. However, even experienced marketers can find this stage a little bit daunting. Having a clear target audience and knowing where to find them is crucial; otherwise, you’ll be wasting a lot of time trying to figure out who would actually buy your product.

The Shopping Stage

When a potential customer (shopper) clicks on an advertisement or a product located on a website, they’re generally taken to a shopping page. This shopping page is where the magic happens. Rather than forcing shoppers to search for your product or service, you can entice them into making a purchase by creating a shopping page that’s specifically designed to look like a real store.

Although creating an appealing shopping page is a necessary step, it’s not sufficient. You also need to make sure that everything on that page helps a shopper make a purchasing decision. This includes the copy on the page, the way that products are presented, and even the way that the website operates. In general, you want to create a very good experience for the shopper so that they become a customer for life rather than just a one-time buy.

The Purchasing Stage

When a customer makes an actual purchase (be this a digital or an actual product), you’ll generally come across as some kind of a middleman or merchant. This is why, when a customer clicks on an advertisement or visits a product page, they’ll be presented with a purchasing option.

Your job, as a marketer, is to make sure that this purchasing option is easily accessible. To do this, you’ll need to make sure that the pricing – both up-front and on the back end – is reasonable and that the terms and conditions are clear. You’ll also need to collect any necessary information regarding the product (such as dimensions, weight, and/or shipping requirements) and enter this information into your shopping cart.

This will ensure that the customer knows what they’re ordering and that their information is secure. Once this is complete, you can notify the customer that their order has been received and send them a receipt. At this point, you can also begin to ask them to review your website or to join your email list – it’s a win-win.

Traditional Vs Digital Marketing

While e-commerce and online marketing are important, they aren’t the be-all and end-all of marketing. Instead, it’s always nice to have a mix of both. (And don’t get me wrong – digital marketing is a major contributor to the growth of e-commerce. In the next section, I’ll discuss how.)

A major difference between online marketing and e-commerce is that the former usually focuses on attracting potential customers while the latter focuses on converting these customers into paying customers. Although both are important, they have different goals and will generally work together to achieve these goals.

With that being said, when it comes to marketing a product, what is your target audience going to be doing? More importantly, what action – be this a digital or a physical action – are they going to be taking?

If you want to market a product online, then your primary audience is most likely going to be searching for information. They’ll either be finding your product’s information on a major search engine (like Google or Bing) or through an online review (like on Yelp or Angie’s List).

Based on the above, it follows that your approach to marketing should revolve around three pillars of strategy:

  • Audience analysis: understanding who your target audience is and what they want.
  • Product review: understanding whether or not your product is actually good (i.e., worth buying).
  • Pricing strategy: knowing when and how much you should charge for your product.

To put this into practice, reach out to your customers and listen to what they have to say. If you want to use online marketing to market a product, review platforms like Review Hound can help you identify any negative reviews and correct them. (For more on this, check out this review from VentureBeat.)

The Importance Of E-Commerce

Even if you’re just getting started in business, you might be wondering what role, if any, e-commerce plays in your industry. After all, isn’t retail a lost cause these days? Won’t your product just sit on a shelf for someone else to purchase?

While it’s true that retail stores have been affected by the rise of e-commerce, these stores aren’t necessarily doomed. Far from it.