In the first post in this series, we discussed how to create the right user experience for a direct-to-consumer brand. Now, let’s explore the ways you can drive more traffic to that optimized site, and how you build loyalty and retain customers through sophisticated marketing tactics. These are the tactics that the best brands use to create dedicated fans and keep them coming back.
Best-in-class DTC brands understand that marketing is all about prioritizing resources and communication efforts based on what will best connect with their customers.
Writing at AdWeek, Mary C. Long highlights what it means to market with such a customer focus: “Marketers looking to connect with consumers—and their wallets—have to find ways to bring customers into the fold.” The definition sounds simple enough, but the implementation requires no small amount of strategy to come off successfully.
If you’re reading this post, you most likely already have the basics of marketing down. This is not a post on email automation or effective PPC ads. Instead, this post explores three ways you can invest in strategic marketing for your eCommerce brand to connect with your digitally savvy customers:
- Better merchandising.
- Targeted discounts, rewards and other promotions.
- Optimized digital campaigns that drive more traffic.
Landing on the Right Focus: Merchandising Online
One of the first steps in moving toward more precise marketing is to be sure you are focusing on the right message. For eCommerce, finding the right message is all about engaging in digital merchandising.
This is a crucial component of the customer experience. Simply put, digital merchandising seeks to recreate (and even go beyond) the brick and mortar retail experience for the online customer. It means focusing on each customer as an individual, rather than your store as a static portal for sales.
There are a couple of ways to go about this: presentation and personalization.
The placement of your products, the promotional copy you use and your pricing all affect conversions. It’s about presenting the right products, at the right time, with the right messaging.
“Smart online merchandisers are now curating and promoting sets of individual products, not general categories, on their highest traffic pages,” eCommerce consultant Bob Angus writes for SLI Systems. It’s a more literal way to put your best foot forward in a digital world.
More specifically, Mark Hall at Smart Insights outlines three critical ways to optimize merchandising for eCommerce, through product findability, category offerings and product pages. Optimizing all three of these remove friction for customers and helps them find what they’re looking for quickly.
As Ron Jacobs, CEO of the digital agency Jacobs & Clevenger, points out, most customers make purchase decisions emotionally, and then justify those decisions logically after the fact. Creating an emotional connection with visitors, particularly through the presentation of your products, is what will turn them into customers. Making that process quick and easy can only help.
Julie Smith and Kristen Lenci at strategic consultancy Point B take the importance of digital merchandising a step further, writing that “technology trends are bringing together physical and digital experiences, combining entertainment with utility.”
The end result is more engaged customers and better conversion.
Another, related, area to focus in on is personalization. Personalization is certainly worth investing in as you make your site as customer-centric as possible.
If presentation is about increasing the attractiveness of your products as they sit on your page, personalization is about ensuring that each of your visitors receives an individualized shopping experience that is unique to their likes/dislikes, past behavior, etc.
Understanding customers at this level is the very reasons brands choose to sell via DTC channels. It lets them create longer-lasting relationships with customers, and it creates opportunities for these brands to encourage loyalty.
For example, a brand could create a VIP program in which its most loyal customers have access to limited-edition product releases.
At the same time, personalization efforts can make a person’s shopping experience much more convenient. By looking at an individual customer’s past shopping behavior data, a brand can anticipate future buying journey to optimize what a specific shopper sees in the shop, how they see it and when they see it.
Scalefast’s solution can create segments of users based on a variety of characteristics and retroactive data. This lets brands target specific segments and create personalized offers via email and dynamic on-page content.
Again, the goal here is to encourage loyalty. When a shopper is met with only the most relevant messages and offers for them personally, it makes shopping a better experience and strengthens the bond that customer has with the brand.
Offering Customers More With Promotions and Discounts
With eCommerce, customers have virtually limitless opportunities to shop around. This is a very good reason to focus on promotions and building loyalty with rewards as part of your marketing.
Most eCommerce brands run promotions throughout the year, but what kind of promotions really drive revenue? It really depends on your products, your market and your presence.
For starters, you should be tracking which kinds of promotions you offer and which convert well. Then, Strategic DB founder and CEO Anna Kayfitz recommends parsing that database to see what your data tells you. Perhaps it suggests you need to segment your customers further. Maybe it reveals a channel where promotions work better than others.
Failing that, Kayfitz notes that offering free shipping tends to have some of the highest ROI among all promotional tactics. GrowBiz Media Founder Rieva Lesonsky says that paying for shipping is one of the eCommerce customer’s worst pet peeves. If a free shipping promotion is baked into their shopping experience, the customer is more likely to convert.
Not all promotions have to be strictly monetary. You could run a contest to promote a popular product to bring in new customers, for example. This can not only translate into some increased sales on that specific product, but also grow your email list for future marketing efforts.
Digital Marketing That Actually Engages
In general, there are three areas of digital marketing that can drive incremental sales. Taking the time to invest in any (or all) of these three areas should translate into more revenue:
Search engine optimization is one of the most tried and true digital marketing tactics. “A few core fixes can have a big impact on your search traffic without needing to earn new links or invest in paid ads,” Manish Dudharejia writes at Econsultancy.
Often, SEO can serve as the foundation of your content efforts. Darren DeMatas of Ecommerce CEO even says to let keywords guide your marketing. Like Dudharejia, DeMatas argues that long tail keywords will help you define which products are most in demand and how your competitors are competing for a share of your audience’s attention. The idea is to use the most market-defining keywords possible.
Digital marketing focused on informative content is a great way to drive incremental revenue because it helps you build stronger customer relationships. “Whether you keep them updated through email marketing content or educate them on important topics through your blog, you can work to build and foster these relationships through relevant content,” writes Sherman Standberry at Lyfe Marketing.
Instead of relying on paid outreach, content marketing is about starting with what the customer is interested in.
In other words, this isn’t the time to promote your products. It’s the time to get real with your customers. “My goal with our content is not only to sell our products, but to sell that we’re not afraid to talk about all the good sh*t and the bad stuff,” Cate Blouke writes at Really Good Emails. If you’re answer questions and concerns for your audience, that’s a good place to be.
3. Social Efforts
Social platforms can be turned into sales platforms. “Social is no longer just about conversation and content; it’s now an established channel for customer acquisition, remarketing and engaging existing fans/customers to support retention programs,” James Gurd writes at Smart Insights.
Customers have an inherent bias for companies with a strong social presence. Jose Angelo Gallegos at Social Media Today reports that just over 70 percent of consumers are likely to buy an item based on social media referrals, and 74 percent rely on social media when deciding whether to buy online.
These numbers make sense: Word of mouth advertising has simply gone digital. With social efforts, you can drive revenue by attracting qualified leads, gaining referrals through social platforms and running some of the promotions discussed above directly on social media.
The Bottom Line: Finding the Marketing Tactics That Work For You
If all of this seems a little overwhelming as next steps in driving eCommerce revenue, don’t worry. You’re simply finding and speaking to your customers where they are. The same idea applies to your growing eCommerce business: Find which of these marketing tactics work within your own audience and run with it.
If you haven’t yet heavily invested in SEO efforts, you could start there. Or if you have customer segmentation and personalization data, it may be as simple as running a handful of targeted promotions.
Whichever route you take, be sure to document the efforts and results to make even better informed decisions in the future.
With your shop’s user experience optimized, your traffic on a path toward growth and a thoughtful retention strategy in place, it’s time to talk trust. Specifically, it’s time to think about what concrete steps you can take to earn the trust of the people visiting your shop and interacting with your marketing. We will cover these tips in Part 3 of this series.