Ecommerce Marketing: What You Need to Know

Back in September of 1994, Jeff Bezos purchased the domain relentless.com for a new business he was launching. Based on the advice of some of his friends who said that the name was too sinister, he decided to rename his online bookstore “Amazon.com.”

In the first two months of business, Amazon had sold products to all 50 states and over 45 countries, selling over $20,000 per week of merchandise.

This may not seem like much today, but think about itin 1995, there were roughly 25 million people in the United States who had access to the internet. Compare that with today where, according to Statista, there are 284.7 million, and growing by the day. 

As the internet becomes more accessible and ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce continue to grow and expand their products and services, ecommerce will continue to be a tremendous opportunity.

This guide aims to be the definitive guide to all things you need to know about ecommerce marketing. Whether you’re just starting out or have been selling online since the 90’s, you’ll find strategies, tactics, and best practices that’ll help you to grow your business and reach more potential customers.

What Is Ecommerce Marketing?

Simply put, ecommerce marketing is the act of promoting an online business’s brand, products, and services to either their existing audience or a new audience and converting them into sales and customers. 

Many of the marketing techniques used by traditional businesses and online businesses can be applied to ecommerce marketing, but there are a number of strategies and tactics that are unique to ecommerce that will be highlighted in this guide.

We’ll break this guide down into sections:

  • The State of Ecommerce in 2020
  • Email Strategy and Tactics
  • Paid and Non-Paid Advertising
  • Social Media for Ecommerce
  • The Future of Ecommerce
  • Examples of Great Ecommerce Marketing

 

There’s a ton of opportunity for ecommerce businesses to thrive. With the ecommerce percentage of total retail sales expected to grow to 13.7 percent ($4.5 trillion!) by 2021, these strategies will help you capture your share of the market.

 

Internet marketing vs. ecommerce marketing

Internet marketing is the marketing of products or services online. Ecommerce marketing, on the other hand, refers more specifically to marketing and promoting an online store. 

All businesses with a website participate in internet marketing, sometimes referred to as digital marketing or online marketing, but not all internet businesses engage in ecommerce marketing.

 

Ecommerce vs. direct-to-consumer

Ecommerce is the act of selling products or services online to consumers, whereas direct-to-consumer (DTC) is when a manufacturer, brand, or anybody with a product to sell, sells their product directly to their end customer. Ecommerce is one of the most common DTC channels, as it allows businesses to cost-effectively market and sell products to their customers while bypassing middlemen such as retailers and wholesalers and marketplaces.

Email for ecommerce

Email has been around many years longer than ecommerce and it continues to be one of the best channels to build relationships and sell to your existing customers. 

The best part about email is that you own your email list and nobody can take it away from you or control how you share your content. A customer or prospect who chooses to get your emails has a direct relationship with you, which is more stable than a relationship mediated by social networks or advertising. 

A recent study by Neil Patel shows that for every dollar spent on email, you can expect an average return of $40, which is higher than any other channel. 

email roi

Image via neilpatel.com

Email timing

When you send your emails is just as important as who you send your emails to and what content your emails contain. 

For example, sending on a weekday has a two percent higher open rate than sending on a weekend. On weekdays, the best times to send are in the afternoons or around midnight. 

Read the full article on the best days and times to send an email campaign

List building

Your email list is one of your most important assets. Growing your list should be a goal of any ecommerce business, but it’s very important that you grow your list the right way. 

Never purchase a list from a vendor, regardless of how reputable they may seem. These are people who have no preexisting relationship with your business and are unlikely to be receptive to your message. 

They’re also more likely to report you as spam to their email providers, which will hurt your domain and IP reputation, negatively impacting your ability to reach legitimate subscribers. Many email software providers prohibit uploading purchased lists to their systems for this reason.

There are a wide variety of strategies you can use to grow your list legitimately and stay in compliance with laws like CAN-Spam, CASL, and GDPR. Find out more information on list building strategies for ecommerce.

Segmenting

Sending high-quality, relevant messages is the best way to gain customers with email, but one size doesn’t fit all. This is why it’s crucial to segment your list to ensure that the emails you’re sending are relevant to the audience you’re sending to. 

Use an automation tool that makes it easy to segment based on a variety of customer properties, purchase history, and behaviors. 

Read more in the guide to email marketing segmentation and discover a variety of strategies to segment your lists.

Email deliverability

Email deliverability is the ability to get your emails into subscribers’ inboxes. 

Part art and part science, deliverability largely deals with your domain reputation and IP reputation. 

Your domain reputation varies between internet service providers (ISPs) and email providers but takes into consideration a wide variety of factors: 

  • The amount of emails sent by your company or from your domain
  • How many of your recipients mark your messages as spam
  • Blacklists your domain may be on 
  • How many recipients open, click, reply, unsubscribe, forward, or delete your emails 

 

This is one of the most important reasons why you should only be emailing people who have opted into hearing from you.

Your IP reputation, on the other hand, deals with the actual email server that’s sending your emails. There are two types of IPs: a shared IP and a dedicated IP. 

Using an email marketing service with a shared IP means that your emails are being sent from the same server that others are using. This has a variety of benefits and drawbacks, but it’s generally the fastest and easiest way to get started. 

Using a dedicated IP means that only your company’s emails are being sent from that particular IP address. You will have full control of your reputation, but it can also take longer to establish your reputation and requires a warm-up period before you can begin sending emails at full capacity. 

Learn more about how ISPs determine your email deliverability.

Email bounces and types

It’s important to familiarize yourself with email bounces to better understand deliverability. An email bounce means that the email server tried and failed to deliver your email to the recipient. 

There  are two types of email bounces:

  1. Hard Bounce: A hard bounce means that the email address is invalid or doesn’t exist. This could be due to a person mistyping their email address into your subscribe form, changing jobs, or deleting their email account. If a recipient hard bounces, it’s usually best to suppress this individual from your list to avoid trying to send to them again in the future since it’s highly unlikely an email will ever go through to that address.
  2. Soft Bounce: A soft bounce indicates a temporary error like a full inbox, a temporarily suspended account, or a recipient’s email server having technical difficulties. It’s usually fine to retry emailing these individuals in the future. But, as a rule of thumb, if an address soft-bounces more than three times, you should add it to your suppression list.

Learn more about ecommerce reporting metrics and bounces.

Types of ecommerce emails

There are many types of ecommerce emails, including winback, post purchase, thank yous, abandoned cart emails, browse abandon emails, and more.

Each of these emails will have a different goal, whether it’s increasing engagement, nudging a customer to complete a checkout, or to increase customer loyalty. 

Here are some good references on those topics:

Increasing email ROI

One of the best ways to increase your email return on investment (ROI) is A/B testing, which is sending messages with one key difference to find out which version works better.

You can and should A/B test as many areas of your emails as possible, including subject lines, body copy, image sizes and colors, and your calls to action (CTAs).  It’s important to test only one element at a time. For example, if you have a hypothesis that more images will get more clicks, don’t also change the copy.

The other key to ROI is segmentation. Your segments and A/B tests should inform each other so you can find out which people respond most to which kinds of messages. The goal at all times is to send highly-targeted and relevant emails to the right audience at the right time. 

You need a marketing automation tool that makes it easy to understand your email list and bucket your list into segments based on behavior, engagement, demographic data, and more.

Email Performance Benchmarks

After you’ve been sending email campaigns for a while, it’s inevitable that you’ll begin to question how your results stack up against other ecommerce companies in your industry. Read the study on the ecommerce industry performance benchmarks

Website

Your website is your most important marketing channel, period. You completely control the experience from the moment your potential customer visits your site until the moment they checkout or leave. 

Your site absolutely must hit all the basics, like being responsive for mobile users, loading quickly, and having clearly labeled pages dedicated to About Us, Contact, and FAQs. 

Once you’ve done that, here are some additional ways to ensure your visitors end up completing the action you want them to take: making a purchase!

 

Make it simple for users to find products

Ideally, your product listing pages and product detail pages should be as close to the homepage as possible, meaning it should take as few clicks as possible for the visitor to find what they’re looking for. 

Keep in mind that, just like in brick-and mortar stores, some visitors prefer to shop differently online. 

In brick-and-mortar stores, some visitors may want to work with a sales associate through the entire process, whereas others may not want to talk to anybody until they find what they’re looking for and check out. 

Online, different people will prefer to navigate your store in different ways. We divide online shoppers into four basic types: searches, browsers, navigators, and filterers.

  • Searchers

These people typically know what they want and will use keywords and search engines to find it. it. 

They may get very specific, searching by the exact product name or even model number. Others may search for a brand name or product categories, like “pop-up toasters.” 

Many ecommerce platforms will have built-in search functionality, but it’s always a good idea to test it and make sure the right products are showing for the right searches. 

Try to think of your ideal customer and the types of words they might use to find various products, then type them into your search bar. If the products you’d expect to see don’t come up, add those keywords into your product title or description to make sure they do. 

It can also be helpful to use the predictive search functionality of Google and Amazon to get ideas for the types of keywords you should be using to describe your products. This can be helpful for search engine optimization, or SEO, as we’ll see later.  

Finally, check your search logs to see what people are looking for, what they found, and whether they bought it. 

  • Browsers

These people may have a vague idea of what they’re looking forperhaps a gift for a friend or family memberbut would prefer to see a variety of options before they narrow down their selection. 

They may want to begin with a certain type of product or want suggestions for a type of person they’re buying for. A gift guide can help you reach these customers, especially if they have an occasion and price point in mind instead of a specific productthink “Mother’s Day gifts under $50.”  

This type of user is also much more likely to click on product recommendations, such as “People who bought this also bought…” or “You may also be interested in…” suggestions based on their web browsing or purchase history.

  • Navigators

This type of user typically has some kind of idea of what they’re looking for and primarily relies on the website’s navigation menu. 

To make their purchase journey easy, make sure your top-level navigation (the menus  that stay visible on every page of your site) include the broadest categories you sell. 

For example, a clothing retailer may have a top-level navigation category for Men, Women, and Children. Underneath each of these top level categories, you would then provide sub-navigation with links to categories such as Men’s Shirts, Men’s Pants, Men’s Shoes, etc. 

Ensure your navigation at each level is clickable so that people can navigate to the particular category or subcategory that they want. For example, some people may want to click on “Men’s clothing,” at which point they would prefer to filter, browse, or even search specifically within that category.

  • Filterers

This user usually prefers to start with a wide variety of options and then narrow them down based on factors like price, brand, color, category, or size. 

Many ecommerce providers offer filtering functionality by default. You should ensure your filters can start as broad as possible and allow a variety of ways for people to filter down to specific products they may be interested in purchasing.

Catering to each of these types of users is crucial to ensure you’re capturing as many sales as possible. It’s also important to note that many people are hybrid types. 

Some people may prefer to start off by searching and then switch to filtering, whereas others may prefer to start off by navigating and then searching, or any combination of any of the types above. 

The most important takeaway is that if a user can’t find what they’re looking for quickly and through preferred methods of navigating, searching, etc., they might leave your site and visit another that is better suited to their needs.

Use social proof

Every consumer has been burned by a brand in the past, whether it was from hidden pricing and fees, a poor experience with a sales representative, false promises, or little to no post-sale support. 

That’s why social proof is more important than ever. People ensure that they’ll have a positive experience when they interact with your brand after seeing others have had a positive experience from your brand in the past. 

One of the best ways to do this is to measure Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction post-sale. If you have strong brand promoters, reach out to them and ask them for a quote that you can use on your website. Many people will be happy to provide one to a brand that they love.

Feature reviews

Over 90 percent of online shoppers say that product reviews impact their purchasing decisions.

Combined with social proof, this can help to increase a customer’s trust in your brand and encourage them to complete their purchase. 

It’s important to offer the ability to leave reviews on individual product pages and encourage customers who have recently purchased the product to leave reviews to help other shoppers. 

In addition to product reviews, you should also keep a close eye on reviews people leave about your brand on websites such as Google, Yelp, and Amazon. 

You should always reply to reviews. If a customer leaves a positive review, thank them for their business. If they leave a negative review, offer to remedy the situation and put them in contact with somebody who can make it right. 

Oftentimes, a customer may leave a negative review due to frustration, but if you’re able to fix the issue, they’ll be more inclined to remove the negative review or even change it to a positive one.

Use web forms to capture information

Web forms are a great way to capture information from your customers, which you can further use to personalize their experience on both your website and in emails that you send. 

Display a discount code to someone who hasn’t purchased in a year or offer free shipping in an exit intent popup if somebody adds something to their cart but looks like they’re about to leave your site.

Publish blog content

Blogs are a great way to publish relevant, timely content that your audience care about. In addition, they provide an incentive for your users to subscribe for your newsletter (which you can include your blog posts in). Popular types of articles include list posts, customer stories, benchmarks and research studies, infographics, how-to/tutorial posts, definition posts, and much more.

You can tie each of your blog posts back to your product offerings. If you sell cooking gear, for example, you may want to feature recipes or how-to articles on how customers can care for and get the most out of their potential purchase.

Not only is this a great way to build trust and position your brand as a thought leader, but it can also attract new customers searching for solutions to a problem. We’ll explain more about this in the SEO section.

Use live chat

Just like some customers in brick-and-mortar stores prefer to talk to a sales associate before they purchase, online shoppers may have questions and would like to speak to somebody before they checkout. 

Live chat is the best and most scalable way to provide one-to-one interaction between your site visitors and your support staff. 

Fifty-one percent of customers are more likely to purchase from a website with live chat and some companies have seen live chat increase their conversion rates by up to 30 percent, according to Websitebuilder.org.

Social Media

According to a survey on internet usage, internet users are now spending an average of two hours and 22 minutes each day on social media platforms. That’s over 16 hours a week or 71 hours a month! 

Additionally, 74 percent of consumers say they make buying decisions based on social media recommendations from friends, family, etc.

Every ecommerce store should have a presence on social media. As of 2020, there are 3.8 billion social media users worldwide, and that’s projected to grow to 3.02 billion by 2021. 

Choosing your networks will largely depend on where your audience spends their time but, at a minimum, most businesses should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is also an extremely popular network with a very large community of influencers.

You can use social media sites to make your brand more human by posting pictures of your office or store, your staff, featured products, and events you’re hosting or attending. 

Social media sites also provide an easy platform for you to interact with your prospects and customers, whether it’s to resolve a support issue or engage in conversations relevant to the products you sell and the industry you cater to. 

What’s more, social media sites can provide you with a ton of data about your customers, what they care about, and how they want you to communicate with them. 

At a minimum, your website should have links to each of your social media profiles, and you should be encouraging customers to follow you and interact with you on social. 

You should also make it easy to share content from your website, whether it’s to share a purchase or a piece of content you’ve written on your blog.

Regardless of the social media networks you choose to build a presence on, you’ll need a solid content strategy in place to ensure you share a good mix of educational and informative content along with any promotional offers. 

Generally, people on social media hate being sold to, and being overly self-promotional (whether you’re a brand or an individual) is a quick way to get unfollowed.

A good rule of thumb is to follow is the 10-4-1 rule, in which out of every 15 social posts:

  • 10 should be helpful, relevant third-party content that your audience will love
  • 4 should be helpful, relevant content created by you that your audience will love
  • 1 can be a promotional offer, a link to a landing page, a coupon, or a discount designed to generate a sale

Posting frequency

Depending on which social media networks you choose to post on, how frequently you post is also an important consideration. 

There’s no hard and fast rule to follow about how frequently you should post on social media channels because it depends on each network. 

The lifetime of a tweet, for example, is just under an hour. It’s ok to tweet multiple times a day up to 10 or 15 tweets per day, for example and not damage your following because Twitter users often follow hundreds of people and may not even see some of your tweets if they don’t log in frequently.

Facebook, on the other hand, rewards a slower pace—usually one or two posts per day, maximum.  

Since 2018, Facebook’s newsfeed has emphasized posts from friends and family rather than brands, which makes it harder to reach customers—especially new customers.  

That means it’s more important than ever to post extremely helpful, shareable content that your most devoted customers will share with their friends and family. 

It’s also helpful to have some video content in the mix, because video engagement rates on Facebook are significantly higher than other types of posts.

Advertising

When trying to gain brand recognition and website traffic, there are several ways to increase online visibility: social media, search engine optimization (SEO), public relations (PR), customer referrals, guest blogging, and more. 

Depending on your execution, these are all worthwhile marketing channels to explore, but one avenue that can help you reach potential customers faster is paid advertising.

Paid advertising shouldn’t be the only source of website traffic, though. It’s critical that you invest your time and energy growing your organic, direct, and referral traffic through SEO. 

This directly helps you increase your visibility in online searches and these users tend to have higher conversion rates. But these efforts take time—it can often take months to see any meaningful return.

With paid advertising, however, you can instantly reach your target demographic and start generating sales. While this may sound alluring to any ecommerce merchant, it’s easy to burn through your cash just as fast. 

When getting started with paid advertising, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.

Align your paid advertising goal with your overall marketing strategy

Many merchants will jump to the HOW, WHAT, and WHO of advertising—which platform to use, what product they’ll advertise, and to whom. 

But the secret to success is in starting with the WHY. Paid advertising is neither a strategy nor a goal—it’s a vehicle for executing your strategy and realizing that goal.

If you’re thinking about trying paid advertising, first ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve. 

Let’s say you sell running shoes that are designed for peak performance and summer is your biggest season. Your goal might be to generate $2M in Q4 sneaker sales. 

Let’s say a strategy for hitting this goal is to release a line of limited-edition, runner-tested sneakers that were signed by the winner of the Boston Marathon. 

What do you do next? 

Determine your target segment

Your target segment is comprised of those people who would most likely buy these sneakers. Determine this first, then figure out how best to reach them. Here’s an example of how to figure out who to include in your target segment:

People who are likely to buy these limited edition sneakers from you could include:

  • People who have purchased other running shoes from you  (maybe they’ve done so frequently and recently)
  • People who’ve bought other limited-edition running items from you
  • Marathon runners (maybe specifically Boston Marathon runners)
  • Family members of Boston Marathon runners who have made purchases as gifts
  • Boston residents who are members of running associations

Email marketing is a key channel to help you execute your strategy and drive sales, but maybe you’re just getting started and you haven’t built up your subscriber lists yet. 

Instead, you turn to paid advertising. Why? Because you know these sneakers will attract a very particular buyer and paid advertising lets you target this segment effectively.

Let’s use this example to run through some key considerations for paid advertising.

Audience targeting on paid advertising channels

Once you know which buyers will help you hit your sales goal, you can evaluate your targeting options.

Demographic targeting

This is a basic type of targeting, but it can be helpful when you want to reach people of a specific gender, age, parental status, or household income.   

Interest-based targeting

This type of targeting helps you reach people with certain attributes or affinities. 

For example, you may wish to reach people who like your competitor’s Facebook page or who have visited their website. Interest-based targeting is useful when you know the preferences of your target audience. It’s also helpful when you want to target by industry, job title, employer, and other firmographic information.  

Retargeting

This method targets consumers who have previously been exposed to your brand. 

For example, you could try to reach people who have visited your website, submitted their contact information, engaged with other ad content, or watched your Youtube video.

These consumers are great targets because they have a high level of sales-readiness. They know who you are and, depending on what data you pull into your segment, they may already be loyal to your brand. Even if they haven’t bought from you in the past, getting a sale from a customer who knows you is easier than getting one from a stranger. 

Some advertisers swear by the “Seven Times Factor,” which posits that potential customers need to see an ad seven times or more before they buy. This stat varies depending on your industry, but it helps to demonstrate the value of retargeting when you want to win someone over.

Circling back to the Boston Marathon running shoes example, suppose you decided that people who ran in the most recent Boston Marathon should be your  target segment. 

How would you apply these three methods of targeting? For this example, you could target two audiences:

  • Interest-based: People interested in running and the most recent marathon (net-new shoppers who may be interested in your product)
  • Retargeting: People who’ve previously engaged with your interest-based ad,  recent sneaker website traffic, and recent sneaker buyers 

This method isn’t foolproof. You have to experiment with and closely monitor your paid advertising segments, but it’s a smart approach to test when you’re just getting started.

While the data points you can use to accomplish these three targeting methods differ across ad platforms, it’s important to factor that in when you’re determining which segments you want to target and where.

An overview of paid advertising platforms, campaign types, and targeting

<<This section provides an overview of the various advertising types, including Paid Search, Display Advertising, and Social Advertising.

Google Ads

Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is an online advertising platform developed by Google. Advertisers can pay to display ads for products, services, and much more to promote their website. Let’s learn about the various types of advertising Google Ads offers.

Paid search campaigns

Google paid search campaigns help you increase your website’s visibility on Google search engine results page (SERP). This can be useful when you want to increase brand recognition for your industry or product category, which will help you reach new consumers. You can also use paid ads to retarget recent website traffic or existing customers.

Keywords are the backbone of paid search ads. Keywords are terms or phrases people enter into a search engine. When selecting which keywords to target for your ads, look for terms that are related to your offering, terms that have a high volume of monthly searches, and terms that have low competition. 

Relevance

If your ad content is unrelated to a user’s search query, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to click through to your website. This won’t just prevent sales. It will also lower your quality score. Quality score is a rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords and ads, which Google strives to show the best search result to every user. A lower quality score hurts your ad visibility, making it more expensive to get the same placement as similar ads with better quality scores.

High volume of monthly searches

The volume around monthly searches indicates the demand surrounding a particular keyword or phrase. It helps you gauge the number of impressions, clicks, and sales you can expect. 

In Google’s Keyword Planner tool, you can look up monthly search volume for particular keywords or phrases to get a baseline estimate of how many people might see your ad. 

Low competition

The lower the competition surrounding a given keyword, the cheaper each click will be. You can learn more about the buying auction in the pricing models section, but low competition means you won’t have to bid as much to be seen for that given keyword as you would if it had high competition.

If you’re just getting started with paid search, pull a list of keywords your website is already organically ranking for and then create multiple variations. Or, if you’re just looking to try a specific campaign, cultivate relevant, high-search volume keywords with low competition that support your campaign.

Pro-tip: Longer keyword phrases (called long-tail keywords) tend to have lower competition. One useful strategy is to find root keywords with high search volume and then modify them to be longer, more specific, and more unusual.

For example, lots of people want to run ads on the “running shoe” keyword, but you can find much more affordable rates running ads on phrases like “running shoes made for marathon runners,” “where can I find running shoes worn by Boston marathon winner,” or “what shoes does Lawrence Cherono wear.”

Hacks like this can help you carve out affordable space for your brand while still serving up content your audience craves.

How to format your keywords

One important consideration when defining your keyword strategy is to know how to format your keywords. There are typically three options.

Exact match keywords

With exact match keywords, you can reach prospects searching only for the specific keyword you’re bidding on or close variants of that keyword. 

Exact match keyword syntax uses brackets.

For example, [women’s running shoes] will be triggered by a user who is searching “women’s running shoes.”

Broad match keywords

Broad match keywords help you reach the widest audience by triggering your ad to show whenever someone searches for your keyword via that phrase, similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspellings, synonyms, stemmings (like “runner” in place of running), related searches, and other relevant variations.

For example, women’s running shoes will be triggered by someone searching for “buy ladies running shoes.”

Broad match modifier keywords

These keywords contain the modified term or close variations in any order, but unlike broad match keywords, they don’t include synonyms. 

Broad match modifier keyword syntax uses plus signs.

For example, women’s+running+shoes might be triggered by someone searching for “running shoes for women.”

Phrase match keywords

You may choose to bid on a phrase or close variations of it. These are phrase match keywords and their keyword syntax uses quotation marks.

For example, “women’s running shoes” would be triggered by someone searching for “buy women’s running shoes.”

Structuring your keyword list is one thing. Structuring your Google Ads account is another lesson entirely, but each paid search campaign has the following hierarchy:

Campaign > Ad Group > Keyword > Ad

In general, it’s typically best to write ad content specific to each keyword, group similar keywords together in the same ad set, and bucket these ad sets under the same campaign. 

Campaign Ad Groups Keywords Ads
Running Shoes Running shoe price,

Running shoe performance,

Running shoe for marathon runners

[affordable running shoes]

[running shoes worth spending $100 on]

Once you’ve finalized your campaign structure, update your location and audience targeting, as well as ad extensions.

Display campaigns

Google Ads also offers display campaigns, which let you advertise digital banners across Google’s ad network. 

There are various targeting options for display ads, but it’s best to focus on retargeting. 

Display ads are less likely than paid search to be relevant to your customer’s immediate needs, so reach out to customers who are familiar with your product and inclined to like it. 

When creating display ads, Google offers several sizes, but these are the most common:

  • 300×250
  • 336×280
  • 728×90
  • 300×600
  • 320×100

Since display ads are disruptive, they have to be eye-catching and easy to process. In other words, keep the message and the design simple.

Back to the marathon shoe example—you could feature a giant close up of the sneaker with the winner’s autograph alongside copy like, “Run like Daniel Romanchuk” or “Limited-Edition Sneakers Going Fast.”

Video campaigns

If you’ve created compelling video content and you have the budget to experiment, consider Google’s YouTube advertising capabilities. 

According to a Q3 2017 HubSpot study, 54 percent of consumers want to see more videos from the brands they support in the future. Why not give your audience what they want?

There are a few main types of video ad experiences you can try.

TrueView video discovery ads

These ads display on YouTube’s home page, search results page, and as related videos on YouTube video watch pages. 

When you’re creating these ads, you get 25 characters of headline text and two lines of descriptive text, 35 characters each.

TrueView in-stream ads

These video ads appear before, during, or after a viewer’s main YouTube video, as well as on video partner sites and display network apps. 

These ads can be skipped after the first five seconds, but they also assist sales through customizable calls-to-action (CTAs), headline text, and companion banners. 

When deciding on how long your Trueview in-stream ad should be, Google suggests keeping it between 12 seconds and three minutes.

Video ads (formerly in-stream video ads) 

Video ads are reserved and appear on YouTube watch page videos and YouTube channel pages with featured videos. They can play before (pre-roll), during (mid-roll), or after (post-roll) the main video. 

Video ads are offered as either skippable or non-skippable, and may be served as a YouTube-hosted video (recommended) or a third-party-hosted video. 

Skippable ads can be as long as six minutes, while non-skippable ads have a 20-second maximum. 

Other than these two formats, some markets also offer bumper ads, which must be six seconds or less. Like TrueView in-stream ads, video ads offer CTAs and companion banners for increased conversions.

YouTube advertising does tend to be an expensive marketing channel, so only pursue it if you can really invest your time and money into seeing return.

Facebook/Instagram ads and boosted posts

Facebook isn’t just for cat memes anymore. Facebook ads grew to 69.65 billion in 2019, and show no signs of slowing.

Facebook ads help you reach Facebook (and/or Instagram) users who map to your ideal segments. What’s great about Facebook is that you can use it as both a lead generation and lead nurturing platform. When creating a new audience, you’re given three options

Facebook ads

<<Facebook Ads are a great way to grow your audience on the most popular social network on the planet. Learn more about the various Facebook Ad types below.

Saved Audience

Saved audiences help you leverage Facebook users’ demographics, interests, or behavior. 

For example, you can include or exclude people who follow certain Facebook pages, have certain job titles, work for different employers, or who have expressed certain affinities.

Back to the marathon example, searching “Boston Marathon” results in a target pool of 2.3 million users who have expressed an interest in or like pages related to the Boston Marathon. 

You might want to narrow that down to people who also follow other distance-running pages or competitor pages so you can be sure you’re reaching long-distance runners who care about their footwear. 

Custom Audience

Custom Audiences allow you to choose from the following menu of targeting options.

Your sources
  • Website traffic (ideal for retargeting page views)
  • Customer file (ideal for retargeting specific contacts)
  • App activity
  • Offline activity (useful if you have a brick-and-mortar business)
Facebook sources

Video (ideal for retargeting Facebook video engagers)

  • Instagram business profile
  • Lead form (ideal for retargeting people who opened your newsletter subscription form on Facebook but didn’t submit)
  • Events
  • Instant experience
  • Facebook page (helpful for targeting loyal customers and brand enthusiasts)
Lookalike audience

Facebook’s lookalike algorithm is a powerful advertising tool. It allows you to instantly reach users who resemble your target audience.

Do you have a list of your best customers? These are those brand champions that have bought from you recently, frequently, and who have a high average order value. 

Import this list to Facebook as a customer file and then create a lookalike audience. And if you use Klaviyo, you can sync any segments within Klaviyo to your Facebook and Instagram ad accounts through our robust integration.

LinkedIn ads

LinkedIn ads are another social advertising option available to ecommerce marketers. LinkedIn excels at providing business or education-specific data you can target. Here are some examples.

Company data
  • Company connections
  • Company industry
  • Company size
  • Company name
  • Company followers
Education data
  • Fields of study
  • Schools attended
  • Degrees
Job experience
  • Job function
  • Job seniority
  • Job title
  • Skills
  • Years of experience
Interests

Member groups

  • Interests

Like Facebook, LinkedIn also enables you to upload a customer file and create a lookalike audience or retarget website traffic through matched audiences. 

For contact targeting, you’re advised to upload a list of at least 10,000 email addresses because LinkedIn must be able to match at least 300 of their users to your list.

Like any online channel (paid or organic), only invest in LinkedIn ads if your target demographic is there.

For example, if you sell standing desks or conference room chairs, you might want to use LinkedIn to target HR professionals with buying power who work in companies with more than 500 employees. If you’re trying to reach teenage gamers, go elsewhere. 

Paid advertising pricing models

If you’re going to spend money on paid advertising, you have to know how you’ll be charged.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click (also referred to as cost-per-click or CPC) is the most well-known paid advertising pricing model and it’s most commonly linked with paid search campaigns. 

As its name suggests, merchants are only charged when someone clicks on their ad. Although these clicks can add up if your targeting is off or you don’t put budget caps in place (more on this later), it tends to be the more cost-effective pricing model since you’re only paying for people who are interested in your offering.

When setting up your PPC campaigns, you indicate how much you’re willing to bid for each click. Depending on the competition for that ad placement, you may need to pay a higher CPC to even get seen. 

While you have control over your CPC limit, you might end up spending more in the auction if you want to generate any clicks and potential purchases. That’s why this ad format is often called a “pay-to-play” medium.

Cost-per-impression (CPM)

Some merchants prefer the cost-per-impression (CPM) pricing model, which charges them a flat fee per 1,000 impressions.

Impressions are the number of times an ad is displayed to users, but it’s not the same thing as reach, or the number of users who’ve seen the ad.

CPM is most common in display advertising, which can be a more disruptive advertising experience. 

Think of any time you’ve read an article online only to see several digital banners displayed. Since the user is not actively seeking out your product and there are several advertisements to process (a reality that often leads to “banner blindness”), this ad format tends to have a lower clickthrough rate (CTR). 

Clicks aren’t always the main goal with display campaigns. Instead, many display campaigns are intended to promote brand awareness, which can boost the effectiveness of other ad formats. 

While there are other pricing options, like cost-per-acquisition (CPA), PPC and CPM are the most common.

How to measure paid advertising performance

When advertising, you have to be able to justify your spend by measuring your return. If you decide to run paid campaigns, make sure you monitor these key metrics for each ad platform.

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA)

This is the amount of advertising spend required to generate a new customer.

(Advertising spend)/(Customers won from advertising)

Average sales price (ASP) 

This is the average order value of customers you converted with advertising campaigns.

(Sales revenue from advertising)/(Customers won from advertising)

Months to earn back (MEB)

Tis is the number of months it would take to break-even on a customer acquired through advertising.

(Advertising spend)/(Sales revenue from advertising)

Return on ad spend (ROAS)

This is the amount of revenue you make for every dollar you spend on advertising.

(Sales revenue from advertising)/(Advertising spend)

Performance indicators like impressions, clicks, CTR, and newsletter subscriptions are definitely important to track, but the above  metrics, however, give you key information about the return on your investment. 

By looking at these cost metrics regularly, you can identify high-performing and low-performing channels and allocate your budget accordingly. Pulling ads can be a tough call if you want to maintain brand awareness, but sometimes the economics demand it.

Align paid advertisements with your conversion strategy

Only when you determine your advertising goal, strategy, and segments can you determine which ad platforms are viable. Once you know who will see your ads, you can craft a message that will resonate with them via text, imagery, or video content.

Remember, though, the ad is only half the battle. 

Clicks on your ads don’t automatically generate sales. You have to optimize for the whole conversion process. 

Make sure the destination URL of your ad will align with user expectations. For instance, if your running shoe ad directs traffic to a water bottle product listing, users will likely abandon their shopping experience before you make the sale. Why? Runners need water bottles, too! Sure, but that’s not the ad the user clicked on or sought out. They expect to view running shoes, not other closely related items.

We’re just scratching the surface of ecommerce landing page best practices, but it’s important to understand that your ads don’t operate in a vacuum. They have to tie into your overall digital marketing strategy. If your website’s not generating sales, fix that first. Otherwise, you’ll just be paying to point traffic to a dead end.