Ecommerce Marketing 101 – Creating and Executing an Ecommerce Marketing Plan

Ecommerce marketing, in simple terms, involves tapping a buyer in the first stage of their buying process, when they are still exploring their avenues, and converting them into your customers. There are many ways and approaches to do so.

Some may choose to use Search Engine Optimization as a tactic to attract traffic in an organic manner. While many others exploit platforms like Google and Facebook to publicize paid ads and drive targeted traffic. You can also opt for a combination of both to gauge which method works better for your needs.  

But it is important to understand that marketing strategies must be dynamic, and evolve with technology and other marketing tactics. Otherwise, there are high chances that your ROI on ads may not be satisfactory along with your return on other operating costs.    

Unfortunately, e-commerce marketing is a realm, wherein building your strategy and even implementation, to some extent, is just the beginning of your struggle. Due to the cut-throat competition and the dynamic nature of the field, your input of efforts must be continuous to maintain proportionality in the growth of your sales.   

This is the reason many businesses fail to meet their revenue targets. 

Like mentioned before, building a website with good user-interface and apt features, though is a gargantuan task, is still only the first step. 

Unless you go all out to popularize your website, the site will be devoid of any kind of traffic due to the lack of awareness. This defeats the point of having a website for you, the employees, and your potential customers.  

To ensure that an eCommerce business is performing and growing at an optimal rate, you must devise an e-commerce marketing strategy with an aim to popularize your brand name.

This is why we are here to help you with a framework that you can cross off your checklist. In this blog we will elaborately guide you through two major topics: Creating and Executing an Ecommerce Marketing Plan and Building a Marketing Team: In-House vs Agency.

This article will ensure that you are well-informed about the facets you must consider to build an effective eCommerce plan, to ensure that your business goals don’t just remain dreams.  

It is important to understand that marketing strategy does not have a one-glove-fits-all kind of a solution and there is no sure-shot way to improve your brand awareness. 

While what we will now discuss are good standard practices, do not restrict yourself to these principles, as marketing is all about letting your creative juices flow! So tweak our principles a little to suit your brand, so they can better serve your needs. 

Creating and Executing an Ecommerce Marketing Plan

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

A beautiful quote and is extremely relevant in our case. Obviously, you might have come across many articles, research papers, blogs, etc., on the topic of developing a marketing strategy. And most of them talk about very efficient tried and tested methods in the field. Nonetheless, e-commerce is growing at a pace that is almost unparalleled in the marketing sector. Therefore, it would be a grave mistake to set your ideas and principles in stone. Remember, a rolling stone never gathers moss.  

Like we have already mentioned, a well-devised, tactful plan will be your bible in achieving your goals. And to build such a plan, you must be completely aware of where the e-commerce marketing landscape stands right now along with where it is headed.

After thoroughly researching the field of marketing and understanding the principles of devising a good marketing plan, we present to you with these twelve steps with some pretty impressive cheat codes, to help you build a robust e-commerce website.  

Our plan will guide you to create an effective eCommerce plan from scratch, either singlehandedly or with your team, or with some help from an agency. So take out a pen and a book and start writing away from the tips we are doling out.     

1. Seek experts’ advice.

Taking experts’ advice is a very underrated, but an invaluable tip. Therefore, find companies who have gone through this before and built a successful, fool-proof online marketing mechanism. Ideally, find companies who have done so in your industry to increase the relatability quotient. Here are some questions you can ask them, to get you started:

  • What was their starting point?
  • What were the marketing tactics and methods that fetched them their highest ROI in the initial phase?
  • Did they seek help from any agency?
  • How did they track the performance of their system?

While this is just a skeletal framework, feel free to clarify any doubts you have. You can also find groups and forums on the web which can serve the purpose of getting your queries answered, like BigCommerce’s community group.  

2. Hire experts, if possible.

If it fits your budget, try to hire someone who has worked in the field of marketing, at least for a few years. An experienced marketer can impart relevant skills and knowledge and be a reliable guiding force during your marketing plan development phase.  

What’s more? It saves a lot of precious time and effort that you may have had to put in learning about digital marketing in the absence of an experienced marketer. In the case of a startup with budgetary constraints, the help of a freelancer or a gig worker can be sought to help you out with intricate aspects of online marketing like branding or website maintenance. Otherwise, you can hire a good agency to partake in your business facets.  

Their experience, skills, and knowledge will be an irreplaceable asset to your business. 

3. Be honest with yourself.

While marketing is a key player in helping your business grow, it cannot help you without quality products and a skilled team. Therefore, it is important that you do not set all your expectations on your marketing, without doing the appropriate amount of groundwork. 

You can always start small with your marketing but do set out proper goals for future growth.  

First Step to Build an Ecommerce Marketing Plan

While marketing, to a great extent, is all about doing big things and taking substantial steps, it is also necessary that you lay out some groundwork from which your marketing needs can be deciphered. 

Therefore, perform these exercises and note down your ideas, to have an overview of what your long-term growth plans are:

1. Executive summary.

After understanding the field of marketing with a little help from the experts, it is important to narrow down your focus to your business’s overview. 

An Executive Summary is a good first step in developing an impervious e-commerce marketing plan. 

2. Goals & objectives.

Your goals and objectives must be noted down. They must be specific and clear, without any gaps in your ideas.

You can always revisit and edit these goals later, even during the implementation phase, if they are either too easy or too far-fetched.  

Your goals must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. You can also include long-term goals later so your team learns to dream big.  

But it is absolutely important that the goals are specific so you can measure your performance. For example:

  • Sell X number of products in one year.
  • Improve daily traffic by Y% by the end of Z months.

3. Mission statement & value proposition.

The mission and the vision of the company must be incorporated in the company policies. This must include the purpose of the company, the values it ascribes to, what it does and does not do. All of these pointers must be well-thought-out by the leadership so they can better formulate the organization’s goals. 

4. Target customers.

Quoting “everyone” as your target customers mean you will have no customers. Therefore, segment the market and choose a specific segment that may be attracted to your products/services.

That segment becomes your target audience. Lack of knowledge about who you are targeting will cause major problems as your campaigning will not be streamlined to appeal to anyone in specific, thereby making it an inefficient process. Needless to say, it is a huge waste of money. While choosing your target audience, make sure that you have these characteristics properly defined:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Affordability

5. Situation analysis.

It is important to know where you stand at any point in time. Therefore, analyze the market scenario, the contemporary state of the company, its competitors, and the entire marketing plan.  

Understanding your current situation will lead to better decision-making and will clearly reflect on your results. 

6. Pricing & positioning strategy.

Your company’s pricing and positioning must appeal to your target audience. 

Gone are the sales-driven days where you force your products aggressively onto your customers. The market is more consumer-driven today, so if you try to sell overpriced products, they will move to other businesses that offer more reasonably priced goods. 

Though you can always revise your pricing strategy, it is a good practice to perform adequate research, so you get a good jumpstart.  

7. Future-oriented distribution plan.

Though your business is going to start on a small scale, you must have the foresight to estimate what the distribution channels and order requirements must be like once the business grows. 

No matter which method you choose to follow: taking care of the packaging and shipping yourself, assigning a small team to take care of it, or associating with a third-party to carry out the tasks, you must always analyze if the method will continue to meet your future evolving needs and demands of your consumers. 

Implementation of an Ecommerce Marketing Plan

The previous section must have informed you adequately of the intricacies that are involved in defining your business.

In the case of a small business, this is a good point to lay the groundwork, while a big business must focus on fast-tracking its growth.  

1. Identify sales & lead generation strategy.

This step requires you to step into a creative space as every business requires a unique, specific solution here. There are multiple possible ways to market your business.  

Without confusing you immensely with marketing jargon, we will highlight some strategies and tools which have proved to be successful very often, juxtaposing them with some contemporary tactics. 

To understand this step, we urge you to visualize the sales funnel graphic illustrating your customers in an AIDA model (their path following Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action, in that specific order).  

Each phase requires specific strategies to keep them interested in your business and take them to the next stage. 

At the beginning of the funnel, you will utilize your branding strategies, which only aim to seek their attention, but are not strong enough to convince them to convert into your customers- like posting organic social content.  

Right at the bottom of the funnel, in the Action phase, you can implement tactics involving social media advertising and direct email communication. 

When you are planning any campaign strategy, you must scrutinize your business and understand what the purpose of your campaign is and where it fits in the funnel.  

The strategies we define in the next section will definitely help you. 

2. Tracking Tools and Technology.

We live in a technologically-driven world that has seeped into the field of marketing. Therefore, before diving into implementing your marketing strategies, you must answer these questions:

  • Do I own the technology which can analyze the results of the marketing campaign/efforts?
  • Can it judge if my Key Performance Indicators are actually seeing any impact? 
  • Can our team efficiently judge the ROI of our marketing campaign?

If the answer to any of these questions a “no”, it is a cue to bring a change in your technology before implementing your new marketing strategies. 

Google Data Studio and LuckyOrange are two good tools that many companies swear by, for their marketing needs. 

Like we had mentioned before, with the unchecked rise is marketing media, you must equip yourself with adequate tools to gauge your performance.

Luckily for us, there are several goods, free tools available in the market.  

3. Convert First.

Ideally, before implementing your entire marketing campaign, you should set the ball rolling with some of the bottom-of-the-funnel strategies. 

Once there are enough conversions, your campaign will gain a positive momentum with an increase in sales. After the entire company tunes itself with the initial results, you can start implementing the rest of your ecommerce marketing strategy. 

4. Experiment.

While tried and tested methods are a good safety net, we just you to allocate some budget to try out new strategies. 

Experimenting is an important part of formulating a successful campaign for your specific business. 

Do not go overboard with this process. Spend the money judiciously and on smaller market sizes. If it works, you can smoothen out the transition process eventually. 

5. Revamp & expand your marketing strategy.

This is a very interesting part where you are trying to put force on your positive momentum. 

Ideally, by now you must know the inadequacies of your strategy, what is working, and the options available as other avenues. You will always have a multitude of options to choose from.  

This is the time to revamp and expand your strategy by scaling up to a larger level. 

Some strategies which may work for you include:

  • Partnerships: Partnering with another brand to create common content can popularize your brand in a new market or among a different segment of the audience. You can get very creative with such associations, from creating a common ad to partnering with multiple brands with a common goal. 
  • Increase Average Order Value: This tactic can be implemented by incentivizing costlier orders with either a discount or free shipping. 
  • Referrals: This is the easiest method in the book. Ask your customers to refer a friend to avail points which they can choose to spend while making an order. This way, you are using your customers as tools to spread brand awareness.  

Ecommerce Marketing Agency vs. Full-Time Employees

While strategizing about the company and its growth, it is important to wonder if they must hire an agency or build an in-house team. 

The answer varies based on different factors and parameters. 

Both an agency and an in-house team are capable of advancing your company’s growth.

What works better for your company, is dependent on several factors which we urge you to consider:

  • Your marketing needs and if an in-house employee is capable of handling them.
  • Budgetary constraints.
  • Can full-time employees match the skills of an agency? 

 Hiring an Agency- Pros & Cons

Hiring an agency can help solve many of the issues that a beginner may not be able to deal with. 

Many agencies offer a wide range of digital marketing services which are performed by professionals, which is advantageous to big companies as well. They are usually more cost-effective than hiring a full-time employee. 

Nonetheless, it is important that you are a good judge of an agency’s abilities. 

Pros

  • Skilled experts.
  • Diverse, holistic services.
  • Prior performances are available to evaluate.
  • Cost-effective without compromising on quality.
  • Will work on strict deadlines as specified in the contract.
  • Scaling up marketing efforts becomes easier for the company as special efforts need not be directed that way. 

Cons

  • Low level of brand loyalty.
  • Services are restricted to pre-determined scope of work.
  • Not very accessible as opposed to full-time employees.

In-House Team – Pros & Cons

The experience of hiring in-house employees and working as a team from scratch is enriching, to say the least. 

The efforts are focused in the same direction as all of you remain on the same page and are working towards the same vision. 

Nonetheless, hiring an in-house team with a similar skill set as an agency would be a very costly affair. 

Further, employee hiring, training, onboarding, etc., are extremely time-consuming processes.  

Pros

  • Better understanding of the company and its values.
  • Accessible for meetings at any time with short notice.
  • Can help build team-spirit.

Cons

  • Costlier than an agency.
  • Their skill set is not as diverse as the services an agency offers.
  • Time-consuming to replace an employee devoid of necessary skills.
  • They do not spend enough time and resources for continual improvement of the process as well as their skills. 

Agency working under your In-House Team

If you are not just staring your business, you can avail this particular option. 

This is a concept which allows you to exploit the pros of both the options if it is implemented well. 

As we have mentioned often, your company’s marketing needs will evolve with its growth. It will require skilled, experienced set of parties along with the right technology.  

Therefore, an in-house team with adequate brand knowledge and an agency with its skills and expertise can lead to a very potent combination. 

Pros

  • Is a combination of two complementing parties

Cons

  • Can be a pricey system.
  • Chances of conflicts if the teams do not work in solidarity. 

Conclusion

Though the idea of chalking out an ecommerce marketing plan may be scary, there are multiple resources and strategies available to assist you through the process. 

During the process, it is imperative to constantly revisit the purpose of the marketing strategy. 

Understanding of the brand, product, target, and demand is a must before you begin your implementation stage. 

Though the strategy options that are available are many, it is important to stay focused and organized to be successful.  

This article has hopefully helped clear some of your doubts and has made you ready to boost your company’s sales.