How does one go about increasing the awareness of an e-commerce store? I’m pretty sure you know the oldest advice in the book: you’ll raise awareness if you first gain customer loyalty. If you are successful, customers will do (some of the) brand awareness for you. Great! Problem solved.
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This advice is a pile of rubbish. How the heck are you going to get loyal customers, if they don’t know your e-commerce store exists? But even if customers know you, how will you gain their trust to make them loyal, especially today when a lot of people tend to care only about the lowest price and not where the product comes from. With this in mind, you might think your chances of success are slim, but this is not necessarily true. Building the awareness of an e-commerce store obviously cannot be done overnight. Sure, your activities will fail a couple of times. But when you find the thing that really works well for you, you will win big time.
Here is a checklist of all the basic things that are too often ignored or forgotten when trying to build a successful e-commerce store:
- Responsive website;
- User-friendly and beautiful design;
- Digital marketing;
- Social media presence and advertising;
- Problem-solving content;
- Unique selling proposition(s);
- Quality products;
- Good price;
- Post-purchase experience for the customer.
Of course, you can do without one or two of the things mentioned above. But please, consider doing as many as you possibly can. It will make all the difference to your business.
You might be thinking “I’m alone. I can’t do it all.” or “I don’t have the knowledge to do this.” or even “I’ve tried everything and nothing is working for my business.”
I’m certain you haven’t tried everything. And with a slightly different approach, you could recycle old ideas and activities. You know your business and your customer, and you definitely know what makes your customers tick. You might not have the marketing knowledge of an agency, but you can achieve great results, nonetheless. I have listed the channels and activities where my team has achieved great successes in marketing. Hopefully, applying some of these will help you move closer to your business goals.
1) Be where the action is.
The average user spends 9,5 hours on their computer daily – most of that time is work related (at least that’s what every employer hopes) but in between work, depending on the person’s focus, you’ll find stretches of time spent doing personal idling on social platforms, reading emails and doing research for the next purchase. The average user also spends 3 hours on their phone daily – watching media contents, browsing the web and using apps. This makes average users available to be targeted with ads, emails, social posts and other activities almost half the day. Obviously, you’ll want to make your activities relevant to the user. But mostly, make sure your site is user friendly and responsive, no matter the device it is displayed on.
2) What do search engines got to do with it?
Everything. In order to build awareness of your e-commerce store, you will need good organic rankings as well as being present in ad placements. This is especially important when people don’t know your brand or when you have a product that not many people have heard of, but which they might really need.
A great example is bamboo toothbrushes. People use toothbrushes regularly. But when bamboo toothbrushes were introduced, nobody was buying them because people either didn’t know they existed, or they didn’t understand their contribution to the environment. As soon as their message was associated with the movement to ban plastic, their sales took off.
3) You need to do these activities if you have a product that everyone could use:
- Content – Write about how your product solves a certain problem, make comparison tables to start ranking similar products and to show people why your product is amazing/better than other similar products.
- Search engine optimization – Start positioning your brand with articles that answer people’s questions and educate people on how your product can make their life better.
- Premium link building – You’ll be able to make your product known to people who might not be actively searching for your product. Remember how many times you didn’t realize you needed something until you saw an ad for that specific thing?
- Search ads – It’s a great way to reach people who are searching for your competition or products similar to yours, and to let them know there is an alternative to the product they already know.
- Display Network banners – Target users by interest or affinity and with specific ad placements to really reach your target group. This is important because you simply don’t have an endless budget. Precise targeting, even for awareness, is crucial.
- Gmail Sponsored Promotions – Using the names of your competitors’ domains as targeting for ads is the best way to find people who are already interested in similar products. Just tell them why you are better and why you should be their next choice. But you shouldn’t only show them a better deal; give them some good content so they will see you not only as an e-commerce store but also as a useful source of information.
- Product Listing Ads – Another great way for users to notice your e-commerce store when searching for a product type which both you and your competitors might have in stock. Product listing ads are shown on the Google search results page for queries connected to the name of the product. Such queries usually indicate that the user is in the final stages of the buying cycle. This is also a great way to catch the user’s attention as this type of ad contains a picture. As you know, a picture is worth a thousand words.
4) Branding is not a strategy or logo or name.
You feel the branding when you think of a certain business. I’d say that building a brand is not the first thing you do, nor is it the last. Creating a brand is a process that will take a lot of careful planning and implementation. Do it right and it will lift your business and put you in a position of a trustworthy e-commerce store. You can adopt any number of messages to build a brand. You can go with the sustainability message (as mentioned in the bamboo toothbrushes case), you can position your business as a problem-solver, or you can even get your e-commerce store noticed by being controversial. There is no such thing as bad publicity.
Before you go out into the world and try to explain to everyone what your brand stands for, you need to do internal branding first. Everyone in the company must understand it, live it, and know what to do and how to do it. Only then can external branding happen.
5) Social media is a must.
Don’t think that being present on Google (and other search engines and networks) is enough. It’s something, but it’s definitely not enough. You must attract people on the platforms where they spend a lot of their time. Most platforms offer creating profiles/groups, ads and a direct connection with customers. You must seize that opportunity. Create a Facebook company profile page and start advertising. Do the same with Instagram. Use dynamic remarketing on both platforms and consider going to Twitter, Reddit or Quora if your target audience is using those platforms.
6) Don’t run a competition.
Marketers will often suggest running a competition to boost your audience. But I really don’t think this is the best thing you can do for your business. Of course, you CAN do it, but do it for the right reasons and at the right time. Most competitions are not doing it properly. Instead, they are doing it just to gain some attention that, sadly, doesn’t last.
7) An email marketing campaign should include cart abandonment emails.
Obviously, as a new business you can’t just come up with an email list or you’d be in serious breach of GDPR. This activity is meant for when you manage to get a sufficient number of users’ emails to whom you can send marketing messages.
Having inspiring, educational and mostly nonintrusive emails can really help you build a loyal customer base. Ideally, your customers open your emails and read every line, feeling inspired or gaining new knowledge. You can be clever with your emails’ subjects. They can serve as a means to leave a little branding trail when users glance at their list of received emails. You can say everything you want to say with the subject line alone. Yes, the content might go to waste, but not all emails are meant to be opened. 🙂
In my opinion, email marketing is the number one activity for e-commerce marketing. It’s a great channel for influencing your customers and building brand loyalty. It is a great way to keep in touch with your customers, send them information and, obviously, sell your products. This includes cart abandonment emails. If you’re not doing them, you should start today. I’ve seen several cases of increased sales after the implementation of cart abandonment emails.
8) Listen to what Google’s been telling you: your business needs good content!
Don’t copy-paste from “reliable internet sources”. Create your own content. It will do your SEO good. It will help your customers find the answers they are looking for. Yes, it will take time. But every other marketing activity takes time, so why not choose this one? When done properly, this one will keep giving back in the years to come. No ad can do that for your business, unless it’s a really freaky ad and your brand is Old Spice. Even then it’s possible but not likely.
And while you’re at it, think about how users can create content for you. There is a whole new universe to explore right there.
Building the awareness of e-commerce can be done in different ways. There is no right or wrong way, because every e-commerce store is different and something that works for me might not necessarily work for you, and vice versa. I do believe, however, that the basics must be covered. As mentioned before, you might be missing a thing or two. But don’t take the minimalist approach. More is (usually) more. Think about all the channels and activities that can boost awareness for you and bring more relevant people to your e-commerce store. Go with hot topics, be controversial, do something wild. It might pay off. You might have a crazy idea but you’re not quite ready to use it? Write it down. Save it for later. Remember, making a plan is essential. So is executing the plan.