What Is E-Commerce Marketing?


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E-commerce marketing has been working in the background for years before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. To say that the pandemic forced e-commerce into overdrive might be a bit of an exaggeration.

While it certainly seems that more people are buying goods online due to lockdowns, the fact is that e-commerce hasn’t been much affected at all. According to Statista, global retail e-commerce sales rose by 21.6% from 2019 ($3.354 trillion) to 2020 ($4.280 trillion). While the rise was lower from 2018 to 2019 at 11.9%, it was 20.12% between 2017 and 2018 and 22.5% between 2016 and 2017.

So, what gives?

It would be reasonable to infer that this pattern of rises and dips has to do with factors other than the pandemic. Interestingly, 2016 was the year of increased adoption of mobile-first websites and acceptance of social media as a marketing channel. Therefore, you could say that e-commerce marketing trends may have significantly impacted the year-to-year sale trends.

Key Takeaways

  • E-commerce marketing is likely a significant factor for the rise in global retail e-commerce sales.
  • Traditional marketing uses different media than e-commerce marketing, but both are effective in their own ways.
  • Convenience, affordability, and audience targeting are among the advantages of e-commerce marketing.
  • Critical e-commerce marketing components include SEO, email, social media, and analytics.
  • A good e-commerce platform includes components useful in e-commerce marketing.

How Does Marketing for an E-Commerce Site Differ From Traditional Marketing?

Ventura homepage.
Source: Squarespace

E-commerce marketing refers to the strategies used for driving traffic to online stores to increase sales. While it shares many tactics with digital marketing, e-commerce marketing is exclusively for individuals and companies that sell online using dedicated websites or e-commerce platforms.

Marketing for an e-commerce site differs significantly from traditional marketing, mainly because of the medium and the metrics. Traditional marketing uses only offline media: print, television, and radio while e-commerce marketing uses online channels.

Print campaigns may include newspapers, flyers, coupons, and brochures. Television and radio may include sponsorships and ads. While they’re very effective in brand marketing, they’re also very expensive.

Traditional marketing media is also less effective at customer engagement and personalization because there’s no way to interact with the audience through these media channels. Additionally, it can be challenging to measure a campaign’s success in real-time while using these channels.

E-commerce marketing is very interactive and responsive to the audience. An e-commerce website provides visitors with a choice of where they want to go and what they want to see.

There’s much more interaction on social media, leading to higher engagement and, hopefully, higher conversions. Most importantly, a digital platform captures essential data on visitor behavior, so you can find out in real-time if your marketing strategy is working or not.

Traditional marketing is by no means dead. People still read newspapers and magazines, watch television, and listen to the radio. They’re just as relevant today as they were before the Internet because they have an emotional impact on consumers and help keep brands top of mind.

However, traditional marketing strategies are often beyond the budgets of small e-commerce companies, so they need to rely primarily on e-commerce marketing to reach their target audience. Given that the average person spends about six hours and 42 minutes online every day, e-commerce marketing is probably just as, if not more, effective than traditional marketing.

What Are the Advantages of E-Commerce Marketing?

E-commerce marketing is a subset of digital marketing, so their advantages are the same. Among the top benefits include:

  • Convenience: All e-commerce marketing happens online, so it doesn’t matter where you are. As long as you have Internet access, you’re good to go.
  • Mostly free: Many of the significant components of e-commerce marketing are free of charge, such as posting on social media and sending emails. Of course, that doesn’t include paid campaigns and ads, but you can do without them if you don’t have the budget.
  • Measurable: The best thing about e-commerce marketing is the data you can capture. Website visits, clicks on your e-commerce store, impressions on social media, and many more data sources are available for analysis and measuring.

Whenever you launch an e-commerce marketing campaign, you can capture, process, and generate reports using this data to tell you if your campaigns are on the right track. While it would help if you had specific tools for all that, the point is, you can.

  • Laser targeted: If you use Facebook ads or similar services for your e-commerce store, you can choose the audience to whom your ad appears based on your specifications. You can maximize your ad spend by only targeting people who are likely to purchase your products.
Facebook ads setup.
Source: Facebook
  • Global reach: It doesn’t have to cost you anything to reach a global audience if you use e-commerce marketing strategies appropriately. With a lot of work and a little luck, you could potentially snag some worldwide attention for your small business.
  • Automation: Many types of e-commerce marketing strategies are of the set and forget persuasion. If you have the right tools, you can automate everything from scheduling posts to sending out emails. You will spend quite a bit of time making the content and creating the campaign, but once everything is in place, you can just push a button, and everything moves according to your plan.
  • Personalization: Did you know that personalization can double your site’s conversion rate? While SEO caters to the whims of search engines, personalization caters to the needs of the customer. With e-commerce marketing tools and strategies, you can deliver personalized content to your customers and visitors through your website, social media, and email and engage with them better.

What Are the Components of E-Commerce Marketing?

As you can probably imagine, e-commerce marketing has many extremely useful components. However, you can make do without the bells and whistles and focus mainly on the essentials. The following are critical for your e-commerce marketing, so it would be best to include them when making your marketing plan.

Search Engine Marketing

If you have an e-commerce website, your first stop in e-commerce marketing should always be search engine marketing (SEM). This includes both SEO and paid advertising like PPC campaigns.

The purpose of SEO is to help people find your e-commerce site through the proper search strings. For example, if you sell socks, you want people who search for “socks” to find your site. When done correctly, SEO can put your website on the map.

However, that is more difficult than it sounds. Apart from the all-important algorithms, no one knows the exact process or method search engines like Google use to rank sites for relevant keywords.

Therefore, you need to focus quite a bit of time and money on getting your SEO just right. You can use SEO tools like SEMrush to help you achieve that goal, but it still won’t be easy.

SEMrush graph monitoring.
Source: SEMrush

Ranking well organically through strategic SEO is a significant challenge for any e-commerce business, but you can help it along with PPC campaigns. As the name suggests, you only pay when someone clicks on your link.

If you launch a PPC campaign on Google, the search engine guarantees that the link to your site appears during searches for the keywords you’ve specified. While clicking the link doesn’t guarantee a sale on your site, it increases the probability that the visitor makes a purchase or converts somehow.

Email Marketing

Email is a cost-effective marketing tool. It provides an easy and convenient way to generate leads, engages with customers after a sale, and encourages them to complete abandoned carts.

The hard part is building up the email subscriber list from scratchbut if you succeed in doing that, you can look forward to getting back $36 for every $1 you spend. If you need help, check out some of the email marketing tools, such as Constant Contact.

Drag. Drop. Done. landing page for Constant Contact.
Source: Constant Contact

Social Media

Social media is a boon to e-commerce companies. Not only can you use it to go viral online without spending anything, but you can also sell products directly on the platforms. Of course, the competition for attention on top social networks is fierce, so you need to put your thinking cap on to make an impression.

If you’re getting discouraged with all the work you need to do, don’t fret. You can use social media management tools to help you manage your content, automate posts, track your performance, and many more.

Social Media Analytics with a page views graph.
Source: Zoho


No marketing campaign is complete without a means to crunch numbers to map out your strategy and measure success. E-commerce sites are a mine of data waiting to be collected and processed to provide insights worth their weight in gold. You can use any of these website analytics tools to help you get actionable insights to optimize your e-commerce marketing strategy.

Google Analytics dashboard.
Source: Google Analytics

What Should You Do Next?

Now that you have a better understanding of e-commerce marketing, the next step is to put it to good use. If you already have an e-commerce website, start formulating your marketing strategy to increase your sales. If you’re about to begin your e-commerce company, set it up on an e-commerce platform that already includes the essential components of e-commerce marketing.

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