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The world of ecommerce is constantly evolving, and small businesses (SMBs) need to be able to adapt to stay competitive. One of the most important aspects of any SMB's marketing strategy is to be cost-effective. With limited resources, it's important to make sure that every marketing dollar is spent wisely.
This guide will provide you with some tips on how to build cost-effective ecommerce marketing strategies for SMBs. We'll cover a couple of topics from the list:
- Email Marketing - Automate emails to reach and engage customers with promotions, updates, and offers.
- SEO - Optimising your website for search engines to reach you organically and increase visibility.
- Content Marketing - Creating valuable and shareable content (blogs, posts, videos, etc.)
- Referral Marketing - Offering incentives to existing customers
Other ways might include more of a marketing budget expense BUT are proven to work when executed correctly:
- Social Media Marketing - Utilizing social media platforms to reach potential customers to increase sales.
- Paid Advertising - Reaching a wider audience using paid advertising options (Google & Social Media)
- Affiliate Marketing - Partnering with affiliates to promote your products and giving them a commission on their sales.
- Influencer Marketing - Engaging influencers to share about your product and brand across social media platforms.
Emilie Appleyard, Community and PR Specialist from FifthCor, shared that a sure-win strategy to return the investment for ecommerce brands is by partnering up with micro and nano-level influencers for user-generated content.
Micro-influencers tend to have higher engagement rates than macro-level influencers with an average engagement rate of 6%. They also tend to have a more niche audience, which is great for brands looking to effectively target a specific demographic. Smaller influencers are often more affordable to partner with and typically more hands-on in the creative process as well.
Once they’ve found micro-influencers that the company feels align with their brand, they can ask them to create UGC showcasing their product. UGC is beneficial for many reasons, one of the biggest being that it can add credibility to your brand—it is seen as more authentic and unbiased than content created by the brand. UGC is also a cost-effective marketing strategy because brands do not have to invest the time and money that goes into creating content, the content is being made for you.
Fifth & Cor successfully partnered with an Italian hair care company expanding to the U.S., with a micro-influencer to create UGC for TikTok. Within the first 24 hours of posting the TikTok video, the brand saw $15k in revenue. One of the reasons the UGC performed so well is that the micro-influencer we chose to work with, was already a massive fan and organic consumer of the hair care brand. It made sense to her audience that she was talking more about the brand, and they trusted her opinions. Before the UGC was made, the strategy for this campaign included capturing trending hairstyle photos and videos and establishing a dedicated community through proactive outreach and community management. Once UGC was created, it was leveraged across all media channels for the brand.
Working with micro-influencers and UGC creators can also benefit your site's SEO as it can increase the number of backlinks, and social shares and improve the time users spend on your website. Along with this, UGC allows for more product feedback. This can help your company identify areas for improvement which will increase customer satisfaction and ultimately lead to more sales.
Ultan O'Callaghan, Head of Growth at Thooja mentioned that in 2022, they onboarded a sustainable coffee brand struggling to attract new customers, despite investing significant resources into paid ads. The good thing was that said brand had strong customer loyalty with a lot of repeat business, which gave the Thooja team the confidence to set up a referral and loyalty program using ReferralCandy.
Customers could refer friends and family members to try the brand’s coffee with 15% off their first order. Referring customers would get 10% off their next order, and after three successful referrals, they’ll receive a free bag of ground coffee.
The best part? The only cost for the brand was the price of the referral platform subscription.
The Director of Marketing of the coffee brand said, “Previously, we relied heavily on non-owned channels such as Instagram Ads, limiting our growth and making our CAC high. We changed our approach to investing in a referral program, and it’s paid huge dividends for our business.“
Now, whenever the Thooja team onboards a new ecommerce brand, here’s what they do. If the average customer places at least two orders within 120 days, they’ll set up a referral and loyalty program for them.
In a marketing environment where everyone is trying to do more with less, it makes sense for brands to start with the key resource already available to them: their website.
“A well-designed website, with lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead conversion strategies built-in is a must for small to medium-sized ecommerce businesses. You also need to automate as much of this as possible, to minimize the amount of time you spend answering the same old questions over and over again, whether it is in person, by phone, or email.” Terry Chadban, Online Marketing Manager at Port Macquarie Online Marketing
Specifically, you should put time and energy toward conversion rate optimization.
Rather than expanding to untested channels and platforms, brands should first improve the performance of their existing marketing efforts by focusing on the site visitors they already have. By auditing their site, implementing ecommerce best practices, and A/B testing site changes, companies can easily increase conversion rate and average order value, directly driving more revenue for their brand.
Kate Miller, Content Marketing Manager at Inflow shared that conversion rate optimization is the marketing effort with the highest ROI for their ecommerce brands.
In fact, for one brand that first engaged with them in mid-2022, investing in a monthly conversion rate optimization program led to an estimated 20.1% test conversion rate lift and a 99x expected annual ROI (and that’s just in the first six months of testing!).
For context, the brand sells a high-order-value product with thousands of SKUs. Based on initial research and analysis from Inflow’s conversion rate optimization experts, the client received a 70+ page document detailing exactly which changes to make to the site right away and which future elements needed to be A/B tested to ensure they improved conversion.
Within six months after their program started, the ecommerce brand not only saw immediate lifts in conversions and revenue from their first round of site changes, but they also saw a 90% win rate for all A/B tests run (vastly outperforming the 60% industry average).
Some notable wins during this time included:
1. Optimized Navigation
By updating their navigation based on user research findings, the ecommerce brand saw an 8.6% test lift, resulting in a conservatively estimated $619,736 lift (annualized) to revenue.
Specifically, the Inflow team optimized the order and visual presence of navigation items to match how users wanted to navigate the store (see a similar test example below).
2. Optimized Product Detail Page
By combining user testing, competitive analysis, and industry findings, the Inflow team was able to create a test version of a Product Detail Page that lifted conversion rates by 10.1%, resulting in a conservatively estimated $1,360,726 lift (annualized) to revenue.
In this test, they moved, merged, and adjusted the copy on text and benefit statements to address customer pain points in a better way (see similar test example below).
3. Optimized Product Listing Page Facets
After collecting and analyzing the ecommerce brand’s data on user behavior related to filtering, the Inflow team created an optimized facet configuration for the client’s Product Listing Page (see test example below).
The new test version beat the control by 7.4%, resulting in a conservatively estimated $525,429 lift (annualized) to revenue.
“In our experience, many ecommerce brands are already advertising in the right spots—they just need a budget to perform better. A Conversion rate optimization engagement can be the perfect way to improve return on all of your investments, by delivering more revenue for your site (and, by extension, for use in your marketing efforts).”
Jason Ciment, CEO of Get Visible also shared with us that most ecommerce sites face similar pain points: not enough quality traffic, poor conversions, and overall low return on digital marketing investments. That’s when his team took to the stage to help redesign and re-platform websites and overhaul existing marketing strategies for the brands that have approached them.
Conversion rate optimization programs can be long-term testing commitments or a la carte audits. No matter which option businesses choose, as long as they work with the right experts, the return on investment makes this effort well worth it, even for small and medium-sized companies.
Before you go
It is now easier than ever before to start an ecommerce business, which also means more competition. Being ahead of your competitors is not only important, but it is also essential to survival.
“There is no "magic" recipe for marketing that applies to every brand, however, the most basic thing of marketing is to deeply know your audience and provide a product/service that fulfills their needs,” shares Luján De Felice, Marketing Executive at Mo Works.