Driving strong sales and loyal customers starts with a successful ecommerce marketing strategy. Use these essential tactics and tips to get results.

We’ve come a long way since the first store opened on the internet. Electronic commerce, or ecommerce, now comprises 13 percent of total retail sales in the U.S., according to Statista, and last year generated revenue of more than $700B. Today we can shop online from our computers and phones and purchase nearly any product imaginable from online stores that are open 24/7. 

And as shopping has moved online, marketing has followed. From Google AdWords to Instagram ads, online brands are discovering new ways to capture shoppers’ interest. Marketing has always sought to meet potential customers where they are, and nowadays, that means pivoting from magazines and TV to social media and internet searches. 

What is ecommerce marketing?

Ecommerce marketing includes the marketing strategies and tactics that build brand awareness, drive traffic, and promote online sales. As with any marketing efforts, the ultimate goal is to boost conversion rates and transform traffic into a paying (and preferably returning) customer. Ecommerce marketing has leveled the playing field, in many ways, by making the same tools available to all kinds of businesses. But at the same time, competition for consumers’ attention has increased, too.

How can you attract attention, build trusted relationships with customers, and ensure that you’re consistently driving traffic and sales? Examples of ecommerce marketing include email campaigns, paid advertising, social media marketing campaigns, pay-per-click advertising, video marketing, customer loyalty and affiliate marketing programs, content marketing, user-generated content, influencer marketing, and more.

We've sorted through the best ecommerce marketing strategies, and present you with the eight essential strategies and tactics for how to succeed with ecommerce marketing and drive online sales.

8 ecommerce marketing tactics to generate leads and drive online sales

To stand out in a sea of shopping options, online retailers need to diversify their marketing tactics now more than ever. This is important not just for attracting potential customers but helping to establish authentic, long-term relationships with them. An effective ecommerce marketing strategy should employ a range of outbound and inbound digital marketing tactics. Here are some of the most popular ecommerce marketing tactics:

Email marketing
Social media marketing
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Upselling and cross-selling
Live chat
User-generated content
Loyalty and affiliate programs
Text marketing

Let’s dive into eight essential ecommerce marketing tactics that can boost the success of your online store.

1. Email marketing

Email campaigns are a tried and true method of digital marketing. When it comes to ecommerce marketing, email — from newsletters to nurture campaigns to seasonal promos — is a key way that both B2B and B2C digital marketers attract online shoppers. 

One advantage of email marketing is automation: you can segment your lists according to demographics, buying behavior, or other criteria, and customize your messaging and cadence accordingly. One disadvantage of email is how much of it we receive: up to 78 percent of consumers delete the emails they receive from brands, even when they’ve subscribed to them, and the industry average “open rate” for most emails is only about 20 percent. The last thing any business wants is to come across as spammy, intrusive, or disingenuous.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you consider your email marketing strategy.

  • Welcome new customers. Make a good first impression when someone signs up or makes a purchase by sending a follow-up email from your online store to thank them. 

  • Personalize the experience. Personalized subject lines and greetings (“Dear _____”) make your emails feel less generic and are proven to boost open rates.

  • Focus on shopping carts. Up to 80 percent of all shopping carts are abandoned. Ecommerce marketing campaigns via email, SMS, or retargeting ads can help you improve your conversion rate and recapture this lost revenue.

2. Social media marketing

Today’s ecommerce marketing requires that businesses capture consumers’ attention and keep current customers interested in their brand. The visual, interactive (and, let’s face it, addictive) nature of social media platforms can make them an ideal place for brands and consumers to connect.

But with all the competition for attention, social media can be a challenging format for getting people’s attention. Most direct-to-consumer brands aren’t going to acquire millions of followers with a social media marketing campaign. Nevertheless, it's one of the best ecommerce marketing channels for listening to and serving your customers, since it’s where many of them spend hours of their time each day. Here are some fundamental tips to consider.

  • Be authentic. Most of us make purchases not just because we like the product but because we identify in some way with the brand. Build that connection by posting content that authentically reflects your brand’s values, tone, and style. 

  • Be responsive. Social media isn’t a one-way channel for blasting information: it’s an ideal place to learn how your customers express themselves, respond to their needs, and connect with them. Invest in the time to like, retweet, and share your followers’ content and you’re more likely to see them reciprocate. 

  • Be specific. Not all content will appeal to all followers. Instead of trying to serve everyone in every post, share content that you know will appeal to various types of customers. Notice how your customers are using and following hashtags, trends, and niche markets on popular social networks, and reflect that back at them when you post content.

3. Search engine optimization (SEO)

In contrast to targeted ads, pay-per-click ads (PPC), and other paid digital marketing campaigns, search engines display the results that best match a desired keyword or phrase. Visibility on “organic” (unpaid) search engine results pages obviously yield a higher ROI for an ecommerce store, but it can also become self-fulfilling: the better you rank on the search results page, the more clicks you get, which then elevates your rank. 

Brands use search engine optimization (SEO) to improve their search rankings and drive organic search traffic to their websites. Here’s an example: type “vegan baby products Australia” into Google and you’ll get back a list of organic baby brands, based in Australia. Content marketing can help ecommerce sites use keyword research to leverage SEO in relevant digital media, like blog posts, articles, webpages, or ads. Content marketing means adding content to your site that is optimized for the keywords your potential customers are using in search engines. Here are some basics to follow.

  • Optimize landing pages. Several tools on the market can help you understand which keywords your customers are using to search for their interests, and of those, which ones are most important to include at your online store. Optimizing for these search terms will elevate your ecommerce site in the search results rankings.

  • Enhance your product pages. Just as with landing pages, keywords are critical in product pages. Use short, SEO-friendly product descriptions, headers, and alt image text to help drive traffic to specific product pages. 

  • Add a FAQ page. A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page can be engineered to answer the most commonly searched questions and even integrate the keywords that might not be relevant on product or landing pages. This showcases your brand’s ability to respond to visitors while educating them, too.

4. Upselling and cross-selling

Although generating traffic to your online store is critical to your success as an ecommerce business, you shouldn’t overlook the value of the deals you’ve already sealed. Upselling and cross-selling are two common ecommerce marketing tactics that online retailers can use to maximize profits.

Upselling involves introducing a buyer to a more expensive, premium version of an item they’re already interested in. An example of this would be selling a customer the newest version of a product they already own or have added to their wishlist.

Cross-selling applies a similar methodology. Whenever visitors browse a product page or move to checkout, your online store can advertise a list of product recommendations. This is a cross-sale. These recommendations may feature similar brands and merchandise, items other customers have purchased, items the visitor viewed, or a combination of all three. Here are some ways to integrate upselling and cross-selling. 

  • Send targeted emails. Remind visitors of items they’ve viewed but not purchased, or added to a wishlist, with targeted follow-up emails. You can even set up these emails to trigger automatically and incentivize customers to return to your ecommerce store before they forget.

  • Advertise cross-sell items that are relevant. This requires some backend work, tagging inventory items so that relevant accessories and related items are connected. But relevant items are much more likely to get added to a shopper’s cart.

  • Pay attention to price. It’s unlikely that a shopper considering a $20 item will be willing to upgrade to a $200 one. Make sure that the products you’re suggesting in your upsells are incrementally within the shopper’s price range.

5. Live chat

By integrating a live chat box at your site, your ecommerce business can connect with customers as soon as they come through the virtual door. Live chat systems are a growing ecommerce marketing tactic because they help brands interact with their customers and feel out their needs and desires. Using pre-approved conversation cues and dialogue, many “chatbots” can help customers find products or solve problems without the need for live human intervention.

Live chat can also support purchase flows. According to research from Forrester, customers who engage in a live chat are almost three times more likely to proceed with a purchase. Ecommerce businesses can also add a personal touch to online shopping by optimizing chatbots according to user interactions. Here are a few examples. 

  • Welcome messages. Chatbots can be configured to welcome users when they land on the homepage of your online store, just as a real-life employee would welcome visitors to a brick-and-mortar store.

  • Functional customer service. Using AI chatbots or human chat support agents (or a combination of both), your ecommerce business can provide customers with immediate support for their problem, question, or search.  

  • User suggestions. Chat boxes can function as a personal assistant, offering product suggestions and helpful tips based on the user’s activity.

6. User-generated content

Online brands can expand their ecommerce marketing channels by integrating user-generated content. Similar to influencer marketing, user-generated content (UGC) is media produced by consumers to promote a brand or product, often on social media. 

Unlike influencer marketing, UGC is completely free: customers actively participate in marketing your product or brand because they genuinely love it, it’s trendy, or they’re responding to a hashtag or callout. It works best when online businesses cultivate a genuine connection with their target audience. 

UGC is one of the most effective forms of ecommerce marketing because it feels credible. Just like we trust a friend’s opinion or a professional referral, we pay attention to the positive things said about a brand or product online. To earn the admiration of new customers, try these tactics.

  • Host competitions and giveaways. Giving away products they love in exchange for their shared endorsements can be a win-win for you and your followers. This not only exposes your product to their followers, it allows you to re-share customers’ content on your own channels. 

  • Solicit feedback. Always follow up with customers and ask them to leave you a review. Asking shows them that you value their opinions. You can also tap customers by product type or demographic to participate in surveys or user feedback sessions.

  • Use customers’ own words. Especially if copywriting or writing product descriptions is not your strength, look at how your most enthusiastic customers describe your products. Reflecting the language of your customers on your website creates feelings of familiarity and positive associations.

7. Loyalty and affiliate programs

Loyalty and affiliate programs reward customers for their consistent patronage at your online store and provide them with valuable, exclusive opportunities to interact with you. The appeals to get customers to join these programs are often discounts or points, which customers accrue through their repeated purchases or by providing reviews or referrals.

Setting up a loyalty program may feel daunting, but there are many plug-ins and apps that make it fairly straightforward. Here are a few tips for ensuring that yours is both successful and appealing to your customers.

  • Consider your goals. Your rewards and how you distribute them should reflect your brand’s marketing goals. For example, an up-and-coming coffee distributor might run a giveaway to drive awareness of a new product, and offer discounts to long-time customers as thanks for their support.

  • Make it frictionless to join. You’ve already captured a customer’s contact information through the checkout process, so don’t make them re-enter it unless absolutely necessary. Many loyalty and affiliate programs will automatically enroll customers after a purchase, with the option to opt out at any time.  

  • Provide a range of rewards. A points-based program might offer birthday gift cards, special promos, or free shipping. Higher-priced subscription tiers might offer exclusive perks like behind-the-scenes material, limited-edition products, or even early releases.

8. Text marketing

While many of these marketing strategies may seem status quo, one that’s just taking off is SMS marketing. Texting directly with customers, leads, and shoppers is a highly effective way to get and keep consumers’ attention and turn visits into sales. Why? Because you’re reaching customers where they increasingly spend their time — on their mobile devices. 

Our phones are where we do nearly everything, these days, so if you’re not getting your shoppers’ attention on their phones, you’re missing out. More than half of all organic search traffic was on mobile devices last year, and nearly 70 percent of all email campaigns are now opened on a phone. One reason Emotive promises at least a 5X return on investment is that our users see rapid growth and responses to their Ecommerce SMS campaigns. 

Worried about privacy and spamming? Consider this: 75 percent of people in a Campaign Monitor survey say they’d be happy to receive an offer via SMS. For Gen Z and Millennial consumers, who reportedly never check their email anyway, 52 percent say they’re willing to share a phone number in exchange for branded text messages. If you’re ready to get started, here are the keys to successful text marketing.

  • Make it easy. Text marketing begins by building your list of contacts. That means making it easy for new shoppers to opt in with appealing ads and website pop-ups, transparent messaging about terms and conditions, and quick confirmations with immediate incentives to visit your site. 

  • Make it personal. Lots of services offer ways to blast your contact list with a one-way message. But you’ll get a better response if your texts feel like a two-way conversation. Greet your customers by name, reference a past purchase or product that interested them, offer them customized incentives, and be ready to refer them to a product page or customer service if needed. 

  • Make it regular. Just as with a text thread between friends, brands can stay top-of-mind by communicating regularly: about 5 to 8 interactions per month. By building long-term relationships with individual customers, you can increase both their customer lifetime value (LTV) and average order value (AOV.) You can also automate text messages to shoppers who’ve abandoned a shopping cart, are eligible for free shipping, or qualify for a discount code.

Put it all together

Research finds that consumers are more likely to make purchases as a result of multiple interactions with a brand. But it also finds that consumers are fickle and impulsive, that they often like to browse before shopping and that they’re vulnerable to competing items and offers. 

So once you’ve decided on your marketing strategy and the tactics that will work best for your business, it’s time to put it all together. Most businesses will succeed by deploying an approach that integrates multiple marketing channels together. Be sure to read our article on how to choose the best ecommerce platform for your business.

We’d love to help you leverage your marketing strategy into building a successful business. Contact us today and schedule a demo to get started.