If you’re an eCommerce marketer, by now, you’ve read countless articles and studies about how eCommerce sales are skyrocketing, and nearly every person is now a potential customer. You’re either looking to take advantage of that new potential or trying to ensure you hang on to (and grow) your piece of this bigger pie.

Marketing is the answer to both because it helps you reach new eyeballs while also re-engaging with loyal customers ready to buy again. Knowing that it’s time to increase your budget and putting the right eCommerce marketing plan forward are two different things. So, let’s look at a few things to consider for 2021 and how to avoid mistakes that could cost you a sale.

This is a guest post from Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment company focused on helping growing businesses reach customers across the U.S. in two days or less.

Start with your most important channel

Nearly every eCommerce company starts off small and scrappy. Whether that’s where you are or where you came from, it has a perfect reminder for your marketing: don’t waste time. You need to laser-focus any early campaigns and test elements to ensure you’re reaching the right people for your products.

Fire up your dashboards and look at early engagement levels and success. Prioritize where people are and how you can easily reach them. Today’s marketing platforms make it easy to run a broad campaign across multiple social channels and search, but there’s still a lot of optimization that goes with getting every channel right. Just because you can be everywhere doesn’t mean it’s worth the time or ad spend.

Make the most of your budget by using existing data and looking at early efforts for a campaign to narrow your list of channels and prioritize the ones where customers are and where they’re receptive to your messaging. If you want to be on multiple channels, use small tests and prioritize where you see the best success. Slowly expand from there, adding channels where you perceive (and then can confirm) value.

To put it plainly: Do targeted campaigns on targeted channels, don’t launch a multichannel strategy right away.

Define today’s audience

One of the biggest lessons from 2020 was that audiences and opportunities could change significantly. You might not be selling today to who you were selling to last quarter. Instead of relying on the same framework for your next marketing campaign, dig in deep and see where your customers have shifted. Ask yourself a few big questions:

  • Are they buying differently in general?
  • How have average order sizes changed?
  • Are loss leaders or up-sells weakened? Have they been replaced?
  • Did people stock up on your products early in the pandemic?
  • Have your customers moved locations?
  • Are customer age ranges changing as more people stay home?
  • Can you still replace their local stores?

Selling in 2021 requires you to balance the customer’s past and future needs, trying to predict what no one knows for sure. The goal is to understand how you fit in their lives and what you can do based on recent information and in the future as life either stays more shut down or things open back up.

There are plenty of opportunities, but you need to do the research to understand them. For example, this 2020 consumer spending review shows that makeup, cosmetics, and fragrance sales all experienced double-digit sales declines. However, hair dyes increased sales by more than 30%. In many cases, companies sell cosmetics and hair care, so they might be tempted to think sales were slumping if they didn’t dig deep into categories and recognize the DIY necessity for many customers.

Do continue to perform market research and refine personas around age, gender, location, and purchasing power. Don’t launch marketing campaigns based on old persona data.

Offer what your audience can understand

The deals you provide should be useful and helpful at a glance, while also allowing your busiest shopper to understand what you mean fully and completely. Keep things as simple as you can based on your margins and capabilities. This is as true for your coupons and discounts as it is for your refunds and returns policies.

If you’re going to offer free shipping on certain orders, for example, stick to something that people will understand right away. One of the most common examples is offering free shipping on orders over $25. That’s much easier than offering a discount or free shipping when a customer has products from three distinct categories.

The latter may seem a little strange because it was much more common in the early days of eCommerce. Unfortunately, it has survived in some forms which make it seem appealing for growing eCommerce shops. Once place you’ll still regularly see it is at the grocery store — or on apps like Instacart — where you need to buy a certain number of items from a brand or spend a certain amount from a set of items to receive a coupon.

It’s a way for grocers to move a broader set of inventory and ties into how you shop at a grocery store, buying many different things. It can work there because you might need enough things from the list anyway that you spend a little more for a discount. In the eCommerce space, this rarely works out the same because of the selection of products most stores can offer.

Another example closer to our hearts is order processing time versus shipping times. Most customers won’t understand what a fast order processing time means for them, but they do understand shipping speeds. And they want fast shipping times. So, in your marketing, you’re likely best served by highlighting your shipping window to make the offer seem compelling.

Do simplify offers and requirements so that people won’t be confused or put off. Don’t create a complex offer that will lead to upset customers and increased customer service demands

Showcase what customers say

People want to read reviews and they trust other users more than they trust your product descriptions. This is something to use more than just on product pages because it links directly to trust and sales. According to BrightLocal, which does annual surveys on how people use reviews, some 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month and less than half of shoppers will use a business that has a rating lower than 4 stars.

The company’s data consistently shows that around 75% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. Given how trusted reviews are, it makes sense to put them near the purchase decision.

However, we recommend you take this a step or two further. Highlight user reviews and user generated content in all of your campaigns, including emails and social posts. Showcase where people use your products and how they enjoy them.

If you have a review that discusses a common customer pain point, that’s a winner. These can be complex for things like B2B software where a customer says you make the onboarding of agents simple and it’s easy to create rules for how they access data. Or it can be as straightforward as, “The shirt fits perfect and the blue is exactly like in the picture.” Give customers a voice and let them assure potential buyers.

Negative reviews are just as important. Answering quickly with the right information, support, or a mea culpa can help diffuse a tense situation and may even turn a complaint into a long-term customer. These interactions might not always make it into your eCommerce marketing but leaving poor reviews unanswered can make marketing about “great customer support” ring hollow.

Breaking it down a little more simply: Do curate and share the reviews from real customers about your products, plus respond to negative issues. Don’t ignore bad reviews or prevent any from happening so that people only rely on product descriptions

And if you’re struggling to get reviews, just ask! Nearly 75% of people who are asked will write you a review.

The present is mobile

Online shopping is moving to more mobile devices and all of your favorite ad units, like shoppable social media ads, work on customer’s phones. So, our final thought is that you’ll want to embrace where your shoppers are going.

Continually evaluate your audience to discover what’s next for them and see if it makes sense to go there. TikTok is a prime example because the platform has matured enough to move from viral Gen Z posts to an avenue for significant sales, promotions, and partnerships. TikTok influencer coach Maayan Gordon told us that some real estate agents using the service’s highly visual nature to land more leads and sales, in part because it offers a more personal feeling than websites focused solely on looking at homes for sale.

More and more interactions, including eCommerce, are moving to mobile devices. So, marketers need to start in two places. First, ensure your website is mobile-friendly and that the checkout process is easy on mobile devices. Supporting things like Apple Pay can remove friction for your shoppers.

Second, review marketing to ensure it is built to work on mobile devices across the buyer’s journey, including pushing customers to the mobile version of your site or assets that are mobile-friendly. Don’t send someone to an eBook that they have to pinch and zoom on every page to be able to read it. Your goal here is to keep them engaged, and not force them to change devices or settings to take the next step.

Do optimize your website, assets, and campaigns for mobile devices. Don’t assume people are going to shop on their PCs or are willing to see an ad on a phone and then change devices just to buy from you.

Put it all together and you’ve got some clear guidance on how best to approach and optimize your eCommerce marketing campaigns. From here, it’s all about finding the right hook and offer to get the deal done.

Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.