Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You’re reading Entrepreneur United States, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
Online shopping has been a growing industry for two decades now, and the Covid-19 pandemic greatly accelerated its already formidable expansion. In the United States alone, ecommerce retailers generated more than $430 billion in 2020, according to Statista. As this sector has grown, competition among its constituent businesses has increased, of course, but savvy digital marketing and its wide range of tools and tactics can give an edge, especially in conjunction with an overall strategy creates an outstanding customer experience.
Put simply, digital marketing tactics can help increase awareness of your brand. Successful campaigns not only generate leads, they also drive qualified traffic to a website, meaning your products and services are seen by prospective customers who have already shown an interest in them. Of course, the main objective remains converting such interest into sales.
Digital marketing on social media
In 2020, more than 3.6 billion people used social media channels, spending on average more than two hours online daily. By 2025, experts predict that the number of users will have grown to more than 4.4 billion. It follows then that, for an ecommerce business, social media marketing needs to be part of any growth strategy, and developing one starts with choosing the most suitable channel. Facebook remains the market leader, with 2.7 billion active users each month. However, channels like Instagram offer powerful opportunities for influencer marketing, and one of the more recently founded networks, TikTok, has quickly built a reputation as a powerful platform for user-generated content.
Advertising on social media allows for precision targeting: Your business can reach users in specific locations, within a predetermined age range and with interests matching your products. Social commerce is one of the biggest digital marketing trends within that sector — essentially a hybrid of social media and ecommerce. Facebook, for example, recently launched Facebook Shops to allow small businesses to create a shopfront directly on its social network. Instagram followed suit with Instagram Checkout and a shop tab, making direct purchases easier.
Search engine advertising
Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are not exactly new (the former encompassing optimizing a website to build organic traffic, while the latter includes paid-for options), but they remain some of the most effective pathways ecommerce businesses have to help increase sales. SEM includes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which allows potential customers to see your advert at the top of a search engine results page (provided their search terms match your campaign terms). This is an extremely targeted and cost-effective way of advertising for two reasons: First, your ecommerce business only pays when a potential buyer clicks your link. Second, anyone clicking that link is more likely to purchase your products because they have already shown an interest in them.
Google Shopping is another exciting digital marketing option. Shopping listings allow you to use visuals to support sales messages, and images may be more enticing to prospective shoppers compared to text-heavy search engine listings. Using both PPC and Google Shopping allows a company to take the proverbial “two bites at the apple”.
Banner adverts and other forms of display advertising were among the original forms of digital marketing. They may have lost some of their appeal, but remain effective if they’re well thought out and well placed, and work best when you are trying to capture those who were browsing your website but were not yet ready to purchase.
Display adverts help build brand awareness and remind users that you exist. Search engine advertising has not replaced display advertising, but it has changed the way Internet users interact with adverts. Users have become better at ignoring display adverts or even blocking them, but breaking through that barrier is possible and can deliver an excellent return on investment.