If you were intrigued by the title of this post, chances are that you either

1. Want to work from home and think ecommerce is an easy way to do that. (False.)
2. Have a product idea you think people all over the nation (or world) would buy if they just knew about it. (Fingers crossed.)

Ecommerce has opened the doors of possibility to entrepreneurial-minded people of all ages (kidpreneurs) and backgrounds (dude still living in his parents’ basement as well as the business guru looking for a fresh idea) who want to pursue their dream of owning a business. The internet has relatively low overhead, but the money you invest should be spent wisely to give you the greatest return on your investment.

This guide will help you lay a foundation for success moving forward. Even ecommerce veterans will walk away with some practical advice and resource ideas to implement moving forward.

Let’s start with a strategy session.

Develop a Strategy With the Help of an Ecommerce Advertising Agency

  Create a Customer Avatar

Any good marketing strategy starts with a customer avatar. It’s not a blue creature that buys your stuff; it’s a basic outline of who your ideal customer would be. It’s difficult to hit a target if you don’t know what it is. So, when you think about your customer avatar, consider these questions:

  • Who would benefit from/enjoy/appreciate your product? Who did you create it for?
  • How old are they?
  • What do they like to do?
  • Where do they work?
  • What’s their annual household income?
  • What is their culture like? (Are they part of a unique subculture? Skaters, teenagers, SAHMs, gamers, etc.)
  • Do they tend to be male or female?
  • What pain points will they experience that pushes them to look for what you’re selling?

For example, pretend you sell snarky t-shirts. (If you do sell snarky t-shirts, there’s a good chance we’d like to talk to you.) Your customer avatar would be someone with a good sense of humor who has occasion to dress casually and doesn’t want the same t-shirts everyone else has. More than likely, they are males, simply because they wear t-shirts more often. Income level depends on the price point of the shirts, but most likely middle class and up. They have to be intelligent enough to get the joke but not so snooty that they won’t wear a joke on their chest. The age range would vary depending on the snark itself. Is it humor about getting old, pop culture humor, parent humor, something only a literary aficionado would understand…? You get the idea.

  Define the Sales Cycle

The next foundational piece of groundwork you need to lay is the sales cycle. How long does it take a customer to move from realizing you have a solution to their problem to actually purchasing your product? To give you an idea of what we mean, it usually takes someone longer to make a decision to buy a house than it does for them to decide to buy a pair of shoes. Houses have a longer sales cycle than shoes. Two primary factors play into the length of a sales cycle:

  • The cost (More expensive items tend to have longer sales cycles.)
  • The sense of urgency in the customer’s pain point (How badly do they need the solution?)

For example, let’s say your company manufactures plumbing widgets. You’re best known for a widget that unclogs a toilet without the use of a plunger or a snake. (Somebody please invent one of these things!) If your customer avatar is a homeowner, then the sales cycle will be pretty short. Clogged toilets create a sense of urgency. A plumbing fix like your widget isn’t something couples window shop for before deciding to buy. When they need it, they need it now! That’s a short sales cycle.

  Shopify or Woocommerce? What’s the Best Ecommerce Solution?

To qualify as an ecommerce business, you need to have a website. That’s obvious. What’s less obvious is which ecommerce solution is best. Every ecommerce digital agency probably has their own preference. There are quite a few options out there, but we prefer working with Shopify and WooCommerce.

Shopify is a standalone ecommerce platform that works for businesses up to the multi-million dollar level. (If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t reached that limit yet.) Shopify is ideal for businesses that don’t want to wrangle with the complexities that come along with managing and hosting a website. But, although it makes it easier to set up your online store, it’ll likely be a bit pricier than WooCommerce.

WooCommerce is a little more limited, but it integrates well with WordPress websites. That means it’s relatively user-friendly on the back end of the site, making it easier to customize the look and functionality of your online store. WooCommerce developers can train you if that’s the route you choose to go.

We have clients that use Shopify and others who use WooCommerce. The one that’s right for you depends on your unique needs and goals (and our developers can help you decide between the two).

  Design a Beautiful Online Store That Will Delight and Convert

It’s dangerous to assume your product photography and graphic design is “good enough”. Ecommerce designers know the importance of lighting, of highlighting features, and of making a website easy to navigate. Stick to what you know and let them make you look good. Here are four main points to keep in mind while designing your ecommerce website:

  • Make sure it’s easy for users to navigate the site and find what they’re looking for. A well-designed site makes prospective customers feel confident in the quality of your work.
  • Your product descriptions should answer all of the customer’s questions while simultaneously satisfying the search engines. Make the users’ next step blatantly obvious. “Click here to purchase” or “Click to view additional images” messages assist with navigation.
  • Make sure you’re cross-selling throughout the customer journey. In other words, make recommendations like “This product goes great with this other product” or “Don’t forget the other thing you’ll need to make that item work”. You can upsell and be helpful at the same time.
  • Finally, be a checkout rockstar. Everything was futile if the customer gets to the checkout and abandons the cart without completing the purchase. Make the checkout process as easy as possible. That means payment options are easy to see and choose. Use an abandoned cart list to send reminder emails and create retargeting lists as a means to follow up with prospective customers.

We have clients that use Shopify and others who use WooCommerce. The one that’s right for you depends on your unique needs and goals (and our developers can help you decide between the two).

Have an Ecommerce Marketing Agency Help You Implement Digital Marketing

Selling online means marketing online. As Spock would say, “It’s only logical.”

  Discover Your Brand Voice

In the same way it was important to pause and identify your customer avatar, it’s equally important to establish your brand voice. Your brand voice is the expression of your brand personality. If your brand was a person, what would that person be like? That’s your brand personality.

Here’s the deal, though. Your brand personality should get along well with your customer avatar. If your customer avatar is elite and refined, your brand personality shouldn’t be “hillbillies who hike”. Your brand voice should have a clear understanding of your buyer’s journey, which means having a basic understanding of their lives.

Use your brand voice consistently to tell your company’s story across all platforms.

  Determine How To Reach Your Customers

Online marketing opportunities expand as fast as your belly after a meal full of carbs. To narrow things down, ask yourself where your customer avatar is most likely to hang out online?

“In her natural environment, the stay at home mom hunts Pinterest for ways to keep her children entertained over the summer.” That kind of thinking.

Generally speaking, the following digital platforms serve the following groups of people. There will always be exceptions, but gives you something from which to launch ideas.

  • Facebook: Everybody over the age of 18 and their dog.
  • Instagram: Hasn’t reached the over 55 population much yet. Primarily a visual platform that requires eye-catching images.
  • Pinterest: Anyone planning major (and minor) life events. Home remodels, the next vacation, the impending birth of a child, next week’s dinner menu, and everything in between.
  • LinkedIn: The best option for B2B marketing. Primarily consists of professionals and career-minded individuals.
  • Reddit: Users tend to include more outliers and more tech-savvy thinkers. Users tend to be younger (between the ages of 18 and 29) and male.
  • Email: Anyone who has an account that they check routinely. Might skew toward people who work outside the home.
  • Google search: People with questions they want to be answered. Requires ad spend for guaranteed impressions.
  Develop a Bulletproof Content Strategy

You know who they are. You know where they are. Now it’s time to focus on a message they want to hear: the what.

Your message should be relatable to your customer avatar. It should recognize a very real pain point in their life (the beginning of the sales cycle/customer journey). And it should recommend a very practical way to solve the problem: your product.

When people are online, they tend to have short attention spans. (Those still reading this blog post are notable exceptions. Kudos to you.) As a result, the content you create for them should be easily digestible, should be relatively brief, and should have a clear call to action (their next step). You want to get the most out of every video, image, social post, and article you create. Use smart content to create super engaged users. What do they want to see more versus what annoys them after a time?

Engaged users (people who follow a call to action, like a post/page, or leave a comment) give you the opportunity to create hyper-targeted audience lists. More on those in the next section.

  Maximize Your Ad Spend

A hyper-targeted audience list is basically an army of your customer avatars. It’s a collection of people who have digitally “raised their hand” to say they’re interested in what you have to offer. Social media platforms and search engines (to an extent) enable you to use one audience (your list) to create an audience with similar characteristics (people who match the customer avatar that you haven’t found yet). You don’t want to throw ad money to the wind and hope it lands somewhere favorable. You want to spend your money on ads that will convert to sales. A targeted audience is the best bang for your buck.

  Align Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) With Sales/Marketing for the Optimal Customer Service Experience

Your marketing should never make promises that your product or service can’t deliver. Consumers will be frustrated if their purchase doesn’t meet their expectations. Create a great product. Market a great product. Deliver a great product. There’s no shortcut to those three things that will benefit your ecommerce business in the long run.

And since your customers are a prime target for reselling or becoming your brand ambassadors, you want them to have a great experience throughout the sales cycle and beyond. Consider offering discounts on companion products and accessories to maximize a customer’s lifetime value.

There are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. It’s a good investment to use an inbound platform like HubSpot or Pardot that ties marketing and the sales process together to make everything as streamlined as possible.

  Analyze and Act

One key to success for any ecommerce business is one that is often neglected on the quest for the next shiny prospect. Use data to reveal what’s working and what’s not. Analyze the following data (at least):

  • How the ad spend on each platform is performing
  • The amount and flow of website traffic
  • Email statistics like open and click-through rates
  • Store analytics
  • Phone call data

When you discover a winning strategy, double down on it. If you notice something that isn’t working, remove it or change it so that it does work. Rinse and repeat routinely to continually refine your efforts and maximize your conversions.

Conclusion

Like we said, there are a lot of moving parts in an ecommerce business. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of creating a great product AND navigating the marketing side of things, Ardent Creative would be happy to help. Check out what we’ve done for Bison Coolers’ ecommerce wing here. Or just reach out and let us know you want to talk more about this whole ecommerce thing. A consultation costs you nothing but time.

Contact Ardent