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GUEST COMMENT How to market your eCommerce brand when the chips are down

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In the last few weeks, we’ve seen eCommerce companies and their marketing teams go through some extraordinary things. Long-planned campaigns have come screeching to a halt, budgets have been frozen, staff have gone on furlough.

A survey recently conducted by Marketing Week revealed that 60% of marketers have delayed or are reviewing their budget commitments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A further 55% have paused product or service launches.

For the e-commerce managers left to keep the wheels turning, it raises the question: what can you do with what tools you already have to continue marketing and keep the cash coming in?

We’ve been working with hundreds of e-commerce companies across the world, many of whom have been asking themselves this exact question. Based on what we’ve seen, here are the key ‘cheap and dirty’ principles that we’ve seen prove effective.

  1. Focus solely on acquisition at your peril

When traffic and consumer interest is hard to come by, the gut reaction can be to try and remedy that by ramping up acquisition tactics. However, it would be a mistake to invest all of your efforts (and remaining budget) in trying to enlarge your share of the pie.

There are two reasons why. Firstly, there are diminishing returns past a certain point, and secondly, there are also significant revenue opportunities in two other key areas: conversion and loyalty. We’ll explore both of these later in this article.

  1. Your email database is your best friend – invest in it

As we all know, one of the great joys of email marketing is its low-cost scalability – theres’ an average $38 return for each $1 spent on email marketing campaigns. When budgets are cut, it’s one of your best assets – so now’s the time to optimise it.

Reviewing your email marketing strategy, there are a few key to make sure your consider:

  • Are you segmenting your email approach or still going batch-and-blast?
  • Have you tested personalising your email content?
  • Have you tried triggered emails (such as cart abandonment emails)?

As we mentioned before, this is where you’re drawing upon loyalty as a revenue opportunity rather than just new customer acquisition. Consider how you’re approaching your most loyal customers via email and see whether there’s more you can do here.

An important additional point to remember is that in these circumstances, building trust has never been more critical and the power of a solid brand can be the difference between success and failure. To that end, use email marketing beyond the promotional and transactional to nurture that trust. See the below Estee Lauder example:

Here’s another critical point that we’ve seen so many e-commerce companies miss out on: feed your email database! If you have plenty of traffic hitting your site that isn’t converting, accelerate your lead capture strategy to ensure that you can nurture these consumers until the timing is right for purchase. Your future self will thank you (as will your CFO).

  1. Consider your goals before going all-in on social media

A new report by GlobalWebIndex showed that almost 45% of consumers are devoting more time to social media during COVID-19. The question is whether this is something that you should invest your limited time and money in.

The bottom line is that if your goal is to make sales here and now, there are likely more opportunities in paid social rather than organic. Clicks are cheap, so opportunities within tools such as Facebook Lookalike audiences are reasonable ways to generate higher-intent traffic at this point.

However, if you’re playing a long game – worrying less about immediate sales and focusing more on building an engaged audience for when recovery comes about – then organic social is worth your time. Every brand is currently flooding their channels with a higher velocity of content, so it’ll take much more to stand out. The below example from our client, Milk Makeup, really demonstrates this and garnered over 39,000 likes:

  1. Now’s a great time for SEO…if you have the patience for it

SEO: sure, it’s ‘free’ but it’s also a tough, never-ending grind. Is it worth it?

One thing we’d absolutely recommend during this crisis is to get your technical SEO audit done – there are plenty of fixes here that might take your dev team a little time but can make big differences.

With the technical side complete, it’s a good time to conduct analysis on what queries are currently bringing traffic to your site and whether that aligns with what you need. Use your downtime to get a good keyword audit done.

What happens next depends on that audit and how much time you have. As you can see in the chart below, traffic is starting to ramp back up again for verticals such as fashion and electronics, so there’s opportunity out there to be had. However, your time investment may not start to show results for a while, so similar to your considerations about organic social, consider whether you can wait that long.

  1. Now is actually a really GOOD time for those website changes

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not a bad time to pick up on those website projects that may have fallen by the wayside in ‘normal’ times. There’s one big reason why: conversion.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there’s a huge revenue opportunity in your conversion rate. You could acquire all the traffic in the world, but if your conversion rate is low it will be of little use.

There’s a surprisingly high number of quick fixes you can make to move the needle here. The above example uses an overlay triggered upon site entry. By serving the right message at the right time in the customer journey like this, you’re likely to increase your chance of conversion (some of our clients have seen a 20% uplift).

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