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Running an e-commerce business is always tempting. Drop-shipping seems like the easiest way forward: no need to keep stock, run light with just a website connecting clients with product suppliers. However, promoting an e-commerce business is becoming harder each year, with more and more players entering the market. Ad prices go up, competition is getting smarter, and you need to stay ahead of the curve.
Here is what you can do, and we will use a little company called “Amazon” as an example.
You need word of mouth to help you promote your business early on. Amazon is known for apparently not spending any money on marketing early on. However, there is a catch. By chance (or potentially due to someone in the company having connections in the “journalism world”), in 1996 an article is published in Wall Street Journal. It talks about a “whiz kid” – aka Jeff Bezos.
A huge business magazine read by thousands of people. Naturally, other sources wrote about the company too, and so the word spread. Publicity pays. Free publicity? Amazing. Free publicity in one of the biggest publications in the U.S. – priceless.
Leverage your connections. Get in touch with journalists and writers. If your store is unique or/and has a clear message that might be appealing to the publication’s audience, send them your pitch. Get in touch with people on Twitter, send cold emails, and see if someone decides to write about the “next Amazon” (your online store).
What’s your niche
Hopefully, if you are running an e-commerce website, you have gone through the whole process of product validation and finding first adopters. In that case, you know who you should be targeting. Amazon started out with just selling books. Simple as that. They didn’t sell electronics, furniture, etc. Bezos laser-focused on one product, and one product only – books.
Same thing applies to your audience. If you are selling memorabilia for men over 60, living in Texas – then focus on that niche. Find Facebook groups, online forums and offline gatherings where you could push your product to them. You may have to pay organisers fees, but sometimes they may agree to tell their members about your website in return for commission fee on each product sold. More than that – if they see enough value in it, they may even do it for free! (It’s all about how deep your networking connections go and how much of a rapport you have built with them).
Get the viral effect going
The Facebook network effect is possible with any business really. All you need is for customers to tell their friends about you, and for them to talk to their friends, and so on. Virality is possible without a huge investment into marketing. Amazon achieved such virality by the means of creating the most popular referral program in the world. Nowadays it’s very easy to join – you copy a link, paste it into your website, and if the reader clicks on the link and buys the product – you get a %.
Naturally, if you had a website about books, or you blogged about books, Amazon was your goldmine back in the 90’s. Implementing a referral program can be difficult without the technical knowledge, but there are plugins you can use (for example with shopify), that can help with that. (Ex) Get £15 credit by inviting a friend – send this 10% discount to them!).
Amazon is known as one of the first websites to introduce the review system for each product. The system has been known to have been abused by bots, and competitors looking to decrease the other vendors’ ratings, however it still works. Always ask clients to complete a review for the purchased product – and early on, follow up on those reviews! Thank them for taking the time to write about you, ask questions of unsatisfied customers – chances are, by doing so, you will be able to retarget every client that has left a review!
And speaking of retargeting – email is far from dead. It’s 2020, email is very much alive. Amazon has done a fantastic job at email marketing. While their product suggestions…could be better, to say the least, they have gone all out to promote themselves and their new products to clients. Next time you open an email from Amazon, take sometime to look through it. Amazon constantly experiments with the structure of the email, be it for their regular Amazon products, Amazon Prime or Amazon Kindle.
Lesson here? Always try to collect emails. A customer is buying a cactus from your e-store? Great, ask them for their email at checkout. What do you do with that email afterwards? Send them cactus suggestions, information on how to take care of the cactus…and more cactus stuff. Things they care about. When done well, email campaigns can do wonders for increasing the LTV (Lifetime value) of each customer and for re-engagement.
Social Media Advertising
Amazon has not done that much with social media, however for the past seven-eight years social media has become an essential part of advertising for any e-commerce business. Facebook in particular has some of the best retargeting options out of all online advertisers, and when scaled the right way – the world can become your oyster.
Be careful with how much you spend though – platforms such as Facebook or Instagram can suck up a LOT of your budget, so make sure you know what you are doing with your money, before pouring it down the ad-juggernaut’s throat.
As an e-commerce owner you might want to reach out to some influencers and micro-influencers on Instagram and other platforms. This goes back to identifying your niche and audience. If you think that someone could reach thousands of people who would be interested in your product, then why not send them a free sample? Nowadays many of the influencers with 50K+ followers on instagram would charge you for a shoutout, however go below that number, and many would be glad to just get some free stuff. MAKE SURE TO ASK FOR A POST, NOT A STORY THOUGH! A post is there to stay. A story will be gone and forgotten in 24 hours since it’s been posted.
Last but not least. Even Amazon can’t escape the biggest advertiser of them all – Google Ads. If you even type in “amazon” in google chrome, the first thing that you will see would be an ad, placed through Google, by Amazon. And for a good reason!
Google Ads can be a fantastic source of leads – provided that you have the budget. It is recommended to do so, only if you have a large portion of money to allocate to Google Ad campaigns, or if you are rapidly scaling your business, and you have ongoing revenue to support this. Make sure that you avoid some of the more common mistakes though, so as not to waste any more money on Google Ads.
Use all of the above to extend your reach to potential clients and get a word out on the street about your e-commerce business. May the money flow to you in abundance!