You have a good, compelling product that customers like. You have a good, efficient process that reduces friction in the purchase journey. Your fulfillment process gets products to customers quickly.
However, none of that matters if nobody has ever heard of you.
That’s why having a good ecommerce strategy is so important. An ecommerce strategy is not unlike a go-to-market digital marketing campaign, where you promote your product to grow sales. It goes beyond just marketing to include every part of a product and is vital to engaging new and returning customers and increasing demand.
Ecommerce sales have grown, from 17.8% of all sales in 2020 to an estimated 21% in 2022 and 24.5% in 2025. This is a trillion dollar online shopping market — which means there are a lot of players vying for customer attention.
Those with a defined and refined ecommerce strategy stand to get a piece of this increasingly large pie.
A holistic ecommerce strategy starts at product development. From the start, products should be built with functionality that understands customer needs and works to fill them. Product development should be thoughtful, data-driven and consider all factors of a product’s lifecycle.
How will new products be developed? Will your ecommerce brand build them in-house or will they be done by a third-party? Will you evolve current products or create something that is totally new?
Ideally, of course, you’re creating a product that has a market need. What is that specific need and how are other products attempting to fill — or not fill — it? You should be looking at what kind of demand your product might have and how you can differentiate it from competing offerings. This will form the basis of your ecommerce marketing strategy.
You have a product blueprint, so how does it get built? Developing a healthy and reliable supply chain is key to actually delivering products to your ecommerce store. It must be cost-efficient to procure materials, build products and deliver them to customers.
How many products should be developed? Will they be entirely unrelated or simply variants of the same basic product? How does a new product fit into a long-term strategy?
You should determine if something should be produced long-term or if it is a short-term product. There may be some seasonality at play, so that should be considered.
Products should be customer-centric and understand what their pain points are and how to solve them. A good ecommerce strategy understands the customer and how to appeal to them at every step of the product life cycle.
Who is the product targeting? Who will most likely benefit from it and thus buy it? Creating buyer personas that clearly lay out the type of customer that is most likely to buy a product will help define what the target audience is and what marketing tactics to use. Follow this up with email marketing or content marketing campaigns.
Branding and brand awareness can be somewhat nebulous, but in general, how does your company and product make customers feel? What does your company represent? Have a full understanding of your brand values and what you stand for.
How and where will your products be sold? Ecommerce companies have more channels than ever before, with direct to consumer, third-party platforms and even social media marketing like Facebook Ads serving as reliable channels. Social media platforms and influencer marketing are now big business and should not be ignored. If you develop a mobile app, leverage in-app notifications. Affiliate marketing is also gaining steam.
Using SEO-optimization automation tools to rank high in search engine results and determining the best way to reach customers is key to an increasing conversion rates and an effective ecommerce strategy.
What is the customer journey like? How will you support customers after they’ve made a purchase? What are shipping costs? What is the absolute order value? Being transparent about what buyers will receive and defaulting to a customer first mindset will create a good experience and encourage return purchases. This is all part of customer acquisition.
How will you get existing customers to come back? Depending on the product, repeat customers may be vital to its success or failure. There should be a strategy around regularly engaging past buyers through your growing email list and encouraging them to come back. Having ad retargeting or email campaigns with special offers specific to them is key for customer loyalty and may provide cross-selling opportunities. They’re more likely to be product evangelists in the offline world and create user-generated content through things like reviews that bring added credibility.
Products aren’t the only thing that lead to a company’s success. A strong, overarching corporate strategy that supports the organization from top to bottom will create an enterprise that is resilient and set up for long term success.
You may want to be sole owner of a company, but selling equity to outside investors or even including it as an enticement to potential employees may be wise. The influx of cash and resources can enable a business to scale quickly, although additional voices in the decision making process can have unintended consequences.
It’s never been easier to start an ecommerce company, but maintaining one and growing it requires financial resources. Whether you’re taking on loans, investors or even crowdfunding, you need to have access to capital. There should be relationships and processes in place to get this done quickly when necessary.
Talent acquisition is vital to the continued growth of a company. As a business scales up, understanding what positions need to be filled and when they should be brought on board is key. Then, having a strategy for attracting and retaining talent should be in place.
You now understand what needs to be included in an ecommerce strategy, now you have to execute on your vision. This order of operations will help guide you through the process.
These will form the foundation of your strategy. You need to define what you — and your ecommerce business — stand for. Your beliefs should be clear and align with what you’re producing. This will impact all parts of your business, from hiring to product development to branding.
Staying aligned to these values may not always be easy and can provide some challenges. However, this north star also provides guidance and clarity during uncertain times.
You need to have a deep understanding of your potential customers. You should know what their motivations are, what drives them to make a purchase and what their pain points are.
Significant research should be done to further define what your audience is. Men 18-45 isn’t a clear audience. Men 18-45 with children, incomes over $100,000 that live in sunny locations is closer to what you’re looking for. This information will shape product development, as well as branding, sales channels and customer support.
You have your company values and a clearly defined audience. Now you need to visualize what ecommerce success for your company will look like. In five years, if your company succeeds, how is that measured? This is similar to goal setting, but vision development is a little more ambiguous and leaves room for less specific metrics.
You’re near the end of this process and are ready to execute. What’s most important to your online store? At every level of your business, determine what’s the single most impactful thing they can do and then go do it. Remove blockers and start delivering on your vision.
This is a process that will never end. What you create should be considered a living document and subject to revisions as your company, customers and market changes. What is true now may not be true next year. Your ecommerce strategy should be updated as needed to reflect that.
A good ecommerce strategy sets a company up for success and should be done thoughtfully and thoroughly.
Done correctly, it will provide direction for all parts of your company. Done poorly, and you’re working without clarity and are left to guess answers to challenges instead of knowing them.
It starts with research and knowledge, about you, your company, your products and your customers. It requires a deep understanding of all issues and factors impacting your business and moves to defining what’s most important to the business and how you will deliver products to market.
Start with understanding your audience and why they may want your products. Then, ensure that your ecommerce website- be it your own site or through a third-party ecommerce platform like Amazon - has product pages that entice buyers and removes friction from the shopping cart. A good user experience means less cart abandonments and more online sales. Product descriptions, relevant content and product pages should be clear for new customers.
Lastly, have compelling messaging that reaches customers through the channels they frequent most.
The biggest advantage for ecommerce sites is the clarity and direction the process provides. A good strategy steers your path in the right direction. The downside is, the process can be resource intensive and a poorly-developed strategy can cause significant harm.