A watertight marketing strategy is one of the single most important factors for ensuring the success of your ecommerce business. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of resources out there for budding entrepreneurs to master the art of marketing and help their businesses thrive.
Unfortunately, not all of it is accurate or even particularly helpful.
We’ve collated 12 of the most common ecommerce marketing myths that get peddled across the internet – along with advice on how to avoid falling into the same trap.
Myth #1: Don’t expect mobile visitors to convert
Thanks to mobile, there has been a huge surge in online traffic over the last several years. In fact, it’s now completely overtaken desktop usage.
This is a significant development for ecommerce merchants, as you will find that most of your customers are likely to first stumble across your website on mobile, rather than laptop or desktop. And if your website isn’t well-optimised for mobile? Well, you can wave goodbye to more than 50 percent of your possible revenue. Your potential customers who are out and about, casually browsing the internet while on the train or waiting in line for coffee, will simply go elsewhere.
The truth is that ecommerce giants like eBay and Amazon rake in thousands of mobile sales every day. So why shouldn’t you? Shoppers are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to make purchases. While mobile conversion is lower (according to Smart Insights), what figures fail to take into account is the multi-channel customer journey.
It’s exceedingly common for users to start their product research on a mobile device, before switching to a tablet, laptop or desktop to finalise the purchase. Many customers feel safer completing transactions on a computer, but this trend is dissipating. Soon, it will not feel so strange to complete a purchase on a mobile device. It’s already happening – so ecommerce merchants need to be ready.
Takeaway tip: Optimize your site for mobile as best as you can
Myth #2: Lower prices will give you the edge
This seems logical, right? Surely your customers will see that your prices are lower than the competition and come flooding through your virtual doors? The problem is that for this to work, they first need to know you exist. That means getting the word out, creating a beautiful, persuasive website, and building up some brand equity. At this point, it’s less about pricing and more about generating traffic – getting eyes on your products in the first place.
A good place to start is with a personalised email marketing strategy that offers some incentive for new customers to visit your store. Of course, it’s important to know what your competitors are charging, and why. But at this early stage, there’s no point slashing prices, as nobody will notice.
Wait until you’ve built up a solid base of followers first, before attempting to price out your rivals. And look at the bigger picture. For example, your competitor might charge a higher price for a similar product, but is that because they offer free shipping? Other incentives can work just as well as cutting costs.
Takeaway tip: Become an established merchant before you start undercutting others
Myth #3: Personalization is a waste of time
Today’s customers are not stupid. They do their research before buying anything online, and they have a lot of information to hand. Customers make their purchase decisions based on a number of factors, such as trust, pricing, ratings, reviews and how attractive/compelling your website is.
But what if every website they visit is equally good? You need an edge, something to keep their attention. You need to appeal directly to the individual. This is where personalization comes in.
Say customer X is looking for a new pair of headphones. She visits your website, which lacks any form of personalization whatsoever. So she has to spend time searching for what she wants. She may find it, but the process is time-consuming and she is a busy woman. Now say she tries a competitor’s website, which takes into account her recent search history and places the latest headphones directly on the landing page, right in her field of view. This website has saved her a job and given her exactly what she wants. Who do you think customer X is going to shop with?
Takeaway tip: Offer your customers a good level of ecommerce personalisation
Myth #4: My product is amazing – I don’t need to market it
Sure – a lot of people still argue that word of mouth is the best form of advertising you can have. And it 100% works, but it’s super slow. Unless you have a lot of time to hand, your marketing plan needs more meat than just ‘word gets around’. You should also be prepared to allocate some budget to your marketing – whether that’s money, time, or a little of both.
Here is the truth: you could have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about it, then it doesn’t matter how good it is. You won’t make any money and that will be the end of your business. With poor marketing you will have no new customers and you will quickly haemorrhage funds – it can’t be sustained for long. Do not be fooled into thinking that your shop will go viral – this really only applies to a tiny fraction of ideas on the internet. It’s not a marketing strategy.
Whatever your product and however life-altering it may be, know that marketing never stops. You must be prepared to continuously reach out and engage with your target audience, reminding them all the time of your presence and guiding them back through the sales funnel again and again. Complacency will get you nowhere.
Takeaway tip: Every business needs a marketing strategy
Myth #5: Basic segmentation is enough to boost your conversions
This is a simple one, folks. To make your marketing message more relevant and personal to your customers, you need to take segmentation further than simply categorising by age, gender and location. Everyone does that – it’s not enough.
To really boost your conversions and increase your chances of drawing back customers who’ve abandoned their shopping carts, you need to get granular with your segmentation. That means dividing into more descriptive categories, such as first-time and repeat abandoners, and those who’ve left more expensive items in their carts. Then when you come to reach out to them, your email will be more customised and appropriate to the situation – improving your chances of winning them back.
It might not make a difference whether someone is male or female, but their shopping habits and preferences might just swing it.
Takeaway tip: Go deeper with your customer segmentation to see better results
Myth #6: No-one reads commercial emails anymore
Here ye, here ye: email is alive and well. Despite what you might have heard, email is still one of the most effective ways of acquiring and converting customers – even more so than social media.
Over 90 percent of us check our emails every day, which makes it highly likely it will get noticed, if not read (that’s a whole different ballgame). In fact, the conversion power of email is estimated to be three times that of social media. With email automation, it’s possible for ecommerce merchants to create personalised campaigns that are targeted and scalable: working behind the scenes to send appropriate offers and nurture customer leads with very little input from you, once set up.
Example: According to an Experian Marketing Services study, personalised emails generate six times higher transaction rates than non-personalised email
Takeaway tip: Use email automation to create personalized campaigns that convert
Myth #7: You need to be on every social media platform
Oh yes, every marketer and his mother will tell you this. You’ve GOT to be on every social channel. Your presence must be all-knowing and all-encompassing, like some sort of digital deity.
To say otherwise might go against everything you’ve learned about social media so far, and to some extent it varies from business to business. But unless you’re a huge global brand, chances are you really don’t need to waste your energy updating every channel.
You’ll do far better directing your efforts into the channels that are proven to be popular with your particular niche, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or Vine. Do your research, see where your customers hang out, observe how they use social media, and appeal to them that way. Rather than spend hours each week bulk-scheduling tweets, you might be better served creating a visually appealing Pinterest board. It all comes down to the nature of your product.
Don’t waste time and resources on social strategies that get you nowhere.
Takeaway tip: Choose the social networks most appropriate for your audience and focus on them, rather than spreading yourself too thin
Myth #8: My site looks great, so my work is done
So you’ve finished building your website, and it really looks the part. You’ve dedicated hours to crafting creative content and taking perfect product photos. You’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself. But I’m sorry to say that the hard part isn’t over. Creating an online store that talks the talk and walks the walk is actually fairly straightforward. It’s now that the real work begins.
First off, you’ve got to have a content strategy. Not willing to create, share and collate interesting and useful content on a regular basis? Then there’s probably not much point setting up shop in the first place. To build quality, consistent traffic, you need to give your potential customers a reason to come back for more – and in the process, position yourself as an authority in your niche.
Second, you must be prepared to constantly gather and analyse your website’s data, to see what’s working and what isn’t. It’s only by acting on what your quantitative and qualitative data tells you that you can hope to improve your store’s performance. At the end of the day, it does matter that your website looks the part – but if it lacks the ability to convert traffic, well, it’s over.
There are plenty of tools out there that are designed to make almost every part of the marketing process easier, from MailChimp and Buzzsumo (email and content marketing) to Moz, SEMRush and ClickTale.
Takeaway tip: Don’t rely on intuition when it comes to the future of your business. Data is your friend – so use it well
Myth #9: Revenue is the most important metric
You’d be forgiven for obsessing about revenue as one of the most important metrics of your ecommerce store. It is, after all, your means of staying afloat, paying your overheads and running a viable business.
But it’s easy to become overly focused on revenue and forget to pay attention to other important metrics, such as conversion rate, bounce rate and clickthroughs. Without them, you could easily miss critical warning signs about the state of your business’ health. It could be that your landing pages are unconvincing, or your forms are too long and complicated.
So revenue is key, but remember to look at the bigger picture. Otherwise, you may lose valuable opportunities for improvement that could lead to greater revenue in the long run. It’s all about keeping your customers happy.
Read this previous post for advice: How To Perform An Analysis Of Your Ecommerce Data.
Takeaway tip: Analyze other metrics alongside revenue to get a holistic view of your business’ health
Myth #10: People are dying to hear your story
Do you remember the last time you visited another ecommerce website just to see what was going on with them? Unless you were doing research for your own site, the chances are you’ve never done this. Why would you? We’re all busy people, after all.
When you’re just starting out, you really don’t need to spend hours composing a beautifully moving brand story. Sure, as you gain popularity, people might start to become curious about how it all began. You can dedicate a section on your About page to feeding that curiosity. But it’s certainly not the be all and end all – and it’s not necessary to make a big deal out of it.
When all’s said and done, your customers are there to shop. If you’ve got some free time to spend writing, you’re better off optimising your product descriptions or working on your content marketing strategy.
The old 80/20 rule still applies – you shouldn’t constantly be talking about yourself. When writing content for your ecommerce website, make sure you’re always adding value for the customer. You should be writing ‘you’ far more than you find yourself saying ‘we’ or ‘I’.
Read more: Nobody Really Cares About Your Brand
Takeaway tip: Touch on your brand story, but focus more time on descriptive copy or thought leadership pieces
Myth #11: I don’t need a social conversion funnel
There are no two ways about it: actually managing to generate sales through an ecommerce store can be really difficult. Setting up is easy, making it work is hard – so you’ve got to have a strategy. Most leads require careful nurturing before you can start to make money, and a good way to do that is via social media.
Social media conversion funnels can be used to direct behaviour in various ways. You can use it to grow your social following, build up an email subscriber list, encourage downloads and even sell low-cost items.
Successful ecommerce entrepreneurs know the value of a reliable conversion funnel when it comes to their social media campaigns. The thing to remember is that it takes time. You may have to wait several weeks for people to turn into paying customers as a result of your social marketing efforts. Like SEO, it’s a long-term strategy – but it works.
Takeaway tip: Use a sophisticated conversion funnel for your social media campaigns
Myth #12: Offering discounts to cart abandoners is always a good idea
Yes: offering discounts to cart abandoners can get you the result you’re after – if that’s your only objective. But you should be careful.
Shoppers are smart. And if they realise that every time they leave items in the cart, they shortly receive an email offering a discount, then they will start to use this tactic every time. Maybe you will sell one or two more products in the short-term. But in the long-term, you’re just training your customers to abuse the system.
So by all means use this strategy. It’s been shown to be effective. But use it with discretion. Save it for the times when you stand to make the most profit, such as when the customer has several items (or an expensive item) in their shopping cart – or if they are first-time abandoners. That way, you won’t get savvy shoppers trying to swindle you later.
Takeaway tip: Use email discounts – but be sparing and strategic
To summarise, don’t believe everything you hear. There will always be conflicting opinions about what works and doesn’t work in ecommerce. Your best bet as an ecommerce merchant is to stay plugged in. Do your research, be aware of trends, and read industry publications regularly. And try things out. Testing frequently is key to discovering pain points in your customer journey and solving them. Track, record and analyse your efforts, and you will better know where to focus your time and budget.
Want to know more about succeeding with ecommerce? Read this previous post: Ecommerce Trends To Follow in 2017.
Patrick Foster: Ecommerce entrepreneur & advisor
I am a freelance ecommerce consultant and contributor to multiple marketing and ecommerce blogs. I’m passionate about business, nonprofits and all things social.
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