What is E-Commerce Marketing? Platforms, Strategies, & Tools


“E-commerce marketing pertains to activities that guide shoppers through the conversion funnel.”

In this article, we will look at the concept of e-commerce, different e-commerce business models, top e-commerce platforms, and how to create an e-commerce marketing strategy and the tools required to execute it. 

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What Is E-Commerce?

E-Commerce (Electronic Commerce) is the process of buying or selling products or services over the internet.

While the term e-commerce is commonly used to refer to online shopping of products and services. It includes monetary or data transactions through the internet. For example, along with online shopping stores, online auctions, wholesalers, subscription-based businesses, sales of digital products (such as e-books, software, video courses, audio, etc.), crowdfunding platforms, online marketplaces, etc. are all part of e-commerce.

A user subscribing to a premium Netflix plan or an organization working with a freelancer through platforms like Upwork or Freelancer, both can be referred to as e-commerce.

There are four most commonly used e-commerce business models that facilitate trade between a buyer and seller. Let’s look at them in the next section:

4 Types of E-Commerce Business Models

Representation of the Types of E-Commerce Business Models

Let’s look at the four types of e-commerce business models in brief:

  1. Business to Consumer (B2C): In the B2C business model, the business sells its offerings directly to end-users. Online retailers base their business on the B2C model.
  2. Business to Business (B2B): A business provides its offerings to other businesses in the B2B business model. Organizations that offer B2B SaaS (Software as a Service) products or sell products in bulk follow the B2B model.
  3. Consumer to Consumer (C2C): In this model, the transaction takes place between two customers. A user selling their pre-owned goods to other consumers is an example of the C2C model.
  4. Consumer to Business (C2B): C2B e-commerce takes place when a consumer offers value to a business. Online portals that provide freelance services is an example of the C2B business model.

What Is an E-Commerce Platform?

An e-commerce platform is a software application that enables businesses to set up and manage an online store.

The application comes with all the necessary tools required to market and sell the products. It also allows business owners to review the store performance, manage inventory, define product pricing, and run promotions.

Like any enterprise software, an e-commerce platform can be on premise or cloud based. Most SMBs prefer a cloud-based e-commerce platform as the upfront investment is almost negligent, and they have the freedom to scale-up or down the usage without making any significant changes in the business.

6 Top E-Commerce Platforms

Representation of Popular E-Commerce Platforms

Let’s look at six of the most commonly used e-commerce platforms. Different platforms offer a different set of functionalities; therefore, not all these platforms may be suitable for your business. Make sure to research each of these platforms before zeroing in on one option.

1. Shopify

Shopify offers a SaaS E-commerce platform for small businesses, boutique stores, or artisans. The intuitiveness of the platform makes it very easy to set up and manage an online store.

Shopify allows you to build an online store and offers features such as social commerce, Facebook ads, a POS system, etc.

The basic plan starts at $29/month and goes up to $299/month. Shopify enables enterprises to set up their store through Shopify Gold. Hobbyists can subscribe to their Lite plan ($9/month) to test the waters.

2. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open-source e-commerce plugin for websites built on WordPress. It offers features provided by most run-of-the-mill e-commerce platforms that enable store owners to manage end-to-end operations.

Although the plugin is used by different types of businesses, you need to work with developers who are comfortable with WordPress and WooCommerce to scale its functionality.

3. BigCommerce

BigCommerce offers its product in two categories viz. Enterprise and Essentials. BigCommerce offers a wide array of features like Shopify and WooCommerce. The platform can be integrated with social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), Amazon, Google Shopping, Square, and eBay. This complexity yields a steep learning curve for beginners.

BigCommerce’s basic plan starts at approximately $30/month. For enterprise requirements, BigCommerce provides a customized quote.

4. Magento

Magento is an on-premise, open-source platform that you can install on your servers. Magento 2 is an open-source variant that is hosted in the cloud.

As Magento is hosted at your location, it provides complete authority over your data. One downside to it is that you must manage the security updates and other maintenances required by any on-premise servers.

 5. Wix

Wix is a website building tool that allows you to set up online stores. Its drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to develop an e-commerce website with minimal to no coding requirements.

Although Wix allows you to manage the store, set up product pages, coupons, discounts, and payment methods, keep in mind that it’s not a full-fledged e-commerce platform.

Wix offers a free plan and you can upgrade to the premium plan at $29/month.

6. Squarespace

Squarespace is another e-commerce platform in the vein of Wix and suitable for anyone not looking to get into the technicalities that come with Magento and other comprehensive platforms.

Squarespace allows you to develop aesthetically pleasing websites, but a major shortcoming of the platform is its limited payment gateways (it currently only supports Apple Pay and Stripe     ) and shipping options.

The e-commerce compatible plan starts from $18/month, but to get the full range of features, they recommended you subscribe to its Commerce plan priced at $26/month. 

What Is E-Commerce Marketing?

E-commerce marketing pertains to activities that guide prospects through the conversion funnel. E-commerce marketing enables the following:

  1. Creating awareness about your e-commerce store
  2. Driving traffic to the store
  3. Converting visitors into paying customers

5 Steps to Document an E-Commerce Marketing Plan

Before getting into developing an e-commerce marketing strategy, document your E-commerce marketing plan as it acts as a guide when executing the strategy.

Step 1: Define Goals and Objectives for Your Store

If you are a complete beginner, start by setting goals for your new E-commerce store – review the conversion benchmarks for your niche/industryOpens a new window , and set the goals and objectives accordingly. Setting bold goals without considering what is currently working in the industry might lead to disappointment when you review the performance later.

Existing stores should review their current performance and compare it against industry standards. If the performance is below industry benchmarks, then setting the goals as the mean between current performance and industry standards is the ideal way to go. If your performance exceeds the standards, then you can set higher goals depending on your marketing budget.

Step 2: Assess Your Target Audience and Competition

Do you know your ideal buyers? If so, what are their characteristics, interests, purchasing power, and other demographic, geographic, psychographic characteristics?

Collate all this information to create multiple buyer personas. Knowing your ideal customers will help you decide a conversion funnel that works for you.

Simultaneously, keep an eye on competitor activities to see what is working for them. Are they investing heavily in Facebook ads or creating YouTube videos? Use this information to decide the best techniques to get your e-commerce marketing plan off the ground.

Step 3: Determine the Marketing Strategies and Tactics

What activities will help you achieve your marketing goals and objectives? Knowing this will allow you to choose the marketing channels and their appropriate strategies and tactics to ensure you’re hitting your sales targets. If you are a B2C e-commerce store with aspirational sales targets, you might have to make significant investments in social media ads to reach your target audience.

If you have devised a conversion funnel, it will be easy for you to determine the marketing channels that would bring the best results for each stage. For example, SEO will play a crucial role in the awareness stage, whereas email marketing will keep your leads engaged throughout the interest and desire phase.

Step 4: Build Your Martech Stack

A martech stack is a suite of applications tailored to your marketing activities. To build a martech stack for your store, identify the marketing channels you need to be on and find the tools and applications that make it easy to automate and manage marketing activities on different channels.

Choose products that offer comprehensive features to make your martech stack robust. For example, apart from the e-commerce platform, a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) and a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application will help develop the foundation for your marketing activities. So, if you choose a full-feature MAP, you don’t need to invest in a separate email marketing and social media management software.

Let’s look at the various marketing channels and recommended e-commerce tools for each category in the next section.

Creating Your E-Commerce Marketing Strategy

Running an e-commerce store is a high-octane activity. There are plenty of tasks to be done at any given time, and automation is a basic requirement.

Representation of the Steps to Create Your E-Commerce Marketing Strategy

In this section, we will look at nine e-commerce marketing strategies that will help you reach your goals.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Ranking organically on the search engine result pages (SERP) requires you to have a sound SEO strategy. Here are a few considerations to help your store rank higher up on search engines:

  1. Make your website mobile-friendly.
  2. Optimize page load time (Google PageSpeed Insights).
  3. Run an SEO audit (Ubersuggest)
  4. Perform thorough keyword research and identify keywords that you want to rank for (Google Keyword Planner).
  5. List all product, category, and blog posts and pages. Correlate target keywords and keyword phrases to each post and page and place them strategically in on-page elements such as the title, URL, header tags, text, alt text, anchor link, and so on.
  6. Strengthen your local SEO game by creating your Google My Business profile.
  7. Fix technical SEO errors such as duplicate pages. Seek help from an SEO expert if necessary.
  8. Setup your website on Google Search Console.

Other Recommended SEO Tools

  1. SEMrush
  2. Moz Keyword Explorer
  3. Site Explorer by Ahrefs

2. Content Marketing

We will expand on the concept of on-page SEO in this section. Content marketing for e-commerce websites goes beyond its conventional meaning and includes product, category, and cart pages. Copywriting is an essential component of e-commerce marketing as it contributes to effectively driving conversions.

Let’s look at the different areas where you can implement content marketing:

  1. Product pages: Headline, product description, high-res images, and demo videos.
  2. Blog Section: Create content around your niche that is valuable and informative to your prospects and customers. Example: blog posts, downloadable content, infographics, checklists, etc.
  3. Rich Media: There is a lot of space for storytelling for e-commerce stories. Try out videos, podcasts, or other interactive media to create content.

Top Content Marketing Tools

  1. Feedly
  2. Buzzsumo
  3. Google Trends
  4. Grammarly
  5. Uberflip

Learn More: 

What Is Content Marketing? Definition, Types, Best Practices, Benefits, and Examples Opens a new window

3. Email Marketing

You can significantly amp up your conversion rates if you use email marketing wisely. No matter how many ‘Email is dead’ articles surface occasionally, email is not losing its prominence in e-commerce marketing.

You can boost your list building efforts through smart marketing tactics. For example, get your website visitors to sign-up for your email list by enticing them with downloadable content or by strategically placing lead generation tools (header bars, pop-ups, etc.).

Once they sign-up to your list or provide their email address during checkout, you can initiate the appropriate email sequence. Here are a few examples of emails that you can send:

  1. A welcome sequence (drip email campaign) to new subscribers
  2. Transactional emails to keep buyers updated on their purchase (including an order confirmation, receipts/invoices, shipment, delivery confirmation, and returns/exchange emails)
  3. Promotional emails occasionally to promote upselling or cross-selling opportunities

Top Email Marketing Tools

  1. Mailchimp
  2. ConvertKit
  3. ActiveCampaign
  4. GetResponse​​​​​​

Learn More: Top 10 Best Email Marketing Services Software Platforms for 2020Opens a new window

4. Social Media Marketing

E-commerce is one of the industries that benefit tremendously from social media. The reason is the user intent while scrolling social media, plus the product ads are not always perceived as an intrusion.

Social media is ideal for e-commerce also because it is a visual medium and thus makes it is easy to persuade people through images and videos.

Apart from the generous use of social ads to reach your target audience, the rise of social commerce such as Instagram Shopping is going to facilitate your e-commerce marketing efforts in the future.

Top Social Media Tools

  1. HootSuite
  2. Sprout Social
  3. AdEspresso
  4. Buffer

Learn More: What Is Social Media Marketing? Platforms, Strategies, Tools, Benefits and Best PracticesOpens a new window

5. Paid Advertising

Once you have peaked your reach through organic ways, your e-commerce store revenue becomes a function of the money you spend in ads. That’s why almost every successful online store invests heavily in paid ads (search ads, social media ads, native ads, etc.) that target each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Here is how you can begin with your paid advertising efforts:

  1. Invest in search ads and Google Shopping ads to target the awareness stage
  2. Target people who visited your site but didn’t complete the purchase through remarketing ads
  3. Expand your target audience through lookalike audience ads

6. Influencer Marketing

People are influenced by people they trust. Users would rather trust a celebrity or an expert in their niche than a brand, that’s why e-commerce stores are now investing in influencer marketing.

In influencer marketing, you collaborate with celebrities or users with a significant fan following to act as brand ambassadors. You provide them with the content guidelines as the aim is not to sound too pushy about your products. Once they share the content on their social media accounts, you evaluate the performance.

Top Influencer Marketing Tools

  1. Followerwonk
  2. Kred
  3. HypeAuditor

7. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

The conversion rate is perhaps the most important metric for any e-commerce store. It is the number of visitors converted per hundred visitors. Here are four ways that can improve the conversion rate of e-commerce stores:

  1. Recommendation Engine: Recommendation engines personalize the shopping experience by suggesting products to visitors based on their purchase and website browsing history.
  2. Cart Abandonment: Cart abandonment software sends reminder emails to shoppers who left the website without completing the purchase. E-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce offer this feature as a part of their product.
  3. Lead Generation: These tools help you guide shoppers through the conversion funnel via exit intent pop-ups, opt-in forms, and social proof notifications.

Top CRO Tools

  1. Sumo
  2. OptinMonster
  3. TrustPulse
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8. Customer Service and Support

Online stores face occasional hiccups in the logistics, inviting angry customers concerned about their orders. To tackle this effectively, e-commerce stores need to have a prompt customer service department in place.

Shoppers should be able to communicate with you through the phone, emails, or live chat. In addition to traditional mediums, e-commerce stores need to experiment with conversational AI so that they can communicate with shoppers in real-time via digital assistants, messenger apps, and chatbots.

Top Customer Service and Support Tools

  1. Zendesk
  2. Freshdesk
  3. Intercom

9. Marketing Analytics

One of the crucial aspects of CRO is testing various elements of your website. Additionally, tracking the store performance helps you evaluate the impact of these changes.

Having analytics tools in place will help you track all these aspects. Quantitative analytics tools measure quantitative data, such as visits, conversions, page views, bounce rate, etc.

On the other hand, qualitative analytics tool uses heatmaps, user session recordings, and funnel visualization to run A/B tests and understand the qualitative performance of the website.

Top Marketing Analytics Tools

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Hotjar
  3. Optimizely
  4. Crazy Egg
  5. Kissmetrics​​​​​​​Opens a new window  

Over to You

E-commerce marketing may seem complicated with all these methodologies stacked on top of each other. But the key to successful execution is to build a martech stack that automates mundane tasks so that store owners and marketers can focus on growing their business.

If you have any questions about E-commerce marketing, ask us on LinkedInOpens a new window , FacebookOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window .​​​​​​​