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Keys To a Winning Ecommerce Strategy (Hint: Put Your Customers First)

An illustration of a successful ecommerce strategy: A person shopping on their laptop and phone
Your ecommerce strategy should include how you'll create, manage, and enhance key elements of the shopping experience. This includes aspects of your digital storefront. [Studio Science]

Here’s how to develop a holistic plan that will increase revenue and brand awareness.

You have big goals for your business: growing revenue, increasing sales, attracting new customers, and building loyalty with existing ones. But a goal without a plan is just a wish. And that’s where an ecommerce strategy comes in. 

Your ecommerce strategy is your roadmap to success. It includes everything from the technology used to build and maintain your website to the marketing tactics to bring traffic to your storefront. Here’s how to develop a customer-first ecommerce strategy that differentiates your brand and drives sales.

What you’ll learn:

What is an ecommerce strategy and why is it important?

Ecommerce has a lot of moving parts. An ecommerce strategy is a holistic plan for how you’ll build and maintain digital sales channels, attract shoppers who make purchases, and keep customers coming back. Your strategy should help you keep your eye on the prize (hint: the prize is revenue and sales) and provide a roadmap for decision making.

How to build an ecommerce strategy

An ecommerce strategy is similar to a business plan and should include:

Understand your market and target customers. While it’s tempting to think your products and services are a perfect match for everyone, the reality is that you have a target customer. Your ecommerce strategy should start with how you’ll develop a deeper understanding of these shoppers and your market. 

First, decide what data you’ll analyze. Dig into historical sales statistics and explore the demographic trends of shoppers who already buy your products. How much do they typically spend? How do they engage with your brand? You can also take a cue from your key competitors: What channels are they using to sell their products, and what personas do they market to? This information will help you focus on the areas that will bring the most revenue and value to your business.

Build an ecommerce marketing plan. Once you understand who your customers are, you can determine how to best reach them with more personalized digital experiences. Each customer segment responds to different marketing, pricing, and messaging tactics, and your ecommerce marketing strategy will help you take this into account. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also a big part of ecommerce marketing. More than half (59%) of shoppers use search engines like Google to research upcoming purchases. SEO is what ensures your products show up front and center as they browse. A good ecommerce strategy will include tactics that help you rank for the right keywords and appear in relevant search results.  

Focus on customer experience. Your ecommerce strategy should include how you’ll create, manage, and enhance key elements of the shopping experience. This includes aspects of your digital storefront like website design, product search, site navigation, product categories, and simple click paths — the things that make the difference between earning a sale and losing a customer.

Prioritize channel cohesion. Most customers (71%) use multiple channels — social media, apps, your website — when shopping, and about half (55%) feel that brands are inconsistent across channels. That’s a huge opportunity to differentiate your brand: Your ecommerce strategy should prioritize channel cohesion. Regardless of which channel shoppers use to browse and buy, the experience should be seamless and cohesive. Make it easy for customers to switch between channels and access the same products, promotions, and customer support.

Optimize post-purchase experiences. You can have the best ecommerce marketing, customer experience, and channel cohesion, but it’s all for naught if you don’t get products to your customers’ doorsteps. Order management and the post-purchase experience are critical aspects of your ecommerce strategy. How will you get products from your warehouse to the hands of your customers? What will you do to make delivery as efficient and cost-effective as possible? Choosing the right order management solutions and post-purchase partners is crucial. 

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Your ecommerce strategy should span the entire customer journey

Aside from the occasional impulse purchase (#relatable), most shopping takes place over the course of a wider journey — and your ecommerce strategy should encompass every part of it. Make sure you have a plan for each phase, including the moments before a shopper makes a purchase, during the payment process, and even post-purchase. 

The awareness phase. To build brand awareness, focus on establishing a strong online presence to reach your target audience. Build a presence on relevant social media platforms so potential customers can find and engage with you. Create and share valuable content that highlights your brand’s differentiators and the unique features and benefits your products offer. Build a community around your brand’s mission, vision, and values.  

One way to quickly grow brand awareness is with paid advertising. Create targeted digital campaigns to increase visibility and reach potential customers wherever they are online. This can include display ads, search engine marketing (SEM), and influencer partnerships.

And don’t forget about SEO. Optimize your website and content (think: product descriptions, images, video, and other ecommerce content) to improve organic search rankings. Conduct keyword research and include the right ones in your headlines and web page titles. Focus on content quality rather than quantity. This will help you bring in better leads to your ecommerce site.

The consideration phase. Now that shoppers know about your brand and your products, your ecommerce strategy should define how you’ll increase conversion rates. Focus on creating a seamless, persuasive shopping experience. Offer compelling promotions or limited-time offers to incentivize customers to buy. When it comes to top factors that make customers more likely to buy from a brand, free shipping, simple and/or free returns, and exclusive shopping events are at the top of the list. Consider these approaches to increase sales. You can also use retargeting ads to reengage with customers who’ve shown interest in your products but haven’t made a purchase.

It’s also critical to make sure your digital storefront is easy to use. Prioritize site navigation, product search, and design as part of your ecommerce strategy. Optimize product pages and provide clear product descriptions along with high-quality images. 

The decision/purchase phase. Although payment is the last step in the checkout process, brands need to think about it from the start. Make your checkout process as frictionless as possible to decrease abandoned carts. Payment is a crucial part of the customer journey: It affects user experience, checkout conversion rates, and brand loyalty. Make sure payment is simple, accurate, and safe — every time.

Your ecommerce strategy should offer a few payment methods so customers can make purchases the way they prefer. More and more, this means including digital wallets as an option. Almost two-thirds of commerce organizations (64%) now offer Apple Pay — up from 54% in 2022. As shoppers become more accustomed to convenient, one-click checkout, it’s critical to keep up with payment technology and trends to decrease abandoned carts.

Loyalty and retention. To retain customers and foster loyalty, focus on building strong relationships and providing ongoing value, even after a purchase. Implement a loyalty program that incentivizes customers to make repeat purchases, refer friends, or engage with your brand. You can offer exclusive discounts, early access to new products‌, or personalized recommendations to make shopping experiences feel exclusive. 

Define success by tracking key metrics

Once you settle on an ecommerce strategy, define what success looks like for your business. By deciding on key performance indicators (KPIs) and determining which metrics to track over time, you’ll know which areas of your business are performing well and which need improvement. Here are a few important metrics to consider:

Conversion rate: This is the percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase. A high conversion rate means your ecommerce strategy is effectively driving sales and engaging customers.

Bounce rate: Bounce rate tells you the percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate could indicate that visitors are not finding what they’re looking for or that certain aspects of your website experience need improvement.

Customer acquisition cost (CAC): CAC measures the cost of acquiring a new customer. Tracking CAC helps you assess the performance of your marketing and advertising efforts. To be profitable, your CAC should be lower than your average customer lifetime value (CLV).

Cart abandonment rate: This metric calculates the percentage of customers who add items to their shopping cart but don’t complete their purchase. A high cart abandonment rate could signal issues with the checkout process, pricing, or general customer experience. 

Website traffic: Monitoring the number of overall visitors, unique visitors, and page views helps you understand the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and the popularity of your products or services. It can also help guide your ecommerce SEO efforts, as traffic will increase when your brand appears more frequently in search engine results.

CLV: This metric helps you quantify the total value a customer brings to your business over the entire course of your relationship. By tracking CLV, you can assess the long-term profitability of your customer base and make informed decisions about customer acquisition and retention strategies.

By monitoring these metrics, you’ll be able to measure the effectiveness of your ecommerce strategy and identify areas for improvement. Remember to set goals for each metric and regularly analyze data to identify trends and patterns. Don’t forget to benchmark against industry standards and competitors, as they can provide valuable insights into the performance of your ecommerce strategy and give you a clearer picture of what kind of performance to expect. 

Gauge your ecommerce success with these key metrics

Here’s where to look to continually improve your business.

Key considerations for your ecommerce strategy

When developing an ecommerce strategy, there are several things to keep in mind to ensure success:

Brand differentiators. Who are you as a company? Clearly define your brand differentiators and unique selling propositions. Figure out what sets your brand apart from competitors and highlight it in your marketing and sales efforts. This could include product quality, customer service, pricing, or any other unique features. Your differentiators should be consistently communicated across all touchpoints to create a strong brand identity.

Customer relationships. Building strong customer relationships is crucial for ecommerce success. Focus on providing exceptional customer experiences at every stage of the shopper’s journey. This includes personalized interactions, responsive customer support, and post-purchase engagement. Gather customer feedback and use it to continually improve your products and services.

Business partnerships. Consider forming strategic partnerships with other businesses that complement your offerings. This could involve collaborations with suppliers, distributors, or even influencers. Strategic partnerships can help expand your reach — especially on valuable channels like social media — and attract new customers. They can also enhance your brand’s credibility.

Want continual improvement? Experiment, test, and iterate

An ecommerce strategy isn’t set in stone. Markets change, customer demand fluctuates, and expectations rise over time. Your strategy should guide your business decisions, but it’s important to keep it updated to reflect new trends in ecommerce and changing customer behaviors.  

You’ll need maximum flexibility to quickly make changes. The right technology will go a long way, like a trusted ecommerce platform, AI tools to help you hit your goals fast, and an order management system that helps you deliver.

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