24 Tips For Marketing Your Own Web Store

Colourful baby steps

A little while ago, for a few weeks running, I asked every new Web Retailer member one simple question: What’s your biggest challenge right now?

I expected to see a very wide range of answers, but was surprised – there was a really clear theme coming through. It turned out that nearly half of new members had the same challenge: marketing. In particular, increasing traffic and buyers to their own independent online stores.

Internet marketing is a huge, complex topic. So in hindsight, it makes sense that sellers are struggling with it. To help cut through the noise, I asked twenty ecommerce sellers, consultants and suppliers to give their top tips for getting started marketing your own web store.

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Jargon Buster

Here’s a short glossary of the main internet marketing terms used in this article.

  • Affiliate marketing – where other people link to your site in return for a commission if a sale is made.
  • Branded traffic – visits from people searching for your company or product names.
  • Content marketing – creating content like blog posts and videos to attract visitors.
  • Conversion – turning passive site visitors into active buyers.
  • CRO – conversion rate optimization: systematically working to increase conversion.
  • Direct marketing – direct promotion to customers e.g. through emails.
  • Google Analytics – a tool which provides data about the visits to your site.
  • Keyword research – finding terms related to your products that people search for.
  • Personas – profiles of typical customers and their characteristics.
  • PPC – pay per click, advertising where you are charged for each ad click.
  • Retargeting – advertising on other sites to people who previously visited your site.
  • ROI – return on investment, how much is generated in sales by your spending on ads etc.
  • Shopping engine – a site where customers search for products and compare retailers and prices.
  • Subreddit – a themed sub-forum on community and social networking site Reddit.
  • UX – user experience, the overall enjoyment and satisfaction of visitors to your site.

I’m not doing great justice to these terms with such short definitions, but the goal is to help readers understand our experts’ tips. Hopefully I’ve done that without losing too much of the nuances!

1. Actively Market Your Site

Dan Burnham

Don’t assume that customers will find you just because you have a website. You need to actively market your site. Whether this is through website optimisation or paid advertising like Adwords, this costs money so have some budget set aside for this. Google is hugely dominant in driving online traffic so ensure your platform is compatible with Google’s requirements – dynamic sitemaps, well-structured pages, fast page load speeds etc.
Dan Burnham, Head of Account Management, eSellerPro

2. Research Your Target Audience

Andrew Youderian

The first step in marketing your own store is very clearly identifying who your target customers are and where they hang out. Sometimes, this can be tricky, and you need to think a bit beyond the standard scope of their using your products. For example, if you sell hiking boots there probably aren’t a lot of websites dedicated solely (no pun intended!) to hiking boots. But there are plenty of mountaineering, hiking, backpacking and outdoors sites you can approach.
Andrew Youderian, Founder, eCommerceFuel

3. Focus on Key Segments

James Gurd

Understand your target audience: who are they, where do they live, what are their likely motivations/aspirations etc. By focusing on key segments and the personas that fit within them, you put customer needs at the forefront of planning. This will help you prioritise marketing channels and activities by mapping them to your customer personas, focusing your targeting on the type of person that is most likely to respond and your messaging on what is likely to appeal to them. Without this, you are flying blind.
James Gurd, Owner, Digital Juggler

4. Study Existing Customers Too

Phil Rothwell

Sell more to your existing customers and find others just like them. Most businesses grow by focusing on the activities that already work for them. Of course, it’s important not to neglect your SEO and PPC advertising, but if you are more than a start-up then you will already have happy customers. Study who they are, what they buy and when they buy it, and use email and other direct marketing approaches to engage with them. Promote your blog and, if it’s your thing, ask them to Like you on Facebook. Finally, if they are businesses spending regularly, give them a call.
Phil Rothwell, Sales and Marketing Director, SellerDeck

5. Find Who Your Customers Listen To

Andrew Youderian

You should identify influencers in the space: authoritative websites with solid reach and a good audience, and determine how you can add value to their visitors. Can you create a valuable guide? Write compelling content for their blog? Produce a video series their visitors would find value in? Before you pitch them, make sure you have some quality examples of your work on your own site you can use as a portfolio to bolster your case that you’ll be a great content partner.
Andrew Youderian, Founder, eCommerceFuel

6. Make Sure Your Site Converts

David Jaeger

Before you do paid search make sure your site converts well. Many people try to skimp on the website but customers are paying close attention. Review your website against your competitors. Does it looks as nice and established? Would customers be as comfortable buying on your website? Ask yourself, “if I was my own prospect, where would I go?” And why? What features on each site would appeal to me? What questions am I asking that neither site is answering? Once your site design converts and you have business goals, it’s time to do some marketing.
David Jaeger, David Jaeger, Founder, Global SEM Partners

7. Be Unique and Desirable

Brandon Dupsky

Selling on your own website is totally different than selling on a marketplace. You need to focus on the “marketing” aspects of being an online retailer. How are you going to merchandise your items and how will your website “buyer experience” be unique. You need to market your retail brand, the products you are selling and the service you provide. Be unique and be desirable!
Brandon Dupsky, CEO, eCommerce Money for Nothing

8. Work on Your Product Content

Dan Burnham

Focus on content. Google has made a number of changes recently all of which reward original content. Don’t reuse the titles and descriptions from suppliers and be careful not to use the same titles or descriptions as you do on online marketplaces because the content will no longer be original and unique and will likely drive traffic to eBay or Amazon before your own store.
Dan Burnham, Head of Account Management, eSellerPro

9. Collect Buyer Emails

Neil Waterhouse

Create your own customer database by copying all of the emails from previous eBay sales and paste them into a program like Constant Contact. Then email your database weekly with any specials. Today email is still free. We have sold many containers of goods this way before the containers were even unpacked. Make sure you use an email program which does not ask for a second opt in, otherwise you will have lost 70% of your database.
Neil Waterhouse, Author of Million Dollar eBay Business From Home

10. Match Your Buyers’ Wants and Needs

Laura Greeno

You must know everything you can about your buyer – who they are, interests, likes, motivators, who they want to be, etc. Match your voice, your story, and your beautifully designed, speedy, and easy-to-navigate website with their exact lifestyle, wants and needs. After that, learn where they are hanging out online, who they already trust, then show up there (blogs, forums, social media)! Measure everything. Partner well. Research your competition. Know that paid ads can work – for both social and search.
Laura Greeno, VP Digital Marketing, Ecomdash

11. Plan Your Marketing Strategy

Prabhat Shah

Plan your webstore marketing strategy before implementing it. Planning takes a bit of time so a lot of us plunge in and get poor results. Try P.R. Smiths’s SOSTAC model to create a digital marketing plan and the RACE model to create a tactical plan. These are proven models that will improve your web presence and lead to business growth.
Prabhat Shah, Founder, DayToDayeBay

12. Use Paid Ads to Get Started Fast

David Jaeger

I’m a big believer in doing paid media first – if you have the funds (figure around $10,000 in reserve). If everything else is aligned, you can start getting real revenue and volume extremely quickly. I recommend starting with Google Shopping, Amazon Product Ads, and some basic Bing ads. As you see revenue and success from the above, I would expand to regular text ads, other shopping engines, as well as remarketing and dynamic remarketing.
David Jaeger, David Jaeger, Founder, Global SEM Partners

13. Advertise Your Best Products

Nick Cook

With unlimited resources you can pursue the full mix of marketing channels. However, most small businesses don’t have that luxury and have to focus on one channel initially. For small online retailers, Google Shopping offers the quickest and largest return. Shoppers who use Google Shopping have progressed sufficiently through the buying cycle to be ready to make a purchase. However, it is important to advertise your best products only. It’s suicidal to spend your budget on products that attract loads of interest but negligible profit. Advertise the products that give you the best return first then grow your marketing efforts from there.
Nick Cook, Ecommerce & Marketing Manager, UK WorkStore

14. Branded Traffic Converts Best

Paul Rogers

In addition to content marketing I’d also suggest investing in paid advertising, be it via paid search, paid social or things like display advertising. Also, remember that branded traffic is always going to convert best, cost less and probably be more likely to be retained customer – so branded activity is really important. UX and CRO are also really important, there’s no point in driving traffic if you’re unable to convert users.
Paul Rogers, Founder, MageSEO and Digital Marketing Manager, Session Digital

15. Don’t Just Promote Your Products

Matt Thorpe

Think about ways to add value to your website in addition to just product. You need to inspire your customers to come back to you, even when they don’t want to buy. Start communicating with customers through your website, on email, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Don’t just promote product. Promote your brand story, your brand values and your inspiration behind your company and your products. Use your blog, lots of photos and video to bring across the personality of your business. Video is massively important and it doesn’t have to be a “Hollywood-style” production. People will buy into this and will then buy your products.
Matt Thorpe, Internet Marketing Consultant, Grasshopper UK

16. Invest in Quality Content

Paul Rogers

If you don’t need to start generating revenue straight away, I’d suggest investing in SEO, as it has the lowest cost of sale and it’s likely to be your highest volume channel. These days, SEO requires significant investment, as you need to generate quality, highly relevant or top-tier coverage in order to stay on the right side of search engines. A friend of mine from TrueInterior.com recently created an infographic [Ed: about the best furniture to have sex on!] which generated coverage on the Metro, Huffington Post and lots of others – this is the kind of content I’d suggest investing in.
Paul Rogers, Founder, MageSEO

17. Balance Blogging and Social Media

Antony Chesworth

Create engaging, sharable content. Balance your time effectively between blogging and social media. Use free blogging tools like WordPress and Blogger to create fresh, engaging content for your target audience then share the content through multiple social channels; Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest are great for retail. Additionally, running frequent competitions on social channels will help rapidly grow your social following, in turn giving you lots of free exposure and regular traffic to your online shop.
Antony Chesworth, CEO & Founder, ekmPowershop

18. Tell People Your Story

Matt Thorpe

Once your have your brand story, you should then start contacting the press and bloggers to get your business featured in as many on and off-line publications as possible. You should also find other brands which you can partner with and piggyback off their audience. If nobody knows you exist then it’s pointless having a great product or pretty website!
Matt Thorpe, Internet Marketing Consultant, Grasshopper UK

19. Find the Right Place for Your Products

Shabbir Nooruddin

I’ve seen that visual products tend to do well on social media – and complicated products tend to do better on more “official” mediums like a blog post or an informational video. Getting in front of your audience is key – as you can really gauge their reaction right away and adjust accordingly.
Shabbir Nooruddin, Bootstrapping eCommerce

20. Shared Content is the Goal

Neal Kaiser

When marketing your own webstore, content is king and shared content is emperor. So in order to maximize marketing effect all content should be created with sharing in mind. Content can be paid (ads, affiliates), owned (your blog, website, social pages) and earned (the press, other blogs, social discussions). All these types of content can be shared so the top consideration should always be how to initiate and maximize sharing. One way to do this is to try and offer unique, relevant content that is valuable for your customers. Give them an insight that only you have, or offer advice, or unique perspective.
Neal Kaiser, CEO, Upshot Commerce

21. Experiment With Everything

Mark Macdonald

Try a little bit of everything, see what works, and do more of it. You could try tactfully posting your site to the appropriate subreddit, paying influential Instagram accounts to post your products, writing a link bait blog post then letting people know you wrote about them, sending free product samples to bloggers, using a tool like FunnelFeed or Jooicer to auto-favorite related tweets, doing keyword research and creating content to help you rank in search engines, interviewing experts in your industry and experimenting with Facebook Ads and Google Adwords.
Mark Macdonald, Content Manager, Shopify

22. Find the Best Channels for You

Nenad Cetkovic

Efficiency is the key. You need to find a way of using appropriate acquisition channels, such as sponsored links, comparison shopping engines, retargeting, social media, affiliates, ad-exchange platforms etc, to drive as much qualified traffic as possible to your site – at the optimal cost. Also, make sure you optimise your marketing ROI. Tracking and testing are key to finding out which channels are profitable for you and working for your specific needs.
Nenad Cetkovic, Chief Operating Officer, Lengow

23. Track What Works and What Doesn’t

Neil Waterhouse

We have more than doubled our sales by opening independent websites for each eBay store we own. Today 56% of our revenue comes from our independent websites. The most important part of marketing your website is tracking what works and what doesn’t so you can spend more time and money on what works and less on the rest. The most popular way to do this is to setup a free Google Analytics account and then setup the “goals”.
Neil Waterhouse, Author of Million Dollar eBay Business From Home

24. Enjoy The Freedom

Brandon Dupsky

Marketplaces are an easy place to start because they take care of the hard parts of marketing. But the real deal is when you can succeed on your own website. You’ll feel free at last and enjoy the extra profits.
Brandon Dupsky, CEO, eCommerce Money for Nothing

In Closing

Our experts have given tips on just about every aspect of internet marketing from customer research, branding and site optimization, through email marketing and advertising, to content creation, social media, tracking and testing.

I hope this article has helped give you a broad view of what is involved in marketing an online store, and some firm ideas of where you should start.

I’d like to thank all of our experts for their time and effort giving their tips, and would love to hear what you think in the comments below! How will you start marketing your own online store?

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