8 Proven Ecommerce Marketing Strategies To Use This Year

Mitchel White
March 4, 2021

2021 is an exciting year for eCommerce. With no choice but to shop online, the last bastion of high-street shoppers have joined the digital fray. Increased competition has resulted in a reshaping of many a business’ advertising plans and marketing goals.

As businesses took 2020 to respond to the closure of their brick-and-mortar stores, 2021 is the year in which they will fully implement their updated strategies. Competitive retailers have been clutching at innovative ways in which they can reach out to both their target audiences and new demographics. Savvy customers have probably noticed the more obnoxious of these attempts.

That’s why at Reward Agency, we’ve put together 8 of the best ecommerce marketing strategies to help make your 2021 sale goals successful.

1 – Optimise for Core Web Vitals

As a marketing agency, we’re surprised to see how many businesses still fail to factor SEO into their sites. You may have heard the terms before – keywords, link-building, off-page, optimised product pages etc. However, a new phrase to add to your vernacular for the year is ‘Core Web Vitals.’ Coming into effect in May, the Core Web Vitals are a part of Google’s Page Experience Update and will redefine how it ranks web content.

The Core Web Vitals pertain to how Google judges a website’s user experience: namely, whether it views a site’s design as user-friendly or not. It measures three speed-based metrics that relate to the overall user experience. ‘Largest Contentful Paint’ is a speed test that measures load times. ‘First Input Delay,’ measures site interactivity and responsiveness. Finally, ‘Cumulative Layout Shift’ tests visual stability. Essentially, the Core Web Vitals metrics are going to measure the speed at which your pages load, become interactive and visually stabilise for your users.

2021 is going to see many attempts to patch-up older web design so that sites aren’t left behind come May. Any websites that fail the Core Web Vitals test will rank drastically lower than when compared to how they did earlier this year. The first step in any online retailer’s 2021 marketing plan lies in having a properly optimised website to promote.

2 – Adopt Referral Marketing Strategies

Referral marketing employs the use of recommendations and word of mouth to grow a customer base. One of the most effective eCommerce marketing strategies, it’s also one of the most versatile. Referrals can take many forms, such as reviews, testimonials and refer-a-friend-schemes. At its core, it’s a strategy that’s all about incentivising your existing customers to encourage their friends to try a product.

From a consumer’s point of view, too many marketing messages can be tiresome and appear impersonal. However, customers are far more likely to trust a person than a company. Nielsen says 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. In fact, studies show that customers acquired through word-of-mouth spend twice as much and make twice as many referrals themselves. In 2021, we expect to see the number of referral programs on the rise. The most successful referral campaigns will reward customers with a bonus when they sign up a friend.

However, a word of warning – insincere reviews and referrals are immediately obvious. We’ve all seen examples of shoddy products that have the same nondescript, stock 5* review.  For your referral strategies to succeed, customer praise has to be earned and warranted. The best way to achieve this is by providing high-quality products or standing by a strong ethos and meaningful brand narrative. For example, your marketing strategies may centre on how and why you started your company. How your products were chosen. Why you are the ethical alternative that customers are looking for.

3 – Offer Free Shipping

Often overlooked but one of the most useful eCommerce marketing strategies, free shipping is an effective way to incentivise a purchase. This is even more true as small businesses attempt to compete with Amazon and free Prime deliveries. According to one study,  93% of online shoppers buy more items when given a free shipping option. If customers feel like they’re saving money on postage, then they’re likely to funnel those savings back into an additional item.

As free shipping encourages people to complete a purchase, brands often nudge shoppers to spend more money to qualify for the service. Let’s say a shopper has to spend £20 to qualify for free shipping. They’re basket contains £17 worth of goods. The logical step would be to advertise a cheaper item, at least £3 in value on the checkout page. Whether or not this particular strategy is ethical is a different story. However one thing remains true – if you fail to provide free shipping, your customers may be looking for a competitor who will.

4 – Encourage User Generated Content

User Generated Content is any form of content, including text, videos and images that has been created by a user, as opposed to a brand. In a recent AdWeek report, 85% of users say visual UGC is more influential than brand-generated content when considering a purchase.

In fact, a People Claim report states that 51% of millennials say that user-generated content from strangers is more likely to influence their buying decisions than recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues.

Typically, users aren’t paid to post content about a brand, so it’s best to let the quality of your product speak for itself. If you can successfully create buzz about your product, you’ll find that your users will want to share images of it on social media. You may even pepper your Instagram stories with requests to see how your customers are enjoying your products.

However, it’s critical that you acquire express permission when sharing your audience’s content. Most people would be grateful for the recognition, but it’s essential that you give them the choice. In the same vein, give clear credit to the original author by tagging them directly in the shared post.

It’s also important to share content created by a variety of users. If you demonstrate that your brand is enjoyed by a large range of people, you cement the message that your products have genuine benefits.

5 – Adopt Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing, in many ways, it’s similar to referral marketing, only on a larger scale. One of the most recent eCommerce marketing strategies, influencer marketing is centred around gaining endorsements and product mentions from prominent figures across social media. Studies show that 89% of all marketers find the return on investment (ROI) from influencer marketing comparable to or better than other strategies.

However, when choosing an influencer for a brand endorsement, bigger does not necessarily mean better. An influencer with a larger audience won’t necessarily translate to engagement for your brand. In fact, smaller influencers, known as micro influencers, are more likely to help your campaign succeed. According to Digiday, Instagram influencers that have a follow of 10,000 to 100,000 usually receive better engagement (2.4% like rate) than compared to those that have 1 million to 10 million followers (1.7% like rate).

When planning your 2021 marketing strategies, set aside a budget for influencer brand deals. If done correctly (openly and honestly), you’ll gain credibility within a niche market.

6 – Update Your Email Marketing

When it comes to email marketing, visuals reign supreme. Humans are better at processing images than text. According to Thermopylae Sciences, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of email marketing goes wrong. A lot of companies are eager to saturate their emails with as much information as possible. Marketing managers may be excited to share updates about their brand. They may simply wish to drip feed as much product information to the customer as possible, hoping that some of it sticks.

According to Get Data, the number one reason people unsubscribe from emails is because they receive too many. Reason number two is that many emails look like spam. If your emails are alienating your customers, they’re doing more harm than good. The revenue that you make from your campaign may pale in comparison to the revenue lost from unsubscribing customers.

You can circumvent the risks with pared down, compelling copy and dynamic images. You want your subject line to urge your readers to click, but if you overdo it, then you’re at risk of being pushy. Be sparing in your use of imperative words, particularly when the situation doesn’t call for them.

In 2021, expect savvy brands to rethink their approach to email marketing – there will be a move away from the traditional newsletter format and a move towards a visual ‘moodboard.’ Emails should be eye-candy, a set of high quality images and GIFs that summarise the best that your brand has to offer. Think Pinterest over WattPad.

7 – Convert Wishlists with Discounts

One of the eCommerce marketing strategies that speak for itself, wish lists tell a very clear message. They detail which of your products have a high potential to convert. It’s in the name – your customers wish to buy those products. As an eCommerce marketer, it pays to pay attention. If a customer adds an item to a wishlist without completing a purchase, they likely want to spend the money but lack the funds or an incentive to do so. The traditional response to forgotten wishlist items has been to send a customer a reminder email. However, what if the customer is well aware of the things they’d like to purchase but is not quite in a position to spend the money?

In 2021, wishlist discounts provide an attractive incentive for customers who may have been holding off on a purchase due to the cost. Rather than just reminding customers of the items they’d like, they incentivise them with a call to action – a personalised discount, dynamically priced to suit their budget. You’ll create a feeling of exclusivity and increase your chances of converting wishlist items into concrete sales.

8 – Sell on Social

In 2020, Facebook launched Shops for both Facebook and Instagram, allowing users to shop directly on the platforms themselves. With social commerce, the entire purchasing journey – from product discovery to the checkout – takes place right on social media. For example, with Instagram’s checkout, customers can visit a shop from a business’ Instagram profile or through feed and Stories. Once they’re there, people can browse products, explore collections and make a purchase, all without leaving the app. In fact, if your target audience lies in the 18-to-34 age range, there’s a decent chance that they’re willing to shop as they scroll. For instance, 48% of U.S. internet users belonging to the age group made a purchase on social media in 2019. Come 2021, eCommerce brands have double the task – to ensure that their core website is optimised and to set up attractive social media shops wherever possible.

What do these eCommerce marketing strategies have in common? They focus on understanding the user and how they go about the purchasing journey. Today’s marketing is user-focused, omni-channel and visually compelling. As always – you have to put yourself in the mind of the customer for any marketing strategy to succeed.

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