If you own or manage a small or medium-sized business, you know that e-commerce has taken on powerful new dimensions in the last year. Already rapidly growing before the arrival of COVID-19, digital sales, especially when coupled with express delivery to meet immediate demands, have become an essential lifeline for retailers across the country, including those that once relied exclusively on brick-and-mortar transactions.
For B2B organizations, e-commerce has similarly gained momentum. According to a McKinsey survey, “sales leaders on average rate digital channels approximately twice as important now as they were before” the pandemic, and B2B companies now score digital interactions as being two to three times more important to their customers than traditional pathways.
For most small companies, then, the question is not whether to prioritize e-commerce. The real question is this: do you have a digital marketing plan that can keep up with your ambitions for e-commerce growth and success?
If you are not reaching and engaging existing and potential new customers consistently and effectively, you are failing to maintain and build your audience. If you are not marshalling the full scale of your digital resources toward the goal of completing more sales, you can be sure that somewhere, one of your competitors is doing so. To make sure your digital marketing plan is in top working order, consider these essential steps:
Not everyone can be, should be, or will be your customer. Your digital efforts should be directed with laser-like precision on those who want and need what you are selling. So, the first part of your digital plan should be to establish and refine the definition of your target audience. You should clearly spell out who you hope to reach, what their interests are, and how they prefer to communicate. What motivates them? How do they receive news, gather information, and keep up with friends? Using demographic metrics, create a clear picture of the ages, lifestyles, likely professions, and other characteristics of potential buyers. If your target audience includes international buyers, you need to understand the specific cultural considerations and shopping preferences that may inform their decision-making. Ultimately, the only way to communicate effectively with your audience is to understand how they talk and what they like to talk about.
Armed with knowledge about your audience, you can establish specific digital marketing goals. Instead of trying to immediately connect with all your target customers via multiple channels, for instance, consider aiming first for the segment that will have the largest impact, and the channel that will produce the best results.
Goals should be tailored by type of business and overarching objectives, but some example metrics to work toward include:
The arsenal of tools available to reach your digital audience is vast. Among many tools, they can include your website and email marketing, paid and owned social media, and targeted paid digital advertising. Focus first on building and maintaining a robust website with real-time customer service and strong content, including helpful video features, brand information and useful images. You should prioritize Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which plays a critical role in the success of your marketing efforts, particularly as it relates to discoverability on search engines like Google. SEO is greatly impacted by strong content, which is defined as leveraging intent-driven keywords throughout your website as well as building in engaging content such as infographics or other timely insightful information. In a nutshell, the key to success with SEO is to provide information that your customers are looking for. Consider establishing a blog – one that will allow your company to stake out a thought leadership position, and help you connect with new customers.
Next, get your social media strategy in order, and ensure that it reflects your audience. Are you customers more Facebook, or TikTok? Social media will not only improve brand awareness and search ranking, but it will also help you learn about your customers and engage with them. Ultimately, it will move your customers to become more invested in your brand.
For small and medium-sized e-commerce companies looking to maintain business and grow in the midst of the pandemic, international markets offer critical opportunities. If your target audience includes cross-border buyers in specific countries, your digital marketing plan needs to reflect the tactics needed to reach them. Your website and social media will need to be localized to reflect each market, and of course, all your communications will need to be translated professionally to ensure accuracy and sensitivity. Remember, hundreds of millions of international buyers log into social media platforms that are not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. These include VK in Russia and Eastern Europe, Weibo and Qzone in China, among many others. Beyond website and social media considerations, you will need to prioritize international SEO and assess digital advertising tactics and their value in each market.
Selling more products and services to your existing customers is always going to be a more efficient proposition than finding and closing new buyers. As a result, your digital marketing should prioritize communications with current customers, identifying opportunities for repeat purchases and upselling. By engaging with your customers, encouraging them to share positive stories of their experiences with your company, and building trust through multiple digital channels, you can increase the value of each transaction.
As a small business owner, managing and operating your website, you are sitting on a gold mine of data. Whether or not you are leveraging a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or not, you’re able to mine and learn from the traffic and data that is coming in and out of your website. This understanding allows you to personalize and target marketing messages not only with new customers but with those who have visited your website in the past. Having this active and open line of communication is a highly effective digital marketing tactic because you’re able to tailor any email, digital or social messaging to match customer behavior. For instance, if you know that customers come to your website and make one purchase and nothing after the fact, you have an opportunity to re-engage them later with more communication. This increase in relevant communication could help turn a one-time purchaser into more of an engaged repeat customer.