From Kunal Shah
There has never been a better time for e-commerce. Given the global slowdown caused by the pandemic, e-commerce has provided a lifeline for both businesses and consumers around the world to appear normal during the toughest of lockdowns. Fear of the virus led even the most conservative of shoppers and those in Tier 2 and 3 markets to identify their needs online. And even if life returns to normal and we all come to terms with the new way of life, the e-commerce boom shows no signs of slowing down. Consumer behavior has changed measurably and there are many new first-time buyers online. If the reports are to be believed, the e-commerce industry is registering higher gross merchandising values (GMVs) compared to pre-Covid, and this is definitely good news for any company in the space.
It’s not all as rosy as it looks, however. While the growth potential is immense, so are the challenges. As if innovations weren’t challenging enough during the Covid-19 pandemic, the task of remaining visible, relevant and enticing to the discerning online shopper is also a huge task. There are several companies that offer the same products and services online, not to mention the e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart.
Then how can a young ecommerce startup compete and stand out in the crowded online marketplace?
Digital marketing offers some great answers.
As a bootstrap startup with limited resources, you need to market your business for maximum reach and ROI.
It is an undisputed fact that digital marketing is not only the cheapest mass medium, but also the one with the greatest precise reach. This is still the best way to reach your key audiences and gives you the best ROI among almost any other marketing option available today. However, digital marketing is much more than just setting up an online shop and promoting the products via paid digital channels. For this reason, it is important to have a well-thought-out digital strategy before starting and to evolve it over time based on the results.
Here are a few ways you can get started:
Know your market
As simple as it sounds, this is an essential first step for any business. You need to know a lot more about the digital playing field you want to take part in. It is a good idea to spend some time in primary and secondary research to understand category trends and consumer behavior in your domain. This will reward you with some useful insights and ideas that could help you refine your product or service offering based on any need gaps.
Know your competition
As an ecommerce player, finding your competition is easy because you know exactly where to find them – online. You can browse the search engine results pages and also search for your competitors and their activities on social media. You can filter and narrow down those businesses that are in a niche similar to yours or target the same customers you want and learn from their online presence. This would give you a solid foundation for what works and what doesn’t, and would serve as a wonderful starting point for you to plan your strategy.
Know your audience
Traditional customer segmentation by age, gender, and location is just a first step. Because the digital medium allows for very precise targeting, you can create large customer personalities of your ideal customer so you know exactly who you are going to talk to. This would include not only the demographic details listed above, but also specifics such as interests, mobile device usage patterns, income levels, online browsing behavior, social media platforms popular with them, other brands they might like, the apps that they would probably like to use or anything else that may help you understand them better. This not only allows you to create marketing content that resonates with them, but also allows you to evaluate what tactics and online media might work better with this group.
Have an SEO strategy
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a wonderful online investment that will keep you in the running for the long term and your business can be found by the right people. Implementing the right SEO strategies is one of the keys to any modern business success. If this is not done, it will be difficult for your potential target customers to even know about your company’s existence! However, SEO efforts can take some time to show results. For this reason, you should start doing this as soon as possible. The best time to start is while you are building your website. However, in case this has been overlooked, you can also do so once it is done.
One thing to look out for is creating optimized landing pages for each of your product lists and searches that have the right keywords, high quality image and video content, and a strong call to action.
In this day and age when there isn’t much differentiation between products or services, content is one of the ways you can differentiate your brand. Marketing is no longer about the products you sell, but rather the stories you tell, as Seth Godin famously said. So invest in content that is not only engaging and entertaining. But you can also connect with your audience and add value and get you more leads. In addition, well-planned and regularly updated content ensures that your brand is always in the foreground. You can explore blogs, videos, podcasts, newsletters, and more to meet your target audience’s consumption preferences. Content marketing could be seen as a great way to build an engaged online audience.
Having an effective social media presence is a wonderful way to create online buzz without always having to invest too much. Creating content worth sharing results in engaging conversations that will help your brand be seen and talked about. Most social media platforms also offer extensive user insights, so you can take a peek inside the minds of users and design your campaigns accordingly. You can also explore the different types of paid advertising opportunities on social media for an even broader base. This also provides an opportunity to interact with and respond to questions and concerns from your audience. Avoid behaviors that might portray you in a bad light or create avoidable controversy.
While building a social community can also take some time, it is an effective way to get social media influencers to talk about your brand online for quick visibility and credibility.
Identify success benchmarks
Any digital strategy is only good if it helps move the brand in the desired direction. And this could only be ascertained if you set the right standards to measure your progress and success. This can include website visitors, search engine rankings, time spent on specific pages, increases in engagement, leads and conversion rates, follower growth, and the like. Of course, one would have to be realistic in setting these benchmarks, and it should be understood that digital growth and success can sometimes take time.
These are just a few basics that will help lay a solid foundation for your digital marketing efforts and I can guarantee that if done correctly, your ecommerce startup will only benefit from them. As I said before, there has never been a better time to be e-commerce worldwide, and all it takes is playing the field smart.
The writer is the director of Rank My Business
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