In this tutorial, I’m going to talk about the biggest mistake e-commerce marketers make and show you a framework for building a bulletproof e-commerce marketing strategy based on what I’ve learned from years of trial and error. These are the tactics that have helped us build a profitable online store that is growing at a rate of nearly 40% annually.
The biggest mistake e-commerce marketers make
Before I get into how this model works I want to talk about what doesn’t work and I want to debunk a myth that I see as being the root cause of most of the biggest mistakes I see e-commerce marketers making:
The biggest mistake is that They think of online marketing like this:
- Someone is going to click on your ad or your social media post or even a search result
- They’re going to then visit your website to look at your products
- Then they are either going to buy – or not buy your products.
This is a perfectly reasonable way of thinking about it – but it is a MYTH. You must banish this belief and this model from your mind if you’re going to succeed at e-commerce marketing
How e-commerce marketing really works
I want to give you a real-world example of how the buying process actually works based on what we see happening at our site. This is a hypothetical but perfectly realistic sequence that illustrates the steps that a buyer typically goes through.
- SoYoung does advertising on Facebook targeted to reach an audience of people who have never heard of us before. Someone may see a photo and then a click on our Facebook ad and that brings them directly to our website
- They look around for a minute and form a quick opinion before moving on to some other site.
- At that point, we place a cookie in their browser and they’ll start seeing ads for our products all over the web. This is what’s known as retargeting. They may not click on the ads the first or even the second time they see them, but eventually, they may return to the site for another look and now there’s a little more trust and familiarity with our products.
- This time, when they see a pop-up that says they might win some products by signing up for our newsletter, it sounds like a low-risk proposition.
- Becoming a new subscriber is going to trigger an automation sequence that sends a series of onboarding emails to further deepen understanding of our brand, and one of the emails prompts them to become a Facebook fan of SoYoung, which they act on.
- Now they’re starting to see our Facebook posts, which leads them to read some blog material.
- They’re also going to receive a newsletter that has an update on new products which prompts them to visit the site again.
- This time, when they visit the site they’re pretty interested in purchasing something but their not sure of the final cost, so they fill up a cart to check the shipping costs, but they don’t complete the order.
- This triggers a series of cart abandonment emails and the final email offers them an additional 15% off if they complete the order in 24 hours – which they do!
- So, we now have a purchase, however, it’s not over yet because once we have a customer who’s made an initial purchase, we have someone who is fully immersed in our brand and is much more likely to make a second purchase and refer us to their friends.
- Upon making a purchase they are going to receive yet another sequence of emails that prompts them to follow us on Instagram and share a photo of them or their children wearing our products.
- When they do they receive a 25% discount off their next purchase which they eventually use. They’ve now become a repeat customer and evangelist for SoYoung.
So, as you can see, the purchasing process is a lot more involved than simply clicking an ad and visiting our site.
The E-commerce Marketing Funnel
So I want to introduce the concept known as the marketing funnel. This is probably a term you’ve heard before and it encompasses the idea that:
- Someone typically doesn’t just come to your site for the first time and buy something
- There are a number of steps and brand touch points on the way to becoming a customer
- There are also a ton of tactics for marketing to your audience and encouraging them through the process to making a purchase
- The Marketing Funnel is a useful model for making sense of this complexity because
- Allows you to plan your activities so that you target each stage of the process
- The result is a much more effective marketing strategy because it’s aligned with the way your audience actually make a purchase decision
There are 2 perspectives from which to think about the Marketing Funnel: The seller’s perspective and the buyer’s perspective.
The Marketing Funnel: Seller’s Perspective
So let’s start with the Seller’s perspective and talk about the stages of the Marketing Funnel. There are different versions of the marketing funnel that you may encounter with slightly different terminology, but they are all meant to be a metaphor for the fact that a lot more people will consider a making purchase from than will eventually buy something.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use a 3-stage version with the top of the funnel being the attraction stage, where your goal is to bring brand new visitors to your site, the middle of the funnel is the relationship building stage, where you are trying to build affinity for your brand and products using content and repeat visits, and the bottom of the funnel is the sales stage, where you are aggressively trying to get someone to buy something.
Again, The marketing funnel can help you build a much more sophisticated strategy by thinking about the entire decision-making process allowing you to Align your tactics with where the potential customer is in the funnel
So at the top level, tactics may include
- organic search results if you rank for certain keywords or they may be paid search results if you purchase ads for keywords
- you may use targeted Facebook Ads to entice people to visit your site
- display ads which also allow you to target certain audiences based on the sites you choose to advertise on.
- you can partner with influencers. these are people who are bloggers or Instagram or’s who have an audience that is similar to the audience you’re trying to reach. pay them to recommend your products or provide them a free product that they will review
- you may use a public relations to reach publishers either online or off who are always looking for new stories and new products to feature
- you may even use a referral program this would mean getting people who have already purchased your product to refer friends, who are not familiar with your brand to your website for the first time
These are all tactics you might use to get people to visit your site for the first time.
Let’s move to the middle of the funnel; After attracting someone to your site, you need to find ways to start building a deeper relationship with them. so you need tactics in place that are going to allow you to continue the communication with that person. one of the best ways, and it’s completely free, would be to capture their email via an opt-in offer.
This, in turn, can trigger a series of completely automated emails that provide more information and incentives or point to blog posts, videos and other content that will help build affinity for your brand and products. This is why professional marketers place such an emphasis on having a killer Opt-in offer. It’s just so critical.
Short of getting an email address, you can also use retargeting which places a bit of code in the visitor’s browser and then serves them ads for your product around the web. This will keep your brand top of mind and hopefully eventually have them come back to your site at which time they might opt into your email list, follow you on a social media channel or even consider a purchase.
Email and retargeting is also a way to entice people to follow you on social media where you can deepen the relationship by sharing blog posts, photos content and product updates.
You might also generate interest with an audience by holding contests and giveaways. We often partner with other brands on contests to help cross-pollinate our audiences, which allows us to promote our products while building our lists.
Once again, all of these mating tactics are designed to simply deepen affinity for your brand and create the desire to make a purchase.
At the bottom of the funnel, I would again include retargeting again though at this stage I would have the ads link directly to a product page, rather than blog content.
As they get closer to a purchase decision many people will even fill up a shopping cart with the products they like and then abandon it. In fact, well over 65% of carts are abandoned by people who are just aren’t quite ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. So having a strong cart abandonment email sequence is critical. We typically send up to 3 emails within a day of someone abandoning a cart.
If you’re really advanced, you may even have a loyalty program which will incentivize repeat purchases by allowing people to earn points each time they buy something or when they make referrals that lead to a purchase.
So now you have an understanding of how specific tactics align with each stage of the funnel and a new model for thinking about your approach to marketing.
Now I want to add another dimension to further increase your funnel’s effectiveness.
The Marketing Funnel: Customer’s Perspective
By looking at the funnel from the customer’s perspective, it allows you to Align the appropriate content with the questions the potential customer has at each stage
Top Funnel Tactics: Discovery Phase
At the top of the funnel, when you are attracting a new visitor to your site they are encountering your brand for the first time, so they are in the discovery phase. And so they really just have some simple questions at this point: who is this brand, and is this something that I like?
Your job here is to ensure that you clearly communicate your brand position in a few brief words or images and make sure site or blog looks great and so makes a good first impression. People may want to go deeper at this point, but they might not. After all, they’ve just met you and they don’t know anything about you.
Mid Funnel Tactics: Consideration Phase
Once they’ve had that first interaction anyone who returns to your site or some content could be said to be in the consideration phase, so this is where you’re going to provide content that goes a little deeper.
You may want to provide some about your brand story or the inspiration that lead you to found the company
You may want to provide some social proof that your products are desirable by featuring testimonials or press coverage. SoYoung actually has some celebrities like Halle Berry and Jessica Alba using our products to we feature those.
A potential customer may be interested in seeing the products used in different situations and contexts. So maybe you can provide reviews or user-generated photos of people with the products or how-to videos.
This will help them better visualize how your product is going to fit into their lifestyle and whether they’ll actually truly be happy with the purchase
Bottom Funnel Tactics: Purchase Phase
A certain point the customer may decide that they really do want the product but they may still have some questions that are preventing them from proceeding with the purchase like, “Can I afford it” and “Am I really getting the best deal?” By offering a well-timed incentive you can often help them rationalize the purchase. For instance, SoYoung’s 3rd cart abandonment email offers 15% off their purchase.
FInally, you should reinforce any warranty or guarantees that you offer.
So Now you have a good idea of the biggest mistake e-commerce marketers make and how to align your content with the marketing tactics you use at each stage of the marketing funnel.
It may seem a lot of work to build all this out, and I’m not going to lie to you – it is! But you don’t have to do it all at once. You just have to make sure you have some aspects of each stage covered and then over time, you can layer in new items to increase the effectiveness of your funnel. But the great thing is that once the systems are set up, they are largely automated – so you only have to create them once.
I’ve created a tool that will help you gain more insight on where to focus your initial efforts. Just complete the funnel builder questionnaire at
Then you’ll receive a customized report outlining the highest value opportunities based on what you’re currently doing. You can then make a plan on what to implement next. I’ll even provide you with links to some additional resources.