We work with many different businesses — from direct to consumer (D2C) ecommerce brands to traditional retail brands making the transition to digital channels. What’s clear is the online business model is different to that of bricks and mortar. The incentives are different, and the decision making journey varies too. In traditional retail I can pick up the product, touch it, feel it, and maybe even taste it. I can materially compare goods, even those from the store a few doors down. Then I can walk away with my newest purchase in hand.
If you see where I’m going, you’ll know that most of this isn't true when it comes to an online commerce experience. “What does this shirt feel like on?” “What will it look like on me?” “How thick is that cotton?” All of these questions don’t have immediately obvious answers. While online provides a level of convenience, and we can shop anywhere in the world — it’s not regular retail. And just having a store with traditional retail thinking is no sure way to having online success. With that, we need to think online, and enter into a detailed plan of putting the customer first.
In this scenario let’s define marketing as creating awareness, developing trust, and building consistency in the growth of your revenue across time. Basically, that we could grow your customers, grow how much they’re buying, and empower them to tell others. This is where Shopify comes in.
We’re not going to pretend this list is exhaustive. There’s so many strategies, apps and tech stacks, and new ideas and “strategies” emerge daily. But, we think it’s a good place to start. Keep in mind technique and marketing hacks aren’t a substitute for a great brand, and great products. That’s the cornerstone of every great store — online, or bricks and mortar. Be something people care about.
Here’s ONETOO’s ecommerce toolkit:
We’ve all received emails from online brands. Whether it’s to announce a sale or to share an interesting story, email is a direct marketing tool that is powerful if ecomm brands implement and strategise with thoughtfulness. Campaign Monitor reports that the return on investment from email (revenue less the marketing cost) can be up to 4200%. That’s a $42 return on every $1 spent.
It goes without saying, we’ve also all received emails we want to delete before we’ve even opened them. It’s the brand who is sending us the third email today about something we don’t care about. Our signing up to your list is not us agreeing to get pestered everyday for the rest of our lives.
A little bit of respect goes a long way. Send an email that people want to open. And one they look forward to opening too.
Top email marketing tools:
We’re just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marketing automation. There’s a lot of opportunity to create real value for customers and to free up time and resources for businesses. Whether it’s a simple welcome email, a drip sequence or a more detailed if this/then bouncing across multiple applications, there’s a lot of potential. Consider your customer at every point. Asking questions around “will this actually benefit them?” is important. It’s one thing to save yourself time but another to unintentionally anger your customers.
Use automation to create delight. Use it to reward positive behaviour.
People spend a lot of time on social media — we probably didn’t need to tell you that. A Yellow report from 2018 puts the average Australian at 10 hours a week. It’s likely to be much higher now. Why social media, and why is it so powerful? We live in an attention economy. And where people are, brands will be too. As a discovery and engagement tool, social media is incredible. It allows people to start a purchasing journey with you, and learn more about your brand and your product. It also lends a lot in the way of social proof. We can read real stories from people using the product. We can see how to use it, and how other people like ourselves engage with the brand.
We’re not technologically myopic, and are aware of so many downsides to this “reality”. Like how much of the design method is taken from slot machines. It keeps people coming back. With that, we add a caution. It’s an incredible tool but requires a level of critical thinking around how we want to engage with these platforms. So it’s good for both you, and your customers.
Our tip. Try something different. Don’t be afraid to get noticed. Use motion where you can. And have your smiling face on there. People engage and connect with people.
Top social media tools:
Ads & Retargeting
Ads that follow us around the internet. We’ve all been there. Ads are amazing, if you’re agreeing to get them. Whether it’s by choice of being on a social platform or watching the Super Bowl, additional noise isn’t helping anyone out. Ad platforms operate in the world of data. They know our preferences, our friends, and our purchases. Ever heard of Facebook Pixel? Well, it knows what you spend money on too.
In our view, ads are best when you want to develop awareness. “Hey, we’re a thing over here. We think you might like this. Come and check us out.” Thumbs up.
Ads that are “Hey, we’re the best thing ever and you need to click on this link to learn all of our amazing incredible business hacks. Limited time-only, buy now. Did we mention we have four Ferraris and we also started our business from our bedroom when we were 12? Oh, and we’re willing to tell you all our secrets for only $99.99/per month and we’ll show you how to become a millionaire with a private jet.” Are not cool. Two thumbs down. Sometimes they actually work, which is the frustrating part. We just think it’s not ethical. Be the good kind of ad.
Ads that serve as reminders are helpful too. “Oh, you left this here, did you still want it?” Genuinely, people get distracted. It might have something to do with social media. But it could be that they’re at work, watching TV, or focusing on their kids.
Our top thought. Differentiate between the selection effect, and the advertising effect. Most people get this wrong. Basically, are people buying because of your ads, or were they going to buy anyway. The Correspondent delves into this in more detail.
Top ad tools:
Bring back the retail assistant. Making a first-time purchase is different to subsequent purchases. Familiarity works in our favour for long-time customers, but new customers have questions — lots of them. You can make people scroll through your FAQ page to find what they’re looking for, but that can be frustrating. Especially if the answer isn’t there. Consider adding a chat box. If I have my questions answered, I feel like I’m making an informed decision and wave goodbye to buyers' regret. And I’m that much more likely to make the purchase right then and there. It’ll also help you gather intel on what people aren’t seeing, or what you might need to consider adding to your product pages. Train your team to be helpful and answer those curious questions.
Extra for experts. Add a level of automation and sequencing to your experience, saving you a bit of time and helping customers get frequently asked information they’re looking for quickly.
Top chat tools:
We’re designers, and consumers. We believe good design that people understand is really important. You can throw away all your marketing tools if people don’t know how to use or navigate your site. People first, people! Understanding design language is crucial here too. People expect the cart to be in the top right hand side. They don’t want the search bar to be abstract or hard to find — or worse still, non-existent. A move away from learned patterns, although brave, may jeopardise sales. Who wants that? No one. Always test if you’re being too experimental. A/B test your design, your copy, your photography. You might just uncover the next big thing. Or realise it’s not such as a good thing.
Good ecommerce photography is really important. Given we’ve taken away a number of the physical indicators of quality, we need to back this up, and support our price and brand offer. It’s fairly simple. Good photography will always help you sell. If you sell apparel, do you have close-up photography of the fabric? If you sell shoes, do you have a shot of them on an actual foot? Whether it’s on your website, your Instagram or your product listing, we’re visual creatures. Give us what our eyes want. Remove the opportunity to create doubt.
Back that product photography up with detailed product descriptions. Remember, your customer won’t be able to feel the fabric, try on the garment, or taste test the product you’re selling before they buy, so, how are you selling it to them? Help the customer visualise the product through the words you use.
Tip: Don’t oversell. People value honesty. Say you’re selling a garment which is slightly see-through, but it’s not apparent from the photography — tell the customer, and explain why it is. Maybe it’s a summer-ready fabric, maybe it’s the design. Better to be honest, than lure a customer in, get a bad review, and the product returned when the reality doesn’t meet with the customer’s expectation.
I’ve got a problem. A question I don’t know the answer to. Where do I go? Google. How do you get found on Google? Great question. Basically, how do you optimise your website for discovery in search engines? There’s a lot of variables Google looks at. And there's a lot more to it than we can list here. But here's a start.
- Relevance of on-page content
- Structure of on page content
- Page speed
- Backlinks & significance of these links
- Responsive design
Integrating channels and strategies is really powerful. Discovery in Google. Retargeting on Instagram. Boom. We’d recommend starting with Chrome’s Lighthouse tool. Then you can move to nerdier tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.
Social Proof & Product Reviews
At the store I can see the Jones’ buy that vase. I can hear the discussion and see the register going. We’re inately social creatures. We love seeing what others are doing, and how we fit in. This is partly why social media is so powerful. There’s a social feedback mechanism that we can’t help but pay attention to.
Why should I trust your brand? Convince me. You might have a million reasons why you’re the best but as a customer I might just want to know one thing. Does James like it? Does it do what he wanted it to do? His testimonial, his purchase and review is his endorsement. It’s incredibly effective in changing our perceptions, and providing weight to a purchase decision. Why does this matter? We’re afraid to make the wrong move. “What if it doesn’t work? Then I'll go to the post office and return it, or organise a courier and that will be a drama.” Tip: Making things easy to return (or free) with no fuss will also go a long way.
No stock? Disappointing. When will it be back? Who knows? “I think I’ll go to another site, or find an alternative.” The solution is super simple. If you’re out of stock, add a notification, or pre-order button, and sequence to your products. The customer then knows they’ll get reminded when the product is back, and you get to grow your email list. Win-win.
First up. The worst thing you can do is add noise. Please no more noise. A really simple element to consider is having something to say before you have something to sell. Share your thoughts and opinions. Unless you’re a bargain discounter brand where price is the only consideration. Developing trust through education, explanation and a good measure of fun is a good place to start.
Think about where your content lives. And how it carries across your different channels. Is this for Instagram and email, or just your blog? Not sure? We created a quick guide here.
Sales & Discounts
We learn things in life. And one thing we’ve learned is to respond to sales and discounts. Get 10% for signing up. Easy. Christmas sale storewide. Great.
Sales and discounting can be a slippery slope. If you’re having a sale every other week people won’t respond as well over time. The incentive decreases. “Why buy it now when it will just be on sale again next week?”
Unless you have a specific strategy in mind and are aware of the implications of doing so, we’d suggest treading lightly. Use sales to build your audience. Offer genuine value that gets people excited. More than that, where possible use what you would have given up in margin to build your brand. This allows you to protect your pricing, and build relationships. Then when a sale comes along, it’s actually more effective. “They’re never on sale, we'd better buy quick!”
Gamification & Giveaways
Spin the giant wheel. Metaphorically this can be as simple as a scratchie to something a bit more complicated — a roulette table or slot machine. Ultimately the house always wins. Adding an element of fun, if it’s in alignment with the brand values, can make sense. We wouldn’t be engaging a fine linen business to ask their customers to spin a giant wheel. It’s just not a good fit. But if you’re selling toy cars or puzzles, you might be onto something.
Top gamification and giveaway tools:
Is any of this even working? Dive into the data and educate yourself on understanding it. It’s all gobbledegook otherwise.
Top analytic tools:
So now what?
Digital marketing isn’t just a set of tools. It’s not a technique or hack. There’s no effective substitute for building a brand, one that people feel connected to, and care about. And if you’re reading this list thinking if your brand did all this, things would be a mess, that’s the point. While all of these things may be effective, as businesses we still need to put in place strategies that consider our options and best pathways to reach out goals. And a sustainable way to achieve them. This may mean saying no to certain tools, in favour of others, to better serve your customers.