Despite everything that has been thrown at them over the past year, some eCommerce companies are seeing greater profits than ever before, boosting their engagement many times over. Drawing lessons from their campaigns is like attending the latest masterclass in digital marketing.
Facing the very real possibility of another dramatic year, with dizzying drops, twists. and turns, how are eCommerce companies stacking the odds of success in their favor?
To find out, I consulted a group of PPC thought leaders in the eCommerce space whose work I admire and respect.
The process was simple; I asked them:
- Which companies were rocking it in the eCommerce world?
- How can the rest of us utilize the same successful tactics?
- What were their personal experiences implementing these strategies?
Here is a collection of the group’s responses, containing truly insightful thoughts and ideas that will help your eCommerce business succeed in 2021.
What is one eCommerce company that has really hit it out of the park in the past year?
While some were impressed with the creativity and uniqueness of smaller businesses, others were stunned by the thought-provoking efforts of larger companies and the messages they portrayed.
Image from nike.com
“Nike hit it far, high, and out of the park with their “You Can’t Stop Us” commercial. It was on-brand [while] its visual and spoken narrative was about society as a whole and how it has its hardships and how we can unite and overcome challenges.
The athletes mirrored the challenges we faced in 2020 related to the pandemic, politics, and civil rights. It came with a strong message and it didn’t have to push their products. Viewers were captivated… It conjured strong and relatable emotions for [humanity and for business] and that helps their bottom line.”
If you haven’t watched this Nike commercial yet, I would highly recommend doing so. It epitomizes what advertising should be about: evoking emotion with your audience while sharing your brand’s message.
We’ve all probably spent more time looking at our own four walls than we’d like this year. One brand that’s geniusly leveraged customers’ free time to post on social media and accelerated passion for home styling is Article, a furniture retailer.
“They’re also a fine example of making the customer the hero of your story; they showcase a feed of Instagram photos on their product pages (right above their ah-mazing reviews!). These are not their Instagram photos, but user-generated content (UGC), showing their items in the homes of happy customers.
…We often assume eCommerce is this cold world where no “human marketing” takes place. WRONG! Article is showing the HUGE opportunity e-comm brands have to be human AND to make the customer the focal point.”
Founder and CEO, BSquared Media
“My absolute favorite campaign (both from a technical and creative standpoint) goes to Groove Rings. They’ve done a great job of creating zany “on brand” content that honors the fact that many of us are still at home.”
What are some elements that newcomers with a limited budget could apply to their own campaigns?
As well as making your product stand out from the competition and being in the right place at the right time, the most important thing you can offer your customers is value. Highlight the human aspect of your brand, not only the users, but also your employees. Remind your customers that your company is a bunch of humans making something useful or fun for other humans.
“Show the people using your products or services so that it makes it relatable, captivates viewers, provokes a desired positive emotion, and shows your product or service. This way, your target audience will know what you are offering, understand who you are as a business, and what you can offer them to improve their life in some way through your business.”
– Akvile DeFazio
Promote user-generated content
Continuing on from the being human tip, a lot of campaigns have been successful by using content from actual customers. While these videos, images, and posts are not going to be refined with studio lighting and professional copy, they’re going to be genuine. People are much more likely to identify with a personal review, rather than a curated ad. User-generated content can also be a great option when production budgets are tight.
Image provided by Brooke Sellas, BSquared Media
“The wonderful thing about a user-generated campaign is that anyone can do it. All you need to do is tell people how to join the campaign … like with a hashtag and by tagging you. Then, when customers use your hashtag and mention you, you can “double opt-in” by asking them in a private message if you can share their post (99.99% of the time this is a YES), and BOOM, you have your very own UGC campaign.”
– Brooke Sellas
Founder and CEO, BSquared Media
Master the Fundamentals
To shine among the biggest, brightest eCommerce stars, start with the basics. Being able to be found easily by implementing SEO best practices, providing useful content to your audience, and maintaining general brand awareness are your bread and butter. Making sure you’ve got these down is a good way to build your brand with a solid foundation.
“As a practical matter “little guys” need to get things like online visibility and content right — the basics. They need to be found when consumers are searching for their product or service category. Beyond this, promotions can be very effective.”
VP Market Insights, Uberall
Consistently Stand Out
Make your campaigns memorable in order for your customers to recognize your brand in a sea of other eCommerce companies. And once someone is hooked and visits your site or interacts with your ads, make sure you remarket to them. It’s hard enough grabbing people’s attention, so once you’ve gotten it, make sure to keep reminding them that they were interested in something you’ve got to offer!
“The little guy or newcomer to the space can learn a thing or two from these companies. If they want to be noticed and sell in a crowded space, they have to find a way to stand out.
Cuts Clothing is running ads with a very long retargeting window. With retail eCommerce, this is really the key. You have to present a consistent message to the customer over time. You will see the most purchases in the 30 to 120 day window.”
– John Lincoln
Co-Founder/CEO, Ignite Visibility
What is your approach to campaigns like these?
Focus on storytelling, not the products
By involving the end user in your marketing efforts, you naturally focus on the story of your products, rather than on the products themselves. Highlighting the human element, and weaving your products naturally into a story, achieves brand awareness while delighting your audience with memorable content. This is where influencer-promoted content can play an especially powerful role.
“We’ve done something similar [to the Nike campaign] for some of our clients and found success for them by not doing hard pushes on their products, especially with prospecting brand awareness campaigns where we want to introduce their brand.
For one of our custom home product clients, we’ve developed partnerships with the DIYer community and they would in turn produce videos or images of them installing the product and enjoying the benefits from it. Giving them the freedom to produce content has resulted in plenty of additional unprovoked content being submitted by actual customers and we use that in our advertising campaigns.
It’s genuine and it naturally speaks to others who may benefit from the products. Making your campaigns people-centric is how you can find success. After all, it’s about your customers. They feed your bottom line, so make it about them.”
– Akvile DeFazio
Segment and Test
Not all audiences are the same, so your campaigns can’t be either. Sales funnels are a business strategy fundamental that you should definitely familiarize yourself with. Aside from funnels, it’s good to develop 2-3 customer personas who typify a specific group of people who tend to be your best customers.
Once you have your funnel figured out and your personas made, you work from there to build out unique messages, depending on whom you’re targeting and when.
“When our company runs creative campaigns like this for clients, we like to break down the creative ads into top of funnel, mid-funnel, and bottom-funnel audiences. We also try to get as granular with our audience segmentation as possible. It is important to always be testing and trying to beat your highest converting ads and audiences. That is how you convert for less.”
– John Lincoln
Co-Founder, CEO, Ignite Visibility
Implement Message Mapping
Using message mapping to target specific personas is key. The same approach won’t work on all segments, so constantly testing and improving creative and copy is vital. This is especially important when working with a tighter budget where maximum efficiency is critical.
“Any campaign we run has some degree of message mapping to it. We typically divide campaigns by buyer persona (who they are/why they’re buying/etc.) and will make sure a common character or element runs throughout the creatives on each channel. This allowed us to focus our A/B tests, as well as tie bottom line profits into justifying net new creative (based on the profitability of a persona).“
– Navah Fuchs
Director of Paid Media, Justuno
Nobody knows exactly what 2021 is going to bring for the digital marketing world. One thing I do know for sure is that you are going to have to be flexible and adapt to whatever comes your way. These companies’ campaigns are strategies that work, so check them out and see if you can utilize any of their strategies in your business.