Each store and every other business needs a steady flow of new customers for its development. There are many sources of acquiring them, but none of them are actually free – it will always be a matter of your own time or money. That is why it is important to choose the right advertising channels for your store. Remember that if you do not feel good in marketing communication, you can simply delegate customer acquisition.

When starting your e-commerce business, you should first focus on your clients. At the very beginning you must create a “customer model” and precisely define the target group. This is very important because it allows you to choose the marketing and communication channels that your clients really use. If you do not take care of this aspect, a lot of your money and time will go to people who will never want to use your offer. You should be guided by the principle that where your client is there is also your brand, but to know it, you need to get to know your clients. I know that for many entrepreneurs the determination of their target group is difficult for various reasons. If you have a problem with it, write to me, I will try to help you.

In this article, I will discuss the possibilities of acquiring clients from:

  • Social networking sites,
  • Google Ads,
  • SEO and Positioning,
  • Price comparison engine,
  • Company blog and content marketing,
  • Business and industry catalogs,
  • Google My Business,
  • Services with discount codes,
  • Affiliate programs and affiliate networks,
  • Bloggers and Influencers,
  • For online and thematic groups,
  • Online shopping arcades,
  • Advertising banners on websites,
  • Whisper marketing.

How can an online store win customers?

Social networks

Social networks (e.g. facebook) can be used in two ways. The first and most popular solution is running Fanpage for the store, posting and interacting with users via comments and built-in messaging services (e.g. Messenger Facebook). I know from experience that in order for this to work nicely and bring profits to the company, the social media profile must be run not only on a regular basis, but with an idea and passion. Is it possible to run a company’s fanpage only to be in a given medium? Yes, if you care only for communication with the client, using internal service messenger, you can set the schedule for posting publishing a month in advance, without focusing on the content. I will draw your attention here to the fact that people do not want to buy from institutions and corporations. The contemporary client expects the brand to have a human face and values.

The store profile itself should be properly completed and provide all information in it. It is also worth considering the integration of the comment system, eg Facebook with the website of your own store, allowing you to comment on products in the store.

Facebook Messenger can be implemented on the store’s website and serve as a channel of communication with customers in the form of a chat on the store website, it positively affects the deepening of customer relations. I will draw attention to the fact that before using this solution, look at your target group. For some of my clients, this solution did not take off, while another external chat was already very effective.

Advertising on Facebook, Instagram can function as an independent channel, transferring users to the store’s website, completely neglecting the need to have a Fanpage. It can also be a support for the company’s profile in social media and correlate with it. Personally, I recommend this second solution. The advertisement itself can be displayed on Facebook / Instagram, in Messenger and in the Audience Network, i.e. a network of partner websites. Personally, I try to use remarketing on Facebook and Instagram, using the product catalog in Facebook or plain graphic advertising. Remarketing in these channels is very effective and almost always brings benefits to my clients. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the correct configuration of advertising campaigns in social media requires knowledge and experience, if you are not interested in learning this, delegate this task.

Google Ads

Google Ads (AdWords) is a collection of the main marketing channels for the online store, it allows you to win relevant, valuable traffic, of course, if the AdWords account is well-configured and the campaigns are optimized. However, if this is not the case, Google’s ad channels will use all of your resources instantly, giving you only accidental clicks in return. In Google Ads, it is not possible to target users as precisely as it is in Facebook Ads, where we can search for people who moved in the last month or just have a child. Google will allow it “Here and Now” to reach people who are looking for a specific product in real time in your store. By clicking on the advertisement, the consumer is directed directly to the page of the product he is looking for.

The Google Ads service includes the following channels:

  • Google Shopping, it is a product advertisement involving the display of product images along with prices, directly on the Google search engine. Currently, for most industries, it is the basic marketing channel in e-commerce.
  • Search Ads, these are so-called Sponsored links, text ads displayed directly on the Google search engine. They are above organic results (I will write about this below). Currently, Search Ads in e-commerce fulfills a complementary role for Google Shopping product ads. I would like to mention that Search Ads can also be displayed on Google Maps if you have a verified business listing in Google My Business.
  • Gmail ad is a form of advertising that can be viewed by Google mail users. Gmail Ads has the form of a graphical banner or video movie in a sponsored email. I will tell you that such sponsored e-mails have a high opening rate. Advertising in Gmail will be used primarily to promote the brand and build its awareness among customers.
  • Display advertising, these are banner ads displayed on websites that belong to the Google advertising network (Adsense) and to Google partners. This network covers the majority of websites on the Internet. Graphic ads in e-commerce are used to promote and build brand awareness and to remarketing.
  • YouTube and video. Yes, you can shoot a movie with your iPhone, or order a professional advertising spot, and show it to all your past, present and even future customers. And this is a really cool thing, but for video advertising to take effect, you need a well-defined target group and a lot of resources. Unfortunately, it never happened to me that video advertising would attract customers, despite the fact that it is possible to integrate it with Google Shopping and the cost of a single emission is usually low – the problem of scale remains. Therefore, I think that marketing channel can be effectively used primarily in remarketing, when we display advertising spots to our clients, displaying them in the company of such brands as IKEA or Adidas.
  • Remarketing, these are showing ads to people who visited your store’s website to re-engage them and induce you to place your order. Here I will only highlight two basic forms of remarketing – static image ads, and possibly video and dynamic remarketing, which involves the use of product data from the Google Shopping channel for displaying advertising on the Google Display network, showing users products that they have viewed and / or added to the basket while on the website of the online store.

SEO & Positioning

At the beginning I will say that SEO and Positioning is two different things. Just as you should be concerned about SEO from the very beginning of the store’s existence, positioning and its issue, you can leave yourself as an optional marketing channel.

SEO (search engine optimization) is a set of settings and configuration of your online store, which aims to optimize the information and its formats on the subpages of your website, in such a way that they are interpreted as accurately as possible by Google web browser. In the long run, these activities translate into organic traffic based on the information of each of your store’s sub-websites.

This means that there are standards for websites that your store should meet (eg w3c) and there are information formats that should be made available to web browsers (eg microdata, rich snippets). Therefore, it will be a good idea to order your shop’s SEO audit specialist. For your own part, you can take care of submitting the domain of your store to Google Search Console and adding in this service the map of the store’s website as a file (xml sitemap).

The goal of Positioning is to increase the value of selected pages of your store in the “eyes” of Google search engine and their strict connection to the keywords you choose. Along with the increase in the value of subpages of the store, its position in organic search results increases.

In short, the positioning will be actions that are to cause your store to appear on the first page of Google search results for the phrases you choose.

Positioning is a continuous process that lasts in time and requires constant financial expenditures, which is why I treat it as a marketing channel that requires the involvement of a specialist in this field.

I warn you – improper positioning can hurt your site a lot. Manipulating organic search results as a practice is condemned by Google. If its algorithms detect intentional manipulate of your website, you can expect that the system may put a filter on your store, significantly lowering its position in the search engine. However, the worst option is to get the so-called “blockade”, which may apply not only to positioned phrases, but also to the store’s domain itself. For this reason, if you decide to position your store, leave this task to professionals.

Price comparison

Google Shopping, Nextag, Pricegrabber – their main goal is to give the consumer the opportunity to search for the best price offer for the selected product. If you do not want to compete with the price or you do not have unique products, they will be used to build the brand’s image. Traffic from them, although characterized by high conversion, is relatively expensive compared to traffic from Google. However, it is worth testing them, because it may in practice turn out that due to the phenomenon of multichanneling in sales, the comparison websites will become support for your other marketing channels, thus increasing sales in them.

Corporate blog and content marketing

Entrepreneurs who start creating a store, at the same time they create the company blog, which after only a few months collects only cobwebs. This is because the company’s blog requires the promotion, because without it, no one will hear about blog. It is best to use social media and the newsletter to advertise a shop’s blog. Make sure that the content of your blog is interesting for customers. What can interest them? Ask AnswerThePublic.com or check brand24.com

Publications on the blog can take the form of articles or video materials sent to the company’s YouTube channel. For the channel to be successful, you need dozens of interesting content and often money for its promotion but above all, patience.

Usually, the situation among my clients looks like that the client himself does not want to personally create content, because his attention is focused on running a business. Employees involved in store operation and order fulfillment do not really want to create anything creative. That is why it is good to have a person in the company responsible only for running a fanpage and blog. Pay attention, however, not delegate him to customer service on it. You can believe me that receiving calls and emails is so absorbing and so distracting that you can forget about creating good content by him.

Business and industry catalogs

Industry catalogs and company catalogs do not bring you too many customers, unless you offer rare or specialized products. Years ago, the catalogs were used to “cataloging pages”, i.e. they were primarily used to obtain links that were to influence the position of the website in search engines (positioning). Does cataloging a store website make sense in B2C? If your only goal is to acquire new customers, then definitely not.

Google My Business

If you have a stationary store, you should always have a completed and verified business card in Google My Business. The company profile will then appear to users when searching for your company and similar companies in Google Search and Maps.

If you already have your business card on Google, it is worth posting entries that will increase its reach. You should ensure that every week a new entry appears with a graphic or photo.

Google My Business is not only a showcase of the store, Internet users can use it to ask you questions, add your own photos and information, and evaluate your store by publishing your opinions on it. For this reason, you should monitor everything that is happening around it.

As a curiosity, I will add that the Google implemented functionality, which allows free presentation of products on the Google My Business website card.

Services with discount codes

Most of your clients do not look at them, which does not change the fact that they can become a source of traffic. Whether it will be a valuable move or not, you must evaluate it yourself. Adding your offer to such a website is usually free, and the offer itself can be as prosaic as “free shipping for purchases from 100 usd”. Honestly, promotions that I find in such websites are very weak or even fictitious. Brands use websites with rebate codes primarily as a secondary marketing channel, allowing to reach the community of “bargain hunters and promotions”.

Is it worth engaging in this? If you can get a new client with very little effort, why would not do that. And although I am skeptical about such a form of promotion, I see potential in it, which is why in my opinion it is worth monitoring the purchase trends in the websites with rebate codes and their offer for e-commerce.

Affiliate program and affiliate networks

It is a good idea that your store has an affiliate program that will allow you to build your own distribution network. However, the problem remains to get partners themselves. Actually, there is no reason to expect that the store’s customer decides to deal with the distribution of your content and products, even if it will benefit for him. Customers come to the store to do shopping, not earn some extra money.

Partners should be sought using ordinary marketing channels, and thus the target group should be defined. In addition, you will need to build an affiliate system. If you want to create a distribution network based on affiliation, you will have to take into account considerable expenses for this investment.

It is definitely cheaper to use existing affiliate networks. If you decide to do so, you will have to sign a cooperation agreement with the affiliate network, integrate your store with its sales tracking systems and provide the required files, eg advertising creations or xml file with the offer of your store. In terms of billing, you should be interested in only one model – CPS based on the fact that you pay a specific commission on the sale of an affiliate network. How is it working? The consumer sees the advertisement of your product on the publisher’s website in the affiliate network, clicks on it, then goes to your store and makes a purchase.

Does affiliation pay off? It depends. If you are looking for new traffic sources and customers, you should be to learn more about the affiliate networks services market and test them.

By using the services of an affiliate company, you reach recipients that you would not have reached via other channels. Therefore, in my opinion, the affiliate network is a marketing channel worth considering.

Bloggers and Influeners

It is unlikely that you would like to use this form of promotion of your brand quickly. Marketing activities based on bloggers and influencers are primarily aimed at building the desired image of your brand and will not translate into sales growth in a short time.

To start working with bloggers and influencers, you can use one of the websites that focus the blogosphere, allowing the brand to cooperate with creators (e.g. neoreach). How should you treat bloggers and influencers? Just like business partners, otherwise the cooperation will not be satisfactory for any of the parties.

Maybe I will surprise you, but it would be better for your brand to be promoted by 100 Influencers than the top celebrity. This is because of credibility that translates into social proof. One person can “sell oneself” but already 100 people “can not be wrong”. Of course, before establishing the cooperation itself, check exactly what content the selected blogger publishes and what values ​​he represents.

Internet forums and thematic groups

If you have analyzed your clients well enough, you will know what problems they are facing and what help they will need. People are looking for answers to their questions or support in online communities. These can be industry forums or thematic groups on facebook.

You know who your clients are and you know what they need, so you can come to the places they visit to help them. You should appear there as you – a person and openly show your profile and your a brand. Remember, first of all, not to sell anything to anyone.

Consumers value personalized brands, that is, those in which they see specific people. This is because customers want to identify with other people who represent their values.

It happens that my clients create groups that bring together people interested in a given subject, using social media for it, it is a process that requires time and patience. Alone years ago, I created and promoted several communities on G+. Each of these groups, after crossing the threshold of about 1 thousand members, began to live their own lives and create their own content.

Be in the place where your clients are, “introduce yourself” to let them know who you are and what you represent, get involved in discussions and advise them. You will build a credible reputation of your brand, based on your person.

Online shopping arcades

These are online counterparts of shopping centers collecting offers from many stores. They collect a commission from you and mediate in the sale of your products. They are not a price comparison sites, their assumption is to display your product.

It will not be the cheapest source of traffic for your store, but if you have unique or designer products on offer, the online passages can become an important support for your sales. Analyzing the multi-channel paths of my clients (Google Analytics analytics) I saw transactions based on traffic from Homebook, which was later retargeted by Facebook and Google Ads, only to end up selling in the store.

Advertising banners on websites

You should only be interested in thematic portals, gathering your potential clients. For example, if you run a shop with mountain equipment, advertising on a mountain climbing portal will be a good idea.

You can skip all other pages because by use targeting Google and Facebook ads and their partner network, your image ads will follow your potential customers, which will choose analytical and heuristic algorithms based on their interests and behavior.

Personally, I see two uses for ads on industry forums or thematic websites. The first of them is to promote your own brand and to be present in the awareness of future customers. The second advertisement for a new product or collection that you launch on the market. In both cases, all you have to do is remember that the message from the ads is clear to the recipient and include a call to action that tells the consumer what to do.

I usually meet with the fact that the website owners want to settle accounts with clients in the CPM model. This means that you will pay for a predetermined number of impressions of your ad. For this reason, ask for statistical data from the website and on the basis of them, calculate how long your banners will be issued and whether such advertising makes sense at all.

Whisper marketing

Around 2006, when I started to deal with internet marketing, whisper marketing was “bringing” advertising content on online forums and discussion groups, unsuspecting people, and leaving a link to the store’s website. The aim of these activities was then the positioning of websites and the distinction of your product and the offer from the competition. Considering that everyone who could, wanted to get customers from online forums and leave their links there, doing it in not very clever way, whisper marketing gained a “spam” patch. Until now, wikipedia defines word-of-mouth marketing as marketing activities aimed at reaching the recipient with marketing information via a direct, “spontaneous” oral communication.

Today, the real whisper marketing is the situation where your client talks about you to their friends.

Your client can express onself comments and opinions, he is asked about it from everywhere and more often. Price comparison sites, auction portals, opinion services, Google and Facebook do this. Along with the ongoing phenomenon of identifying users on the Internet and exchanging data between platforms, the opinions and assessments of your clients are presented to their contacts network as the first, valuable and noteworthy.

That is why it is so important that your clients become ambassadors of your brand. To achieve this you need to get to know them and their needs. The communication with clients should run on both sides and be empathetic.

Of course, you can also hire an agency that will do the job for you. It will rely on influencing your audience in a way that they have a positive attitude towards to your brand and want to purchase your products. Personally, I think that such secret activities are in fact product placement and in my opinion the consumer, as in the case of television programs, has the right to know about this fact.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the transformation of the traditional “sales funnel” into “shopping journey”.

The relationship between the concept of a sales funnel and the AIDA model was first described by William W. Townsend in 1924. As you can see, the sales models are based on assumptions almost 100 years ago. Everything was changed – shopping behavior and consumer awareness to technology and the accompanying multitude and complexity of mutual interaction with the brand. In 2009, the American company McKinsey & Company dealing with strategic management consultancy came out with the concept of Consumer Purchasing Journey. Personally, I base it on analyzing all the points of contact between the consumer and the brand and their impact on his shopping experience.

It is natural that a constant inflow of customers for e-commerce site is essential and that you would like to get the largest return on the funds invested. However, using the advertising channels, pay attention not only to the sales they directly generate, but also to whether they take part in the shopping journey of your clients. To learn this, use the web analytics tools, the important ones are multi-channel reports and assisted-path reports.

My name is Paul Wolf and I deal with advertising and marketing strategy. If you want to learn more about me go to the page about me.
Thank you for the time spent reading my article. If you liked it, please share your own experience in the comment.