Here’s an industry fact few people talk about:
Most eCommerce stores fail because they don’t market correctly.
Despite thousands of blog articles to the contrary, growing an eCommerce business is hard.
The good news is that there are some common errors we can fix.
In this post, I’ll explain:
- Who shouldn’t be doing inbound marketing
- The secret to creating content that converts
- How to turn visitors into buyers
Most of my examples will focus on SEO and content marketing, but every concept here applies to all types of marketing.
1. You’re wasting your time on SEO
You probably didn’t expect this from someone who does SEO for a living, but I’ll say it anyway:
Most eCommerce stores should focus on ads first and SEO later.
Sure, SEO sounds exciting. But it takes a while, which means it’s only a good option for eCommerce businesses that already have revenue from other sources.
2. You’re not talking to customers
It’s far too common to copy other successful ventures without focusing on what matters—content that gets people to buy.
Success doesn’t mean reinventing the marketing wheel. Just return to the basics of entrepreneurship: talking to customers.
At many eCommerce businesses, the only customer conversations happening are about shipping, billing, and returns. If you’re not learning from your customers, your marketing isn’t going to succeed.
Learning the subtle nuances behind your customers’ motivations can be a game changer.
Do you understand the customer persona types you’re reaching?
Do you know what needs they’re looking to meet?
Do you know what triggers get them to buy?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’ll struggle.
And this isn’t about pivoting your market or changing your product (though that might be a side effect). It’s realizing that there are bigger opportunities to sell the same product.
What’s important is not to tell but to listen. Customers use specific words to describe what they think.
Your job is to transform those words into ideas.
3. You’re not creating something useful
Okay, so your marketing style is a home run. And you’re listening intently to customers before you write a word of content.
But if you’re not creating content that’s useful, you’ll still lose.
Here are three basic criteria I use to decide if content is useful:
Most content either is a compilation of what’s already online (by far the biggest problem), written by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or has no practical application.
The solution? Have an expert who knows what they’re doing create original content.
Simple (and difficult) as that.
4. You’re not reaching people ready to buy
There’s a little problem with most content published online.
Sales-focused topics are getting scooped up—keywords like “best running shoes” or “buy gardening supplies.”
As a result, eCommerce marketers are turning to easier and easier targets, which makes sense.
But it also means that they’re turning to content that isn’t written for buyers.
For most of my career, clients have asked me to write informational articles. Informational articles can work—but not always. The problem is that often we write content that’s not even remotely related to the products we sell.
There are still informational topics for buyers. It just takes some looking.
5. You’re not measuring correctly
The analytics industry makes it easy to focus on vanity metrics, like clicks or traffic, while sales fall through the floor.
But successful eCommerce marketers focus on the key performance indicators that matter—metrics that impact sales.
Professionals must set aside their egos and look at numbers even when they aren’t pretty. Proudly studying a hockey stick traffic chart doesn’t help your business.
6. You lack an outsider perspective
Here’s a quick yes/no pop quiz.
In the last month, I have:
- Used our product exactly as an ideal customer would
- Added items to my store’s cart and placed a dummy order to test the process
- Reviewed at least half the blog/video/podcast content we created before publishing
- Consumed any of that content in my spare time because it was so interesting
- Talked to one or more customers just for feedback (not for customer support)
How’d you do?
If you’re like 99% of the eCommerce leaders I know, you’re missing out on at least one.
We get caught up in our bubble and lose track of how the customer interacts with what we’re creating.
Real intuition and insight come from using our own products.
For example, between the iPhone’s announcement and its public release, Steve Jobs demanded the plastic screen be switched to glass. He realized the plastic scratched too easily on the prototype he used every day.
Become your own customer. You’ll learn a tremendous amount.
7. You fall into old habits
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you agree with at least one of the eCommerce marketing mistakes I’ve written here.
But if you’re like the vast majority of eCommerce marketers I’ve worked with, those ideas will quickly fade when you’re back in the thick of ad campaigns, conversion rates, and abandonment metrics.
Most of us just slip back into our old routines. There’s no shame in admitting it.
But right now, I’m guessing you want to put some of these ideas into action. If that’s right, consider working with us. The ideas in this article form the principles we use with our clients.
And if you liked what you just read, we might be a good fit.