Ecommerce Marketing: Strategies to Put to Work in 2021

By Alison Pfaff Jul 7, 2021

With businesses still recovering from pandemic-related closures and consumers gaining more confidence in online shopping, demand for ecommerce options has never been higher. Post-pandemic estimates show we are experiencing the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth in at least two decades. Even retailers who previously focused on maintaining a traditional brick-and-mortar presence have started to roll out ecommerce sites in hopes of expanding their reach and customer base. 

So, what does the current state of ecommerce marketing look like? Although ecommerce may seem like a no-brainer, it can be daunting for newcomers to enter the arena. Whether you're ready to dive into the deep end or you're just dipping your toes in, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to ecommerce marketing and a few simple, actionable strategies your brand can use to get started.

A Pandemic Perspective on Ecommerce 

Lockdowns and concerns over health and safety unsurprisingly made ecommerce king last year. While consumers were prevented from shopping in-person, online sales surged. However, with the end of the pandemic near and in-store shopping available yet again, many consumers still prefer digital commerce. One reason for this phenomenon is that the pandemic highlighted a growing desire among consumers for heightened convenience. One recent study showed that 
76% of consumers now prioritize convenience in selecting the retailers they use.

In search of ease of use and a safer alternative to in-person shopping, consumers are now more willing than ever to purchase items they previously would have bought at a retail storefront, such as groceries or cosmetics, online. Once a small fraction of the ecommerce market, a new study shows nearly 80% of all US consumers have now shopped for groceries online. Interest in online shopping and delivery options for everyday items isn't expected to subside post-pandemic either. Businesses can plan on seeing a continued demand for ecommerce offerings into the near future.

Types of Ecommerce in 2021 

Speaking of supply, there’s certainly not a lack of it in the ecommerce world. Virtually anything and everything can be purchased on the web. When thinking about ecommerce, we can divide businesses into several different categories, including:

  • Business-to-business (B2B)
  • Business-to-consumer (B2C)
  • Consumer-to-consumer (C2C)
  • Direct-to-consumer (DTC)

B2B ecommerce encapsulates any sale of goods or services that occurs between two businesses via an online platform. With a pause in business travel and in-person events such as conferences, B2B sales have almost exclusively gone digital this year. While COVID-19 helped fast-track B2B ecommerce's explosive growth, we don't expect it to slow down once we settle into our new normal.

B2C ecommerce is the type a majority of people are used to participating in. Every time you place an order on Amazon you are making a B2C purchase. This segment covers any business selling a good or service directly to an individual consumer.

Ever use Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, or eBay? Chances are high that you've participated in the C2C economy. The COVID-19 pandemic and increased access to tools like SquareCash and Venmo have accelerated the growth of this ecommerce category between individuals selling food, handmade products, used goods, or services to fellow customers.

The DTC space has recently seen an explosion of growth thanks to increased popularity among brands and consumers. Rather than using middlemen suppliers and going the route of getting products into traditional retailers, DTC businesses sell products directly to their customers. For emerging brands without an established audience, it may seem like a risky bet, however, the stats are showing major success. According to a survey by Astound Commerce, 55% of consumers would rather shop directly with the manufacturer than a retailer. DTC brands have the opportunity to build deeper relationships with customers, and by keeping everything in-house, they can maintain total control over their brand identity and messaging. 


Ecommerce Marketing Strategies That Work 

Now that we know the types of ecommerce and how buyer behaviors have changed post-pandemic, it’s time to learn marketing strategies that best resonate with the “new” online consumer. Here’s a breakdown of the most recent online retailer trends as they relate to capturing new customers and sales:

Social Media Marketing 

With no membership or sign-up fees, social media marketing still ranks high as an organic and cost-effective way to reach audiences and potential customers. If your budget allows for paid advertising on social media platforms, you’ll increase your chances of being seen by highly targeted consumers with audience-led insights. Platforms like Instagram now offer shoppable posts, making it even easier and more convenient for customers to snag the products you’re marketing. 

Social media also offers a unique opportunity for brands. They can get direct feedback from the people that matter to them most. This comes in the form of comments, direct messages, and post reactions. People aren't shy about being outspoken on social media, and brands can leverage this engagement to learn more about their customer's preferences. 

For B2B businesses, we've seen increased interest in social selling tactics. Social selling entails building direct relationships with targeted audiences via social media and is used most commonly by companies implementing account-based marketing strategies.

Influencer Marketing 

Influencer marketing is here to stay. According to Forbes, close to 70% of marketers will use influencer marketing this year and that figure is only expected to rise in years to come. Influencers provide ecommerce retailers a built-in audience, and their endorsements can be worth millions. Due to the fast-paced nature of social media trends, influencer marketing trends also tend to shift relatively quickly. Currently, niche micro-influencers are in as consumers crave authenticity and deeper, more intimate relationships with the people they follow.

Affiliate  Marketing 

A whopping 81% of retailers now implement affiliate marketing into their ecommerce strategies for growth. Affiliates are businesses or consumers themselves that help promote and sell products online, for a commission of course. In contrast to influencer marketing, affiliates work in a less obvious fashion via links on their own websites or through educational content. 

Email Marketing

Building an email list of potential and current customers will never go out of style. Email marketing allows ecommerce retailers to connect with their audiences regularly, speaking directly to them to offer exciting updates, exclusive sales, and in-depth product information. With more customer insights and information available at marketers' disposal than ever before, drip campaigns are highly successful for customizing messaging at different stages of the funnel. Plus, personalization has never been easier or more appreciated by customers, especially considering online transactions often lack a personal touch. 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Paid search is a surefire way to ensure your brand or product shows up at the top of the list of searches. Which is a strategy that can maximize ROI rather quickly. With more consumers searching online to make purchases, there’s never been a better time to implement paid searches into your marketing mix. 

SMS messaging 

SMS messaging is a preferred way for many consumers to connect with friends and family. Text-based messaging is also increasing in popularity with consumers as a way to receive communications from brands, retailers, and service providers directly. Even better? The data is showing that when it comes to marketing campaign success, SMS messaging is blowing it out of the water. According to a 
Campaign Monitor survey, open rates for text messages are a whopping 98%, versus just 20% for email. 

Sponsored Content 

Chances are high that you've interacted with sponsored or branded content (and you may not even have noticed!). Sponsored content is custom digital content that lives on an editorial publication and is crafted with a brand's goals and intended audience in mind. At The StoryStudio, we like to think of sponsored content as a blank canvas, ready to be used as a storytelling instrument for our client partners and filled with editorial text and interactive elements. For our ecommerce partners, we recommend incorporating in-story shopping elements or lookbooks to showcase flagship products. By utilizing StoryStudio-created sponsored content paired with native promotional placements, (ad units that blend into the rest of a site), brands can leverage a trusted Hearst publication's audience to speak directly to viewers without being intrusive or annoying. 

The Final Word on Marketing for Ecommerce Sales 

To succeed in ecommerce sales, it’s key for businesses to stay on top of the trends and top-of-mind. For busy SMBs and overworked staff, creating and executing a successful ecommerce strategy can be difficult, to say the least. That's where we come in. When you partner with The StoryStudio, we take the worry out of growing your business. Reimagine the way you approach ecommerce marketing― introduce yourself here to learn more about how we can help.

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