Sometimes marketing hurts you more than it helps you — and some marketing techniques you’ve experienced don’t exactly achieve what you dream of. It’s time to face the truth. Actually, that’s because you’re not planning very well. What supports this is what Benjamin Franklin said — “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
So, take notes from the experts at ExpandCart and learn how to build a well-crafted eCommerce marketing plan that increases your sales incredibly in 2021. Plus, as a bonus, we offer you a free marketing plan template ready to use to properly build your next marketing strategy.
Let’s start learning…
What Is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a documented strategic roadmap used to outline, organize, execute, track, and measure the advertising operations that an organization will implement to reach its target market and achieve their desired goals over a specific period of time.
A marketing plan can include many sub-plans for the various marketing teams across the company, but all of them work together toward achieving the same business goals.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan — What Is the Difference?
A marketing strategy is a document that describes how a business will accomplish a particular mission or goal and answers the big questions including the following:
- What do you offer?
- Who is your audience?
- What does your company stand for?
- What are your brand guidelines?
- What niche or industry do you play in?
- Who are your main competitors?
A marketing strategy can include less or more information than that, but, in general, its purpose is to describe how your marketing goals will help you achieve your business goals.
Simply, it’s the “Why” behind your marketing efforts.
Driven by your strategy, a marketing plan is a roadmap that includes the action plan for executing your marketing strategy. Its purpose is to outline the following:
- What will you do?
- How will you do what you plan?
- When and where will you implement?
- How will you track and measure success?
In general, the terms marketing strategy and marketing plan are often used interchangeably because a marketing plan is created based on a company’s overall marketing strategy.
In some cases, the marketing strategy and the marketing plan may be incorporated into one document, particularly for small businesses that may run only one or two marketing campaigns in a year.
While the marketing plan outlines marketing activities and operations on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, the marketing strategy outlines the overall value proposition of a company.
Why eCommerce Businesses Need Marketing Plans?
Whether you’re selling on-demand printed t-shirts out of your home or selling ERP software to enterprise businesses, definitely you need a marketing plan. Simply, marketing plans give your company a ‘North Star’ to follow.
A study in 2019 conducted by CoSchedule on a total of 3,217 marketers globally revealed that marketers with a documented plan or strategy are 313% more likely to achieve success in their marketing campaigns, and marketers who proactively plan projects are 356% more likely to achieve success.
We could come up with countless reasons why you need a marketing plan for your eCommerce businesses, we’ll keep it short by focusing on the following 3 reasons.
1. Reach Customers & Generate Sales
With the majority of consumers shopping online, marketing is a significant approach to reach potential customers and generate sales for eCommerce businesses. Having a well-built online store, the highest quality products, the best customer service, the most secured payment gateways are nothing if your customers don’t know who you are, what you sell, or why they should buy from you.
So, marketing is an indispensable thing for any eCommerce business, and for sure, having a clearly laid-out marketing plan is much more essential in achieving your business goals.
2. Be Proactive and Aligned with Your Vision and Goals
Having a detailed marketing plan in place with well-defined strategies for how to reach your goals and where and when you will focus your budget and energies allows your business to be organized and proactive when unexpected risks come your way.
Rather than being reactive, having a marketing plan makes it easy to determine what steps/actions to take to keep your eCommerce business on track. So, you’ll be able to focus your time and resources on reaching your goals, without worrying about how to react to new risks.
3. Get Measurable Results
Having a marketing plan means that you have a strategic framework within which you can measure your progress in an effective way to see if your results match up with what you laid out in your plan.
A marketing plan also provides you with the opportunity to re-evaluate and potentially rewrite or refine any part of your plan even if you start working on this plan.
Types of eCommerce Marketing Strategies?
There are many types of eCommerce marketing strategies out there. We’re going to take a look at the most essential strategies you can use to set yourself apart and get more sales for your online store. We’ve categorized them into 3 main groups that are:
- Low-Cost eCommerce Marketing Strategies
- PPC eCommerce Marketing Strategies
- High-tech eCommerce Marketing Strategies
Let’s delve deeper into each category…
1. Low-Cost eCommerce Marketing Strategies
Almost all eCommerce businesses use these low-cost marketing strategies; in other words, they should do. These marketing techniques can be the building blocks of an eCommerce marketing strategy and they’re perfect for startups and eCommerce small businesses.
These marketing strategies include the following:
1. Search engine optimization (SEO)
The essential marketing tool that enables you to make sure that both your online store and all of your product pages are fully optimized for the exact search keywords your potential customers are searching for.
2. Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms are entirely free unless you decide to outsource it. It is no surprise that social media is clearly the perfect choice for digital marketing across the eCommerce universe. It’s an excellent way to build and nurture relationships with customers.
3. Content Marketing
You’d be amazed at how many people use Google asking for things like “what should I wear to a job interview or a wedding” or “what kind of equipment should I have to build a homemade gym.” Not only are people looking for answers, but they’re also ready to buy what answers their questions.
So, offering valuable content for your audience can bring customers to your site and encourage them to purchase, sign-up for your email list, or take any desired action you want them to take.
Here is an example of the educational content provided by PUNCH EQUIPMENT®, the Australian boxing equipment supplier.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is a fundamental pillar part of any eCommerce marketing strategy. With great copywriting and great visuals, you can deliver targeted suggestions, personalized promotions, product announcements, and more to your audience who are already interested in your product so you can boost sales.
5. Including Reviews on Product Pages:
If you think online reviews get lost in all the online stores crowded, think again. Research shows that 82 percent of US customers always read online reviews for local businesses, and 91 percent trust online reviews saying that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.
2. PPC eCommerce Marketing Strategies
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising cost more than the previous options, but it also brings your fast and qualified results. There are two main types of PPC ads as follows:
1. Google Ads
Google ads are on top of all other PPC ads on any other marketing channel. Using Google PPC Ads enables you to target specific keywords to show up your ads in relevant searches above organic search results, giving you an edge.
We’ve explained every single step on how to run your PPC Ads campaigns in a separate article. Check it out and be more aggressive in targeting your audience and putting your brand in front of them.
2. Facebook and Instagram Ads
Instagram Ads operates under the same interface of Facebook, so we’re lumping them in together. Facebook and Instagram Ads work differently than Google Ads. Instead of targeting people by search intent depending on keywords, you target people based on different factors like age, gender, location, interests, etc.
3. Promoted Pins
It works on Pinterest a little like a combination of Google Ads and Facebook Ads. It’s the best of both worlds, giving you the opportunity to display your promoted ads in different ways — pop up ads that appear in relevant users feeds and/or ads that appear in relevant searches.
3. High-tech eCommerce Marketing Strategies
There are two big options you can go here — mobile app development and virtual reality (VR). They are very fancy ways to take your eCommerce business to the next level.
We carry the internet in our pockets and we’re very sticky to our smartphones. Launching your store mobile app can serve different purposes, making the shopping experience easier.
eCommerce Marketing Planning Process — 7 Steps to Follow
Some conceptualize the marketing plan process more widely saying that it’s about identifying why are you doing this? Where are you today and where do you want to go tomorrow? How are you going to get there? And how will you keep on track?
But in theory, there is a logical sequence to follow when developing a marketing plan for your eCommerce business as follows:
- you begin by describing the purpose and focus of your marketing plan,
- you move on to analyzing the current situation and environment, identifying your target audiences,
- clarifying your marketing objectives and goals,
- conducting market research to deepen your understanding of your target audiences,
- determining a desired positioning for the offer,
- designing a strategic marketing mix (4Ps),
- and then you develop evaluation, budget, and implementation plans.
We’ve briefly described the 7 distinct steps to developing a strategic eCommerce marketing plan.
- Conduct a Situation Analysis
- Define Your Marketing Goals and Business Objectives
- Research and Identify Target Audiences
- Develop a Strategic Marketing Mix (4Ps)
- Develop a Plan for Monitoring and Evaluation
- Set Your Budgets
- Finalize Your Implementation Plan
Let’s get started…
Download our Free Marketing Plan Template tailored to online retailers and start developing your thoughtful and effective marketing plan to prepare yourself to be one of the fastest-growing eCommerce stores.
Step 1: Conduct a Situation Analysis
A significant part of the marketing plan is conducting a deep audit to know whom you’re marketing against, what’ll the eCommerce industry look like in the next 5 years? How is your company adapting? What are the internal and external factors and forces that are anticipated to have an impact on your subsequent planning decisions? and so on. Often referred to as a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
A situation analysis or SWOT analysis stands for internal competitive factors — the strengths to maximize them and weaknesses to minimize them, besides the environmental external competitive factors that represent either opportunities to take advantage of or threats you should be prepared for.
Step 2: Define Your Marketing Goals and Business Objectives
eCommerce marketing plan templates always include a “Behavior Objective” or something you want to encourage the target audience to do. Marketing goals always tie into the overall business objectives, but both focus only on the business portions that marketing activities can influence. For example, if a company’s overall objective is to increase revenue, then the marketing goal might be to get a certain number of customers to purchase products or sign up for a rewards program each month.
Ideally, marketing goals and also business objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
Keep in mind that what you determine here will guide your subsequent decisions regarding marketing mix strategies. This will also have significant implications for your marketing budgets and will provide a clear direction for evaluating and measuring the planning process.
Step 3: Research and Identify Target Audiences
The next step in developing a strategic marketing plan for your eCommerce business is to research and identify your target audiences who are the groups of people you need to reach.
In general, identifying your target audiences is a process of three steps that involve:
- segmenting the market (population) into similar groups,
- then evaluating market segments based on a set of criteria,
- and finally choosing one or more as the focal point for marketing mix and positioning strategies.
Many eCommerce firms conduct research on multiple market segments or potential audiences to help them prioritize and select the most responsive audiences/markets. And there are 2 main types of research you can conduct:
- The first type is “Primary Research” — It refers to conducting original studies on your target audiences using questionnaires, interviews, focuses group discussions, etc.
This type of researches is more expensive and time-consuming, but it enables you to collect data that are most relevant to your business’s specific circumstances.
- The second type is “Secondary Research” — This refers to using available research studies that have already been conducted by third-party experts or firms. Many of these researches are free and give you useful data on market size or trends.
The best practice is to combine primary, original research with high-quality secondary research, so you gain a full, well-informed view of your market and audiences. This, in turn, helps you reduce risk and makes your marketing activities more of a science than an expensive guessing game.
Step 4: Develop a Strategic Marketing Mix (4Ps)
Because marketing plans drive all your marketing initiatives, it’s essential that they touch on every element of your strategic marketing mix — your product, price, place, and promotional strategies. The marketing mix is thought of as the determinants (independent variables) used to influence behaviors (the dependent variable).
Make sure to develop your marketing mix in the sequence that follows, starting with the product and ending with promotional strategies.
This part of the plan describes the core, actual, and augmented product levels.
- The core product consists of benefits the target audience believes they will experience as a result of buying from you.
- The actual product refers to the actual features of the desired behavior (e.g., how a package shipping should be delivered safely) and any tangible goods/services that will support the desired behavior.
- The augmented product describes any additional tangible objects/services that you will include in your offer (e.g., guaranteed to secure your data when ordering).
Simply it’s the cost. Be sure to mention any product-related monetary costs (fees) the target audience will pay and, if offered, any monetary incentives such as free items or discount coupons. Also, note any nonmonetary incentives such as public recognition.
In short, you need to identify major costs the target audience associates with adopting the desired behavior—both monetary (e.g., paying for a car wash versus doing it at home) and nonmonetary (e.g., the time it takes to drive to the car wash).
Primarily, the place is where and when the target audience will perform the desired behavior and/or acquire products/services. Also, the place is often referred to as your distribution channels or delivery system. In this part of your eCommerce marketing strategy, you will include any strategies related to managing these channels.
This section describes communication strategies you’ll use to persuade target audiences to take the desired actions. Your promotion plan should include the following:
- Messages — what you want to communicate
- Messengers — any spokespersons, sponsors, partners, actors, or influential others you will use to deliver your messages
- Communication Channels — where promotional messages will appear
Step 5: Develop a Plan for Monitoring and Evaluation
This part of your eCommerce marketing plan template outlines what are the key measurements that will be used to evaluate the success of your marketing effort and how and when these measurements will be taken.
Of course, evaluating costs money; so this part of the plan is developed before setting the budget plan, ensuring that funds for this activity are included.
Step 6: Set Your Budgets
Let’s agree that the budget element of your marketing plan is totally different from your product’s price or other company financials. You can leverage many free marketing channels and platforms, but of course, there are a number of hidden expenses to a marketing team that needs to be accounted for. Based on how many individual expenses you have, be sure to consider detailing this budget by what specifically you’ll spend your budget on.
Step 7: Finalize Your Implementation Plan
In this final phase, you should wrap up your marketing plan with a document that specifies the task-flow and how they’ll be divided — who will do what, when, and for how much. It includes operational planning that transforms the planned marketing strategies into specific real actions.
Some consider this part “the real marketing plan,” as it provides a clear picture of marketing activities, responsibilities, time frames, and budgets. Some even go further and use this as a stand-alone piece they can then share with important internal groups.
Marketing planning isn’t simple and isn’t something that can be done without much forethought; yet, it’s essential to ensure your marketing goals are aligned with your overall business objectives.
Use this pre-built free marketing plan template to ensure you have a thorough, effective, and deliberate plan of action.