How to Market an E-Commerce Website

June 27, 2018

Marketing an e-commerce website is essential if you want to sell your product. Digital marketing agency Promodo studied users on 93 e-commerce sites to figure out which digital marketing channels are most useful.

In 2017, the European B2C e-commerce market generated a revenue of 250 billion euros, according to Statista. This is a 15% increase from 2016 and 131% increase from 2012. These numbers show that B2C e-commerce marketing is worth it.

We at Promodo have studied 530 million user sessions on 93 e-commerce websites in order to help marketers improve their digital marketing strategies. We examined different online stores that offer electronics, clothing, children’s items, car parts, medical goods and specialized goods.

In this article, we will go through what we learned from our study, including the most effective digital marketing channels. We’ll examine how to promote your online store, no matter what size it is.

The Digital Marketing Channels That Matter in E-Commerce

It’s crucial to create a detailed marketing strategy from the very beginning. To start, identify which marketing channels work best for your e-commerce niche.

The chart below shows the effectiveness of each digital marketing channel as expressed by the percentage of website traffic that channel created.

traffic from digital marketing channels

Organic traffic drove the most results to e-commerce websites, while paid campaigns, or PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, generated the second-most results.

In third place was direct traffic.

Email, social media, and referral traffic didn’t show strong performances, but it doesn’t mean that you should ignore these channels while building your strategy in 2018.

Let’s take a closer look at each channel in descending order of priority.

1. Organic SEO Drives Essential Traffic

Our study shows that users rely heavily on organic search engine results when looking for goods or services online.

Organic traffic is when a user types something into a search bar and clicks on the result ‘organically.’ That’s why a high position of your website in search results carries such significant weight.

Last year, organic traffic to e-commerce sites from Google increased by 34%, and its revenue benchmark was 27%.

Organic traffic from Google is also important because of trustworthiness. Users trust Google more than other search engine options.

However, don’t just focus on Google – also think about other search platforms popular in your country. Just don’t expect traffic similar to what Google can generate for you.

For instance, we analyzed Yandex, a Russian search engine, and found that e-commerce in Eastern Europe has seen reduced budgets for ads on this platform by 20%. The volume of organic traffic from Yandex decreased by 0.5% in 2018.

E-commerce store owners should focus heavily on organic SEO when planning a digital marketing campaign.

2. Paid Advertising Campaigns Drive Conversions

Paid advertising is the second-most effective digital marketing channel in e-commerce because it brings both traffic and conversions.

Paid advertising, which includes PPC campaigns, generates 33% of traffic and $1.15 revenue per user.

Additionally, paid advertising show you which keyword searches are driving clicks, as you can analyze paid campaigns through tools like Google Analytics. This information helps marketers optimize ads for better performance.

CPC is also good for driving traffic to a specific page or category of your website. For instance, an electronics store might set up separate advertising for a section called “Smart home devices” in response to the search query “smart scales” in order to entice customers to that specific landing page.

3. Catchy, Logical URLs Create Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is when users visit your site by typing the URL in the address bar of the browser. According to our research, direct channels generate 15% of traffic volume and 17% of revenue.

It may seem hard to encourage users to go directly to your website, but there are other common ways users can reach your website directly:

  • Bookmarking the page
  • Clicking a link from a PDF file
  • Clicking a link from chat sessions
  • Following a link from QR codes and apps

However, traffic through direct channels has increased only by 19% during the 12 months.

Increase in traffic from digital marketing channels

This makes it the channel with the least amount of increase.

We suggest you focus on this channel more at the very beginning of your business development as you’re choosing a business name and URL. The URL should duplicate your brand name, and be memorable as well.

4. Email Marketing Leads to Repeat Sales

Email marketing has the highest conversion rate and ROI of any channel. In addition, it is a powerful tool to stimulate repeat sales.

The conversion rate of email marketing, at 2.25%, shows how powerful the channel is. In addition, email marketing directly affects the growth of repeat sales.

Email marketing works when it’s personalized. A segmented customer base allows you to offer various customer groups goods or services they actually want.

Our research shows that 50% of e-commerce projects do not use email marketing. If your business doesn’t use email marketing, create a budget for an email marketing campaign this year to start making use of this powerful channel.

5. High-Quality Referrals Increase Profits

Over 75% of businesses whose profits increased by at least 30% last year used numerous referral programs.

Our research says that referral marketing generates around 8% of online sales on average.

Referral traffic is made up of several types of channels:

  • marketplaces and comparison shopping engines
  • coupon services
  • cashback services
  • partner programmes
  • CPA networks
  • affiliate marketing (leaders opinion)

Clutch itself is an example of affiliate marketing. We sometimes receive leads through our Clutch profile, which includes a link to our website.

Promodo Clutch profile

Find time to choose partner platforms and leaders that can help you sell your products.

You can do this with the help of affiliate tracking systems, or look for websites that target an audience similar to yours at your own pace.

6. Social Media Increases Brand Recognition

Advertisers have spent significantly more on AdWords and social media this year. As a result, the traffic through social media has increased by 152% in this 12 month period.

However, social no longer drives the same rate of conversions.

This is partly because Facebook changed their News Feed algorithm. Now, users may miss your “unprioritized” posts.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop your social activity, of course. Social media is great for brand recognition.

Just don’t expect the channel to be the most effective when marketing an e-commerce store.

Tips for E-Commerce Website Optimization

Here's some advice on how to structure your e-commerce website based on our research.

Aim for Mobile Optimization

Optimizing your e-commerce store is a necessity.

The number of conversions from mobile devices has increased by 67% compared to 2016.

That’s why it’s crucial to optimize your store for mobile, and to create a mobile app if possible.

Follow new trends like voice search so that customers and business partners can find you by voice.

Repeat Visits Are Key

A returning visitor conversion rate is 25% higher than the conversion rate of a first-time buyer. This means that working to retain customers is more profitable than attracting new ones.

share of traffic generated by repeat visits

This is why you should track your users’ activities via tools like Google Analytics. Send repeat customers attractive, personalized emails with special offers.

Page Load Speed Matters

The page load speed of your website is critical – not just because it helps you rank well on Google, but because fast page load keeps profits high.

In 2017, the average page load speed for e-commerce sites was 8 seconds. If a site took more than 8 seconds to load, conversions decreased on both desktop and mobile devices.

page load speed

To improve your page load time, you can minimize HTTP requests. Analyze which images, stylesheets, pop-ups, and scripts take too long to download.

In addition, check in every year with your developers to see if your website hosting options are right for you.

Metrics Provide Clues

When you look at site data, you can detect what’s working and what isn’t on your e-commerce website. Use that information to tailor your marketing strategy.

Our research unearthed four key indicators that impact e-commerce success:

  • Average order values
  • The number of pages per session
  • Session duration
  • Bounce rate

If possible, track these four indicators. They’ll help you see where you need to improve.

Digital Marketing Makes A Difference in E-Commerce

Digital marketing really can make a difference for your e-commerce store, but only if you use digital marketing channels wisely and come up with reasonable expectations.

Our research showed that in 2017, users relied on search platforms more. That’s why we recommend that marketers improve their SEO and paid advertising strategies first.

We would also recommend that you look to social media as a way to boost your reputation, not necessarily as a way to drive sales.

Do not neglect email marketing as a strong tool for customer retention, and give special consideration to mobile optimization in 2018.

These research-backed tips provide a solid foundation for your digital marketing efforts in the year to come.


About the Author

valerie lavska promodo headshotValerie Lavska is a content specialist at Promodo Digital Agency. As a journalist, Valerie prefers to interview in-house experts on each writing theme to figure out the real issues and open questions which e-commerce marketers can face with, and explore these in her articles.