When e-commerce owners approach us for our services, they’re often focused on boosting their visibility and ranking, in hopes that customers will find them online. While that’s a good start, online visibility and ranking can only go so far. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, constitutes a much more disciplined approach towards helping a business grow its customer base, achieve a high MROI and boost their revenue.
This is because, at its core, inbound marketing strategies are crafted around the customer, unlike traditional marketing which is focused on the business.
Businesses implement inbound marketing to draw traffic and customers organically by positioning themselves at the right time, at the right place.
E-commerce and the Stages of Inbound Marketing
The stages of inbound marketing are aligned to the buyer’s journey, in that the marketing tactics are aimed at guiding a customer down the sales funnel – from the point where they become aware of a business to the point where they become a loyal customer of that business. In short, inbound marketing, delivers valuable, relevant content and information to prospective customers, nurturing them from a stranger/visitor to a qualified lead to a confirmed customer, and finally to a lifelong promoter of the business.
However, before e-commerce businesses can start with inbound, they need to establish the following:
Buyer personas form the basis of inbound marketing. This means identifying who you’ll be marketing your products to. Creating buyer personas involves assigning various real-life characteristics and issues to a hypothetical entity, such as: their age, where they live, their wants and needs, and their likes and dislikes.
Developing buyer personas requires extensive research and gathering pertinent information through contact forms, surveys and questionnaires. Defining buyer personas benefits a business’ marketing efforts by:
- Enabling businesses to create content and messaging that resonates and appeals to their target audience.
- Personalize experiences for different target segments
- Create effective content mapping strategies for every stage of the sales funnel.
3. SMART Revenue Goals
While planning revenue goals for the year, businesses need to use the SMART (Sustainable, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) approach to ensure that those goals are kept on track.
For inbound marketing goals, it means ascertaining the target monthly visitors, number of expected purchases needed to achieve the final revenue target. Once the goals have been set, the next step is to define the resources and the budget that will be needed to achieve that goal. For instance, with inbound marketing, achieving the target monthly visitor goal necessitates, say a minimum of 2 blog posts per week. This means determining who will handle the blog? Will the blog be handled in-house or will it be outsourced? If it’s in-house, how many resources need to be allotted to generate the requisite 2 posts each week?
Now that we’ve got personas and goals in place, let’s get into the Inbound Marketing Cycle for E-commerce
Attracting Qualified Traffic
The first stage of inbound marketing turns strangers into visitors, that is, it maps to the AWARENESS stage of the buyer’s journey, where the business can draw qualified traffic to their website. Qualified traffic refers to traffic with the highest potential to turn into sales.
Tactics within the attract stage include:
- Relevant Website Content: This involves pruning underperforming content on your website: i.e. removing category and product pages that no longer drive traffic or generate revenue. Unfortunately, most enterprise E-commerce websites have a large number of indexed pages that exceed the actual number of categories or SKUs they have. These unnecessary pages can result in low-quality scores from search engines and affect inbound traffic rates.
- Keyword Optimization: Content on category and product pages should be optimized for both competitive and non-competitive keywords to maximize the business’s keyword footprint. This means creating unique content that stands out from competitors.
- Content Mapping: The content should be developed to target customers at various stages of the buyers’ journey.
Converting Quality Traffic to Quality Leads
The second stage of inbound marketing converts site visitors into prospective leads. Leads are generally defined as visitors who have expressed interest in receiving further information from a business in exchange for their contact information. Although, in the field of e-commerce, the definition could also extend to those who have visited relevant pages on the website:businesses can track these users with a cookie and retarget them using ad platforms like Google AdWords or Facebook Retargeting.
But the more qualified leads are those who have engaged with the website, demonstrating a higher level of interest than those who just visited. Now, in E-commerce websites, visitor engagements usually include:
- Signing up for a newsletter or e-book with the intent to know more about the products
- Adding a product to the shopping cart, but abandoning the cart without completing the purchase.
The leads generated through the above two means are qualified leads; however, in terms of the buyer’s journey, the latter is far ahead of the former, and will therefore need a different set of tactics to push them closer to a sale. In the former’s case, there’s still a fair bit of convincing to do before they’re willing to click a “Buy Now” button, while in the latter case, they’ve already shown a clear intent to buy, but changed their mind at the last minute.
To avoid losing out on cart abandoners, in particular, businesses should proactively collect the e-mail addresses before anything gets added to the cart. They can do this through a number of tactics including, free product offers, first purchase rebate, discounted offers, free content offers, to name a few.
Convert Leads to Customers through Effective Lead Nurturing
Once a business has acquired a qualified lead, it needs to nurture the lead down the sales funnel right up to the sale. This requires the integration of marketing automation software like HubSpot or InfusionSoft, which allows to:
- Proactively collect lead information and build their profile over time: called progressive profiling
- Segment leads based on the buyer personas
- Create automated workflows to target and nurture each type of lead.
Automated workflows tool can be used to set up nurturing tactics such as:
- Drip campaigns including re-engagement e-mails with content related to their lead profile or special discounts and offers.
- Product recommendations and e-mails based on their activity on the website.
- Geo-targeting tactics for customers who are in the vicinity of one of the business’ physical stores.
- Cart abandonment nurturing tactics to re-engage them and get them to close the deal.
Through progressive profiling, businesses can tweak and further personalize their marketing offers. The more personalized or “human” the tactics become, the higher the chances of a lead converting into a customer.
Delighting Customers, Turning Them into Promoters
The final stage of inbound marketing centers on customer retention, which is crucial to e-commerce growth: this means continuing to serve and delight customers even after they have made a purchase. The tactics involved in this stage are aimed at extending a customer’s lifetime value (CLV) and converting them into brand promoters.
Inbound marketing automation can help with delight tactics such as:
- Generating dynamic and actionable content for the post-purchase lifecycle such as “thank you” messages after the purchase
- Product recommendations based on previous purchases
- Inactive customer re-engagement campaigns
- New products exclusive peek and price
- Incentivized offers, rewards, and re-targeting customers who are at risk of leaving
Measurements, Analysis and Interpretation of Inbound Data
Once the inbound campaign is generating and converting leads into long-term customers and brand promoters, it’s time to assess its performance against the goals set earlier in the campaign. Based on these assessments, marketers can further tweak their campaigns to improve their performance if the outcomes fall short of their goals.
Inbound marketing tools like Google Analytics and HubSpot CRM can be used to combine the data under a single dashboard for easy viewing and interpretation.
Inbound Marketing is not exclusive to service solutions and has its place in the pursuit of e-commerce growth. Some tactics will be different, but the methodology and principles are the same.