In the world of digital marketing, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet that guarantees success. “Growth hacks” can work, but what many of their advocates don’t tell you is the amount of work that accompanies these supposed shortcuts.
In my experience, there’s nothing more effective at stimulating growth than partnering with the right third-party marketing tool. That’s what we’ll be focusing on in this article. In my decade of working in this industry, I’ve seen many types of products enter the market, with varying levels of success.
What I’m going to be discussing below are tools that are proven to help online retailers achieve maximum success and growth. Like, I said, these aren’t shortcuts, and they’re not the only weapons you’ll need in your arsenal. Learning to incorporate them into your operations will take time and hard work, but the rewards will be there.
Let’s get to it. Here are my picks for the best e-commerce marketing tools to help your business grow bigger, faster.
1. Choose the Right Platform
If you’re still in the beginning stages of setting up your e-commerce business, or you’re dissatisfied with your current platform, it’s worth taking a good look at your different options. I’m excluding Amazon from this list since I’m dedicating a section to it later in the article.
Shopify is what’s referred to as a “hosted” solution. You select and customize your shop’s template on their cloud-based platform, rather than setting up your own domain and inserting an e-commerce plugin.
Everything about Shopify’s functionality is about e-commerce. Everything you need to build your store, get people to visit it, convert them into customers, process their payments, and deliver their orders can be found within their ecosystem of “apps.”
Shopify is a great option for online retailers who do drop shipping – those would-be store owners who don’t physically hold stock or manage fulfillment.
BigCommerce is another SaaS e-commerce platform very similar to Shopify. Users subscribe to a monthly plan, build their stores using templates and a customization feature, and then conduct business the usual way.
BigCommerce and Shopify differ mostly in what their various subscription plans cost and include as standard functionality. There are different limitations and benefits associated with each of these that you’ll need to assess in order to choose between the two major players in the “hosted e-commerce” space.
What I will say in BigCommerce’s favor is that they’re probably slightly better for smaller companies that want to keep their various fees to a minimum. Their basic plan offers slightly more built-in features than Shopify’s, and there’s no need to buy certain critical apps from a marketplace to set up your store.
WooCommerce is the WordPress e-commerce solution – essentially a plugin for existing websites built with the ubiquitous CMS. In my opinion, the only reason to choose WooCommerce over a purpose-built platform like Shopify is if you have an existing WordPress site or you intend to use your site for more than just e-commerce.
There are WordPress themes and plugins that allow you to build virtually any kind of website. If you’ve already used these to build relatively complex functionality that goes beyond simply selling, WooCommerce is probably your best bet.
2. Become a Google Analytics Expert
I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as I wrote this section’s title. Yes, I’m being slightly hyperbolic. You don’t have to become a Google Analytics Jedi in order to maximize your store’s growth. But the closer you get to be one, the more likely you are to plug the leaks that are compromising your growth.
Google is incredibly generous when it comes to the functionality they offer us with Analytics – overwhelmingly so, in fact. The rabbit hole that this wonderful tool offer doesn’t seem to have an end. It allows you to delve deeper and deeper and get increasingly granular with your reports, taking a seemingly endless different perspective on your site’s traffic data.
Knowing what to look for and how to look for it is critical. Fortunately, the web is a wonderful place, full of experts who are willing to share their knowledge. Have a look at what’s out there, perhaps starting with a primer and then working your way up to a more sophisticated level.
3. Embrace Email Marketing
If I had a buck for every time I wrote this sentence, I’d be living in St Barts in a mansion next to some overly-tanned oil baron. Here it is: “No other method of digital marketing offers as high a return on investment as email marketing.”
So... an average return of $42 for every $1 spent. However, this sentence comes with a disclaimer. This ROI is only achieved when the email marketing campaign is done right. It’s incredibly easy to go through the motions when setting up and executing an email strategy.
You can find excellent resources online about every aspect of planning and executing this correctly, but here’s a quick, broad overview of what it involves.
- Never stop building your subscriber base. You can never have too many people receiving your newsletters and sales offers.
- Create multiple effective lead magnets. There are many tried-and-tested ways to get a visitor to part with their email address. Make sure you give them excellent incentives to do so.
- Don’t just send sales pitches. Use this channel to provide your subscribers with useful information. Engage with them. Make them feel part of a community. Slip in the odd reference to your goods, but don’t make this your only goal.
- Segment your audience. Wherever possible, personalize your lead nurturing efforts. Use what you know about your subscriber to send them emails that they will find most valuable.
In my opinion, Klaviyo is currently setting the standard as an email marketing solution. Head on over to their site and have a look at what they offer. I highly recommend you lean as hard as possible on a reputable third-party app here. Yes, it’s an expense, but the rewards are tangible.
4. Supercharge Your Search Engine Optimization Efforts
Traffic is everything; the bottom end of your sales funnel is meaningless if you’ve got nothing coming in at the top. There are literally dozens of incredibly useful tools out there to help you optimize your site and its content for a great SERP rank. Here are a few of my favorites.
Yoast is an affordable (there’s also a free version) WordPress SEO plugin that’s the undisputed leader in its niche. Here are three things I love about it.
- It starts off by helping you make every page on your site more visible by suggesting the ideal meta descriptions.
- Next, it makes super-relevant keyword suggestions in the actual content of each page, including your blog posts.
- Lastly, it gives you some extremely valuable analytics and insights into your site and its pages’ SEO performance.
If content marketing is one of your major traffic-drivers, as it should be, knowing what people are searching for is pretty important. Google Trends is a free tool that allows you to spot the popularity of search terms in various regions all over the world.
Having this knowledge allows you to create content that’s hyper-relevant and more likely to grab the attention of both Google and your target audience. There are some very helpful resources online about getting the most out of this awesome tool. Here’s one of my favorites.
5. Get the Amazon Buy Box
Limiting the Amazon conversation to only one section of this article seems weird because, well, Amazon is a law unto itself. Very few growth tactics that are relevant to Shopify, WooCommerce, and other e-commerce platforms apply to running a successful Amazon store.
However, I’m going to assume that a section of my readers here DO actually sell on Amazon, so it would be a mistake not to include at least one tool that promotes growth in this hyper-competitive marketplace.
Ask any experienced Amazon retailer what they think the key to success is, and I guarantee you that you’ll hear “win the Buy Box” more often than any other tip. There are plenty of ways to achieve this, but the general consensus is that being competitively priced is one of the most effective.
This begs the question: “How does an Amazon seller constantly monitor ALL their competitors’ prices for their entire product range and adjust their prices in real-time without having three brains and another set of hands?”
The answer is simple. You let someone else do it. In fact, you let an AI tool do it for you. These are called “repricers,” and they are ESSENTIAL to staying competitive and winning the buy box.
Have a look at this post from Aura. They provide an exhaustive list of some very handy Amazon seller tools and justifiably count themselves amongst the best. When you’ve finished considering them as a repricing service, read through the rest of this article, there are some excellent suggestions for tools to help you grow your Amazon business.
6. Automate Your Social Media Efforts
Having a strong social media presence is critical to success for any digital business, not just e-commerce. No other channel offers the level of immediate engagement than Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Having a solid social media marketing strategy, and executing it well, is paramount.
The execution side of it can be very time-consuming. Not only because of the physical admin of creating and publishing posts but also because of the amount of research that has to go into doing it at the right time. Not to mention delving into the analytics behind each post’s engagement and using this to adjust your strategy.
For this, many online retailers are turning to Buffer, a tool that helps you plan and publish highly engaging social media content while also offering generous insight into engagement data.
Over 75,000 companies are using Buffer, among them some big hitters like Shopify and Spotify.
A Final Thought
In closing, I want to give you some added motivation to seriously consider the effort and cost of using third-party applications to help boost your business growth.
The most effective incentive I can think of is this: Your competitors are doing it.
Doing business in the digital world involves staying in touch with digital trends. While some business owners embrace this, others don’t. Take a guess which one of these succeed and which close up shop within a year of going into business.
Don’t hesitate to see what’s out there to help you succeed in online retail. There are more than enough excellent tools at your disposal right now, and new ones are constantly springing up.
Take advantage of this, and your business will grow bigger, faster.