Ecommerce marketing strategies have come a long way since I was a Director of Ecommerce. Online stores that use and understand the modern ecommerce movement convert more visitors to buyers. Using personalization, social commerce, gamification, and sustainable business practices in a crowded, chaotic world earns your online store more loyalty, advocacy, conversions, and money.
I explain the Modern Ecommerce Movement, share examples of great modern ecom sites, discuss digital marketing strategies, and illustrate the practical application of those strategies with a fictional sustainable mouthwash called EcoFresh. EcoFresh's tagline is fresh breath, clean planet and its mission is to disrupt the billion-dollar American mouthwash category. Our guide to modern ecommerce is for anyone who wants to increase loyalty, advocate and make more from their store. And for those who wish to disrupt established brands or competitors.
Discover how your online store earns more loyalty, advocacy, and profits by clicking the modern e-commerce accordion links below.
Modern ecommerce uses digital technologies, social media, and other online platforms to sell products or services directly to consumers (DTC). Ecommerce websites take advantage of the rise in online shopping, with 268 million American online shoppers (up 16% since 2020) generating over a billion in ecommerce sales (up 7.7% over 2021). Creating an online store is a great way to build relationships with people who love your brands while introducing your products to new customers. When potential customers discover your website, they've taken the first step in a customer experience journey resulting in lifetime value for buyer and seller.
Features of modern ecommerce:
Modern ecommerce websites look great on smartphones because they get optimized for mobile devices. Optimized for mobile means the website is mobile-friendly with an easy and convenient smartphone or pad checkout process. We use accordion links like the one you clicked on to read this portion of our guide because they break up long-form content, give customers a choice about what they want to read and work great on smartphones.
Creating customized experiences for customers is a pillar of modern ecom. Personalized product recommendations, targeted email marketing, customized promotions, discounts, and programs are just a few ways modern ecommerce wins customer attention, purchases, and loyalty.
Social media platforms earn more of your customers' time and engagement than the most popular streaming channels, so Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest reach customers where they spend their time. Social commerce sells products directly through social media platforms leveraging user-generated content to build brand awareness and drive sales.
Modern ecommerce sells and engages customers on social media platforms, at physical retail stores, through affiliates, online marketplaces, and websites owned and managed by brand stakeholders.
Sustainable and Ethical
Consumers seek businesses like them (read Start with Why to learn why customers buy who you are, not what you do), so many potential customers want brands to prioritize sustainability and ethical practices. Modern ecommerce businesses respond by offering eco-friendly and ethically sourced products while increasing supply chain and production transparency.
Thanks to smartphones, everything is a game, and gamification adds game-like elements, such as leaderboards and badges, onto an ecommerce website. Gamification includes loyalty programs, challenges, competition, and rewards, making the shopping experience more fun and interactive.
Interactive product pages that allow customers to see a 360-degree view of the product, zoom in on details, or even know the product in action through videos or animations help customers project from buying to owning. Interactivity helps customers understand your products, making their shopping experience more immersive.
People are more likely to purchase when others "like them" have already done so. Social proof elements such as customer reviews, ratings, and user-generated content build trust and increase conversion rates.
Virtual or Augmented Reality
Consider using virtual or augmented (VR & AR) reality technology to help your customers visualize the product in their space. Apps showing a painting on a customer's wall or how that couch will look in their room are great ways to create a more immersive and engaging shopping experience.
Combine these tactics to make your shopping experience fun, interactive, and personal.
Creating personalization on an e-commerce website is tricky. If Amazon said, "Hey, Martin you should buy this," it would be creepy. I'd worry Amazon violated my privacy if the Big A spoke directly to me.
Segmentation, "like me" examples, and sharing behind the curtain data are three ways to make your online store feel personal without being creepy or making your shoppers feel nervous about privacy.
Segmentation defines customers into different groups or segments based on shared characteristics or behaviors. Segmentation helps tailor marketing and product offerings to each segment's needs and preferences, leading to more customer engagement, conversions, and revenue.
There are different ways to segment your store's customers, including (but not limited to):
Organizing customers based on age, gender, income, education, and location uses demographic data to define segments.
Values, interests, attitudes, and lifestyles create psychographic segments.
Customers who purchased X also bought y is an example of a behavioral segment, but browsing, cart abandonment, and email engagements also create behavioral segmentation.
Creating content, merchandising, or offers for customers based on their geographic location, such as country, region, or city, is another form of segmentation. Adding a language filter is an excellent example of Geographic segmentation.
We discuss EcoFresh's three personas - Joan, the Eco-Conscious Millennial; Bob, the Health-Conscious Senior; and Mary Busy, Working Mom in the EcoFresh Marketing Plan accordion. Personas are archetypes of your customer segments. Developing merchandising, content, and offers for Joan, Bob, and Mary creates a "like me" identification for eco-conscious millennials, health-conscious seniors, and working moms.
A website is like visiting the Wizard of Oz. You and your ecommerce team are the great and powerful Oz creating a world where visitors discover and buy unique gifts at the end of your rainbow. You have a world of data about who does what and why so sharing that knowledge makes it easy for visitors to feel your website wrap around them. Examples of "behind the curtain data include:
Here are some examples of superb modern ecommerce online stores:
Love 'em or hate them, Amazon is one of the world's largest and most successful online retailers. It offers a wide range of products, fast and free shipping, and a user-friendly(ish) website and apps. We wrote about Amazon's new Buy with Prime or the company's willingness to share its marketplace in exchange for crowdsourcing its distribution facilities and recommended direct-to-consumer brands take a hard look.
Glossier disrupted the beauty industry with its modern, minimalist branding and packaging. Its ecommerce website is simple, easy to navigate, and visually appealing, which has helped it to build a loyal customer base.
Its ethical and sustainable products taste great, and its clean, simple website is disrupting established brands such as Wrigley.
Warby Parker disrupted the traditional eyewear industry by offering affordable and stylish glasses and sunglasses online and now in stores. Its ecommerce website is user-friendly and allows customers to virtually try on glasses before purchasing. It ships six frames with easy returns for ones you don't want, and automatic billing for frames you keep is pure modern ecommerce genius.
Allbirds is a sustainable footwear brand with loyal customers who love comfortable and eco-friendly shoes. Its ecommerce website is simple, easy to navigate, and showcases why sustainability is the new green.
Harry's disrupted the traditional shaving industry with high-quality and affordable razors and blades. Its user-friendly and visually appealing website has built a loyal customer base.
Casper mattresses disrupted the traditional industry with its direct-to-consumer model and comfortable and affordable beds. Watching a vacuum-packed mattress unravel is better than many television shows.
These ecommerce online stores have disrupted their respective industries with innovative products, user-friendly websites, and modern branding and marketing strategies.
There are several ways that an online store can modernize its ecommerce marketing strategy to disrupt established brands and gain a competitive edge:
Search Engine Optimization optimizes a website or web page to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords or phrases. SEO's goal is to increase organic (non-paid) traffic to a website and improve the user experience by making it easier for search engines to understand the content and relevance of a web page.
Content marketing creates and shares valuable, relevant, consistent content to attract and engage an audience. Content marketing builds trust and loyalty and drives customer purchasing behavior for a product or service.
Personalization and AI
Established brands may need help to offer personalized shopping experiences, so smaller online stores can gain an advantage. Online stores can provide customized recommendations and create targeted and automated marketing and drip campaigns using customer data and AI-powered algorithms.
Social Media Influencers
By partnering with influencers with a strong following in your target market, online stores reach a wider audience, build brand awareness, and convert more visitors to buyers.
User-generated content (UGC), such as product reviews, photos, and videos, builds customer trust and increases engagement. Online stores should encourage customers to share their experiences and leverage this content in marketing campaigns, web design, and strategy.
By optimizing website and marketing campaigns for mobile devices, online stores improve customer experiences and increase sales.
Online stores should offer special products or services to disrupt established brands. Online stores build a loyal customer base and differentiate from competitors by focusing on a niche market offering products or unique merchandising that is not widely available. Logo merchandise is one easy example of a fantastic product every modern ecom site should sell and give away.
Short Message Service (SMS) marketing sends messages and alerts to customers via text. SMS can promote products or services, provide customer support, and share important updates or information.
Creative Cross-Selling & Upselling
Cross-selling offers customers complementary or additional products or services to the ones they have already purchased or may buy. Creative cross-selling increases the average order value (AOV) and generates additional revenue from existing customers.
Upselling offers customers a higher-end or more expensive version of the product or service they are viewing or considering. Upselling shares the same increased AOV goal as cross-selling.
Ask Eric's chatbot FAQ
Soon every modern ecommerce website will have a ChatGPT-like chatbot. The WTE project to develop AI as a Service providing a chatbot schooled on your website is called Ask Eric.
Better Shopping Cart & Checkout
Every tiny conversion improvement can mean significant returns for modern ecommerce websites, so performing a shopping cart analysis to keep your checkout simple is always a good use of time and resources.
Landing pages & Better Product Pages
A landing page persuades visitors to take a specific action, such as filling out a form, making a purchase, or downloading a whitepaper. Landing pages get used with email marketing, social media advertising, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Gamification incorporates game-like elements such as leaderboards, badges, and game mechanics into non-game contexts, such as marketing, education, or employee training. Gamification increases engagement, motivation, and participation by making the experience of visiting a website or app enjoyable, rewarding, and fun.
Influencer marketing involves partnering with influential individuals in a particular industry or niche to promote a product or service. These influencers can be bloggers, social media personalities, celebrities, or other experts with a large following and influence over their audience.
A loyalty program rewards customers for loyalty, repeat business, or UGC contributions. Loyalty programs typically offer incentives or rewards, such as discounts, free merchandise, and exclusive access to encourage and reward customers' continued business.
Amazon Buy with Prime
Amazon discovered outsourcing distribution facilities is faster than building, so direct-to-consumer brands can, if approved, offer their customers who are also Amazon prime subscribers an Amazon checkout process and shipping logistics. We wrote extensively about Buy with Prime a few days after Amazon announced its new program.
Cause marketing is a strategy that involves aligning a brand or product with a particular social or environmental cause or issue. Cause marketing aims to increase brand awareness and loyalty, improve the brand's reputation, and drive sales by appealing to customers' values and emotions.
Affiliate marketing promotes a product or service through a network of affiliates who receive a commission for each sale they generate. In affiliate marketing, the affiliates are typically third-party individuals or companies who promote the product or service through their marketing channels, such as a website, blog, or social media platform.
Overall, to modernize their ecommerce marketing strategy and disrupt established brands, online stores need to focus on delivering a personalized and unique shopping experience, leveraging social media influencers and user-generated content while embracing mobile commerce.
Sure, here are three personas for an online store selling sustainable mouthwash called EcoFresh:
These personas represent some of the potential target customers for an online store selling sustainable mouthwash called EcoFresh. By understanding the needs, interests, and pain points of these customers, the online store can better tailor their marketing, branding, and user experience to meet their unique needs and create a more effective and engaging shopping experience.
Joan = Eco-Conscious Millennial
Age: 25 - 35
Education: Bachelor's degree
Occupation: Marketing Director
Income: $75,000 - $100,000
Interests: Yoga, hiking, veganism, sustainability, environmental activism
Pain Points: Wants to reduce her environmental impact but finds it difficult to find eco-friendly products that work well and are affordable.
Key Motivators: Wants to support businesses that prioritize sustainability, enjoys discovering new eco-friendly products, values a healthy lifestyle and clean products.
Bob = Health-Conscious Senior
Age: 65 - 75
Education: Some college
Interests: Golfing, traveling, gardening, healthy living
Pain points: Wants to maintain good oral hygiene but finds many commercial mouthwashes too harsh or chemical-laden.
Key motivators: Values sustainability and natural products, cares about his health and wellness, likes to try new products.
Mary = Busy Working Mom
Age: 35 - 45
Education: Masters in Education
Interests: Exercise, cooking, family time
Pain points: Struggles to find time for self-care and prioritizes products that are convenient and effective.
Key motivators: Values products that are natural and safe for her family, wants to support businesses that align with her values, appreciates products that are easy to use and fit into her busy schedule.
EcoFresh foundation copy.
Introducing EcoFresh, the sustainable mouthwash that freshens your breath and helps protect the planet. Made with all-natural, plant-based ingredients and packaged in eco-friendly materials, EcoFresh is the perfect choice for anyone who cares about their oral health and the environment.
EcoFresh gives you a clean and refreshing mouthfeel without the harsh chemicals and artificial flavors of many commercial mouthwashes. Instead, our carefully crafted formula features natural ingredients like tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and aloe vera to keep your mouth clean and invigorated.
In addition to its superior performance, EcoFresh is committed to reducing its environmental impact. Packaged in 100% recyclable materials, we use only sustainably sourced ingredients to minimize our carbon footprint. So caring for your mouth should never come at the planet's expense.
With our fresh breath, clean planet tagline, EcoFresh is leading the charge in sustainable oral care. Join us in our mission to promote a healthier and more sustainable world, one swish at a time. Choose EcoFresh for a healthier mouth and a healthier planet.
I like the five step brand storytelling outline shared by Chiara Aliotta in Smashing Magazine:
Let's map our narrative for Joan.
Problem: Wants value-priced products that help reduce her environmental impact.
Guide: EcoFresh AI
Plan: Create an EcoFresh Founders "Carbon Footprint" plan buying carbon offsets in Joan's name with a "trial" plan offering fewer carbon offsets than a monthly subscription and contrast with Listerine.
Action: Have Joan try Ecofresh with a single purchase with her name going into a subscription drip campaign.
Success: First email marketing as part of the post-purchase journey is to ask Joan for her EcoFresh Review, sharing her review on the website and social media (with permission).
See how the the carbon footprint campaign maps to Joan's needs and pain points? We would repeat this exercise for Bob and Mary, but let's explore more creative EcoFresh marketing campaign ideas.
Here's a disruptive, fun, exciting, and viral marketing plan for a new fictional mouthwash called EcoFresh, whose tagline is Fresh breath, clean Planet. Create an online store EcoFresh.com to sell sustainable mouthwash to disrupt established brands such as Listerine and Crest. Here's the EcoFresh marketing plan
Social Media Challenge
Create a "Green Mouthwash Challenge" and ask users to post a photo or video of themselves using EcoFresh and tag the brand. Offer a sustainable prize for the most creative, fun, or viral post. Encourage users to share the challenge with their friends and followers.
Identify influencers in the health and wellness or sustainability niches, and partner with them to promote EcoFresh.
Social Media Campaigns
Besides the challenge, create a social media campaign focusing on EcoFresh's sustainability and eco-friendliness. Use creative graphics, videos, and user-generated content to showcase the product's benefits and features, and use hashtags to drive engagement and visibility.
Create a referral program that rewards customers for referring their friends and family to EcoFresh.com. Offer a discount, free product, or another incentive for each referral, and promote the program on social media and email marketing campaigns.
Offer a free trial size of EcoFresh to new customers, or run a promotion such as "Buy One, Get One Free" to encourage trial and repeat purchases.
An online store selling sustainable mouthwash must create fun, exciting, and viral marketing to disrupt established brands such as Listerine and Crest. In addition, by focusing on EcoFresh's sustainability and eco-friendliness, EcoFresh.com can differentiate itself from the competition and attract a new audience of environmentally-conscious consumers.
An online store can use SMS (Short Message Service) to communicate with customers and drive sales in several ways, including:
Send automated SMS messages to notify customers about the status of their orders and shipping updates. Notifications keep customers informed while reducing customer service inquiries.
Send SMS exclusive promotional offers, such as discounts, free shipping, or new product releases. Offers drive sales and encourage repeat purchases.
Send SMS messages to customers with abandoned carts with an incentive to complete their orders. Cart abandonment notifications recover lost sales and reduce cart abandonment rates. Abandonment drove me crazy because it felt like we were leaving millions on the table.
Use SMS as a customer service channel where customers ask questions or get support. Customer service can benefit customers who prefer texting to phone or email.
Use SMS to request customer feedback to gather insights and improve the customer experience. Customer feedback helps build customer loyalty and engagement.
You must have the customer's consent to receive text messages and offer an easy opt-out option. SMS messages should also be concise, clear, and personal. Consider integrating SMS with other marketing channels, such as email and social media, for cohesive and effective marketing.
1% for the Planet is a global organization that aims to help fund environmental nonprofits and promote corporate responsibility for the Planet. The organization was founded in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, the owner of a fly fishing company.
The concept of 1% for the Planet is that participating businesses commit to donating at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes. Donations get made to approved nonprofits in the organization's network, covering various environmental issues such as climate change, wildlife conservation, and sustainability.
The 1% for the Planet network includes over 3,000 businesses and more than 4,000 nonprofit organizations in over 90 countries. Participating companies can use the 1% for the Planet logo to showcase their commitment to the environment and attract customers who value sustainability and corporate responsibility.
By encouraging businesses to give back to the Planet and supporting a global network of environmental nonprofits, 1% for the Planet aims to create a more sustainable and equitable world for future generations.
As a new sustainable mouthwash brand disrupting established brands such as Listerine and Crest, EcoFresh should track several key metrics to assess its performance and identify areas for improvement. Some of the key metrics to watch include:
Tracking sales and revenue are key metrics to measure success. EcoFresh should track sales by product, channel, and customer segments to learn strengths and weaknesses and adjust EcoFresh's marketing and sales strategies.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
CAC is the cost of acquiring a new customer and is essential to track marketing and sales effectiveness. EcoFresh should keep CAC as low as possible to maximize profitability and efficiency.
The percentage of website visitors who purchase or sign up for the EcoFresh newsletter is a crucial indicator of the effectiveness of EcoFreesh.com. EcoFresh should track conversion rates by channel, product, and customer segment to identify areas for improvement and optimize marketing and sales.
Customer retention rate is the percentage of customers who make repeat purchases and is a crucial indicator of customer loyalty and satisfaction. EcoFresh should track retention rates and identify strategies to improve customer loyalty and increase repeat purchases, such as offering a subscription option, as outlined in the carbon footprint example created for Joan.
As a sustainable mouthwash brand, EcoFresh should also track metrics related to its environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions, water usage, and waste reduction. Sustainable metrics can help the company to monitor and improve its sustainability practices and communicate its impact to customers.
Average Order Value
Track AOV to know if existing customers are buying more and to judge if a first-time buyer offers work.
Email List Growth
Think of your email subscription call-to-action as a smaller commitment but an expression of purchase intent. Mine your list for subscribers who have yet to make their first purchase and for potential multi-buyers.
PPC creative and subject lines
PPC is the fast way to test images, offers, and copy, so use PPC to teach you how to create winning content for EcoFresh.com.
By tracking these key metrics, EcoFresh can assess its performance and make data-driven decisions to improve its business and disrupt established brands in the mouthwash market.