Almost every direct-to-consumer brand owner and retail marketing leader I’ve ever spoken to has wanted the same thing… a path to profitable growth.

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Photo credit: Fabio Fistarol

A few are interested in more website traffic or growing their social media followers as well, but the real underlying goal is always profitable and sustainable growth.

Not growth at any cost, but new ecommerce revenue growth that costs less than the reward and covers the cost of the product.

Profitable growth starts with a specialist ecommerce marketing team

If you’ve ever walked past a shop and pressed your nose up against the window looking lovingly at a delectable item you want to buy, only to think some more on it and eventually take the plunge and make it yours, then this is the online equivalent.

Your team responsible for growing your ecommerce revenue profitably, really need to be specialists in ecommerce. For example, the approach you need to take to get a website with a handful of pages to the top of Google is a considerably different task for an ecommerce website where there are tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of thousands of potential keywords.

The ThoughtShift team has been specialising in delivering new digital sources of revenue at a positive return on investment since we launched in 2011. So for 10 years now, we’ve put our ecommerce marketing strategies to the test on over 100 retailers including Biscuiteers, Montezuma’s, The Body Shop, Menkind, Gopak and OutsideIn.

We’ve honed our methods with over 300 processes proven to deliver multiple millions in ecommerce growth and we’ve even scooped a clutch of awards along the way.

One award win was for an adventure sports retailer who got a 20x return on investment and saw their ecommerce turnover grow from £1 Million to more than £2 Million. Another award win was for a technology retailer whose ecommerce turnover grew from £3 Million to £11 Million without increasing their existing digital marketing budget of £700k.

So what is the best ecommerce marketing strategy for profitable growth?

Well it depends on where you are now and what you’re looking to achieve.

Our ThoughtShift Digital Marketing Methodology is a three phase process that starts with Data Insight where we assess your current situation and goals, then create an actionable Digital Strategy which may include SEO, PPC and/or Social Media strategies that can be implemented in the final phase to deliver Performance Impact.

Phase 1 – Data Insight

What is your current sales performance situation and what kind of roadmap to ecommerce success best suits your appetite for growth?

  • The Velocity Roadmap – You’re already growing fast due to existing sources of revenue from a Google Ads/Facebook Ads/Instagram Ads media budget or other marketing channels and you have an ambitious growth trajectory in your sights – likely based on a cost per acquisition goal or scalable revenue targets. The more growth you see, the more you’ll spend.
  • The Value Roadmap – You’re just getting started on your ecommerce journey and every penny counts, you’d rather take more time to realise the biggest possible end of year return on investment. You’re pragmatic and ready to do what it takes to scale to the next level.
  • The Volume Roadmap – The best of both worlds path where you want to see a decent uplift in new customers but might not have the resources to invest what you’d like from the start. You need to see positive return on investment as soon as possible, although appreciate lower initial funding means a slower rate of initial growth.

Once you know where you are and where you’re going, you’ll then know where to focus.

If you’re going for the Velocity route, then one of the most powerful ways to grow ecommerce revenue is to create integrated SEO, PPC and Social Media strategies.

Whereas if you’re in the Value camp, you’ll need to focus on one of those strategies, either SEO, PPC or Social Media first. Volume would be somewhere on the middle of the spectrum, focusing on SEO & PPC, or Paid Social & SEO, or PPC & Paid Social.

The Data Insight phase involves analysis of your existing data within Google Analytics, Google Speed Score, Google Search Console and Facebook Insights, along with new Keyword Research, Competitor Research and Audience Journey Research.

Where the majority of your ecommerce revenue is proven to come from already is the best place to get more revenue from in the shortest amount of time.

Conversely, trying lots of different digital marketing strategies and not sticking with them for more than a few weeks or months is the fastest way to spend all your budget and have nothing in return. Choose wisely, the data tells it how it is (unless it’s mis-attributed of course, but that’s a different blog!).

Although, do beware of high keyword search volumes. These are very likely to be a red herring for ecommerce revenue growth. You typically want to find the lower volume search queries that are proven from your own data as driving sales for you… and lots of them! Not necessarily the keywords that are the most popular.

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Further data insight reading from the ThoughtShift blog

If you’d like to know more about our approach to increasing ecommerce revenue and driving profitable growth, we’ve been sharing our practices via our blog for years:

Phase 2 – Digital Strategy

The perfect blend of ecommerce SEO, PPC and Social Media strategies for your website will entirely depend on what insights your data reveals. However, to give you the lowdown on our choicest, profitable-growth driving strategies that are amplified even further when integrated, here are a selection of our current favourites…

Best Ecommerce SEO Strategies

  • Meta Data Optimisation

If we’ve ever met, you’ll know how I feel about meta data. It’s business critical and to an ecommerce website, it’s still the single biggest opportunity to shift the needle on growth. The reason being that the titles of all your pages – not the headings, but the titles that appear in the Google search results and when you hover over your browser tab – is the most important place Google looks to assess what your web pages are all about.

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Google and other search engines rank web pages not websites so the words that are contained in the titles of ALL of your web pages are a massive SEO opportunity for all websites. The words you want to be using are words and phrases that are relevant to the content of each of your pages, WITHOUT duplication. Therefore you can use ALL the words and language that your customers and potential customers are using to search for the products you have in these spaces.

For ecommerce websites, with thousands of pages, the opportunity is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and in many cases meta data optimisation is worth millions.

The analogy I Iike to use is that if you imagine each of your page titles is like a billboard. If currently your page titles are not using the full 60 character capacity of each page’s title, it’s like only having an A4 sized ad in the corner of your massive billboard with the large majority of your communication space being left totally blank.

Now fill that blank space with the words that your customers use and just from maximising the space of one page’s title you can double, treble or even 10x the visibility, traffic and sales from that page. Finally, multiply that uplift in brand awareness, traffic and sales by the thousands of pages that your site already has.

  • Internal Linking

Internal linking sounds boring I know. However, most understand that the power of the link is an important factor in SEO.

There are internal links and external links. External links are third party websites linking to your website, like if you get online coverage from external media such as press.

Internal links on the other hand link between your internal pages of your website and these transfer the authority of your website from one page to another.

What many ecommerce website teams don’t realise is that when you add an internal link from one page to another, some of the authority of the page doing the linking passes to the page being linked to.

Internal linking has the power to make the pages being linked from less authoritative and the pages being linked to more authoritative. Now before you go adding internal links to all your pages, the more internal links you put on a page, the more the authority of that page is split between those links.

So internal links are incredibly powerful in enabling ecommerce sites to rank for pages deeper in the architecture optimised for target category, sub category and product keywords.

Although, links can also be potential conversion killers by leading the customer away from purchasing at the critical moment so it’s best to approach internal linking from a global sitewide strategy perspective. In the majority of cases, you do not want any internal links on your product pages and your category pages are great pages to use to link to your sub category pages.

Best Ecommerce PPC Strategies

  • Google Shopping
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Google Shopping is very likely to be an essential part of any ecommerce marketing mix. You only pay for the visitor if they click on your ad. Which because the Google Shopping ads show at the very top of the search results with an image of the product and the price, you only need to pay for highly relevant traffic who like the look of your product and are willing to pay what you’re selling it for.

If you sell products that are available to buy on other websites then Google Shopping is absolutely going to make sense, and if you are in the luxury or designer market you typically will have less competition. The fiercest markets are high street priced fashion and technology goods, although that’s because the search demand is incredibly high. If you manufacture your own products, especially those that solve a new market need then Google Shopping might be less of a priority for you, over SEO or Paid Social.

Now many of the retail brands that we’ve worked with over the years have already been doing Google Ads to some extent and have started out with return on ad spends of 2x – 3x or less. So for every £1000 of media spend, they were getting £2000 or £3000 back in ecommerce revenue or less.

Our ThoughtShift approach to ecommerce PPC has proven to be able to increase return on ad spend to 5x, 6x, 7x and beyond for our award-winning case studies. That means doubling, trebling or even quadrupling the current ecommerce PPC revenue without spending a penny more on media spend.

To do Google Shopping well, you will need to first get a dynamic product feed from your website into Google Merchant Centre including all of Google’s recommended feed attributes such as:

  • product title
  • product description
  • landing page link
  • image link
  • availability
  • price
  • brand
  • colour
  • size
  • unique identifier e.g. Global Trade Identifier Number (GTIN)

Once you’ve got an optimised feed that automatically refreshes as you update your products (or once per day), our approach is to create segmented Google Shopping campaigns.

Typically segmented by best performing products and categories. Splitting your Google Shopping account into precise campaigns not only means that you can move more budget to increase visibility for your best performing products, it also means you can apply negative keywords at this granular level as well.

Negative keywords are the most powerful way to continuously improve ecommerce PPC performance and work in the complete opposite way to SEO keyword targeting. So the more target negative keywords you have for each product campaign the better, as the more relevant your Google Shopping product listing ad will be for the keywords that are left out!

  • Google Dynamic Remarketing

Google Dynamic Remarketing enables previous browsers of your product pages who didn’t checkout to be retargeted with the image of the exact product they were looking at.

If you’ve ever walked past a shop and pressed your nose up against the window looking lovingly at a delectable item you want to buy, only to think some more on it and eventually take the plunge and make it yours, then this is the online equivalent.

We’ve seen dynamic product remarketing campaigns with exceptionally high conversion rates 2, 3, 4 or more times higher than the site’s average ecommerce conversion rate.

Best Ecommerce Social Media Strategies

  • Facebook Advertising & Instagram Advertising

Facebook Advertising includes a suite of paid social advertising opportunities across Facebook and Instagram to enable full funnel advertising across all stages of the buying cycle from brand awareness, through consideration and on to conversion and cross-selling.

  • Facebook Ads
  • Facebook Remarketing Ads
  • Facebook Dynamic Remarketing Ads
  • Facebook Shopping Ads
  • Instagram Ads
  • Instagram Remarketing Ads
  • Instagram Dynamic Remarketing Ads
  • Instagram Shopping Ads

What we’ve found has been incredibly effective for our ecommerce clients over the years, is to first create brand awareness ads ideally using video format ads to target cold audiences. Then retargeting the audiences that engaged with our ads with consideration ad messages to introduce the benefits of the products, before finally retargeting the warm and existing audiences with conversion ads to drive purchase.

This end-to-end buying cycle method of paid social advertising does take time to drive ecommerce revenue, however the benefits are worth waiting for. Especially if you’re looking to reach brand new customers, who’ve never heard of your brand before. You know yourself, you’re highly unlikely to see an ad, click through to the site and purchase straight away. Plus social media is exactly that, it’s social. You’re on there to be social, not to be searching for a product you want to buy like you would be in Google. Paid social is particularly effective if you have very specific or niche audiences and essential if there is limited search demand for what you sell.

So this full customer journey approach means that we can use paid social ads to educate and entertain our new prospective buyers with a more conversational and intelligent approach than traditional ad messaging.

As we grow the total number of customers, we then also have a larger group of warm audiences to target with dynamic ad messages. Such as featuring the product they added to cart but haven’t yet purchased in the ad along with a time-limited special offer. In addition, we can use this highly targeted approach to cross-sell similar products to our existing customers to drive repeat purchases, target lookalike audiences of our most profitable customers and cross-channel target our customers across our paid social, PPC and SEO campaigns.

The value of integrating paid social, PPC and SEO together delivers the highest long term profitable growth. As insights from each channel can not only be used to make each channel more effective, but customers are highly likely to make a purchase and repeat purchases across multiple channels.

In fact, Google’s Zero Moments of Truth study revealed consumers typically spend 7 hours over 11 interactions in 4 locations researching a brand or product before making the decision to purchase.

Therefore, if you’ve tried running some Facebook Ads and didn’t think it was effective in driving ecommerce revenue, it may be because you need a broader range of ads to help them on their multi-step journey to becoming a customer.

Further ecommerce marketing strategies reading from the ThoughtShift blog

If you’d like to know more about our integrated approach to increasing ecommerce revenue and driving profitable growth, we’ve been sharing our practices on our blog for years:

Phase 3 – Performance Impact

What results can you expect? Well it all comes down to the market you’re in, where you’re starting from and of course, the path you choose.

If it’s the Velocity path, you can expect the biggest impacts in ecommerce revenue and profitable growth within 3-6 months.

Whereas if it’s the Value path you can expect slow and steady growth in return on investment over 6-12 months. Or for the best of both worlds there’s always the Volume option, or the middle path.

Further performance impact reading from the ThoughtShift blog

If you’d like to know more about the performance impacts for different sectors we have experience in and our strategic approaches for increasing ecommerce revenue and driving profitable growth for different markets, we’ve been sharing our practices on our blog for years:

Free Ecommerce Marketing Consultation

Our mission is to make a better impact and over the last 10 years we’ve advised more than 3,000 founders and marketing teams through our free consultations.

We’re passionate about creating profitable ecommerce growth for purpose-driven brands and whilst we’re not the best fit for everyone, we love to help all those who get in touch.

If you’d like to get some free advice, please get in touch to request a free consultation with ThoughtShift.

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