Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for hitting the mark with your e-commerce digital marketing strategy. To get the right people to visit your online store and buy from you, there’s no way around a little trial and error. You’ll need to research your ideal customers to understand what makes them tick, test marketing strategies against one another, and publish and promote the right content at the right time. So if you’re finding that your e-commerce marketing strategy causes more headaches than results, it’s likely you aren’t aiming for the right folks, trialing enough new techniques, or making a consistent and compelling argument as to why someone should buy from you.

There’s plenty of free advice online to help you with your digital marketing strategy, and there’s nothing wrong with following it—starting a blog, filling it with helpful SEO-optimized content, and working on getting backlinks is exactly what you should be doing. It’s just that there are a few additional techniques you need to incorporate to make your e-commerce marketing strategy really sing:

  • Set goals
  • Be realistic about your audience
  • Make sure your content is useful
  • Don’t ignore email marketing
  • Use the right tools

Let’s take a closer look at each of these techniques and get you on your way to a booming e-commerce business!

Set SMART goals or risk poor results

Fact: “Getting more site visitors” and “selling more” aren’t the right marketing goals!

The foundation of your successful e-commerce marketing strategy should be rooted in SMART goals. Using SMART characteristics—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound—you can transform a general goal like “get more site visitors” into something like “increase monthly site visitors by 100 before the end of the year”. Now that you’ve added a timeframe, a measurable unit (monthly visitors), and a target to hit (increase by 100), your goal has become much easier to reach.

Be realistic about your audience

E-commerce sales will reach new heights in the oncoming years as more people continue to turn to online shopping for their daily needs. Because these kinds of projections are sure to attract plenty of competitors in an already crowded market, without a stable marketing strategy in place you risk losing your market share. That means to keep your e-commerce business at the head of the table, you’re going to need more than just a website and optimized Amazon product descriptions.

It all starts with identifying a specific target audience. You can’t sell to everyone—trying to do so dilutes your marketing messages far too much and leaves you unable to provide a customized shopping experience and good customer service.

Instead, identify the types of people who are most likely to buy your products and focus on their needs. Build buyer personas—specific, semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. Dig into the backgrounds, incomes, and spending habits of the groups of people that fit your buyer personas to glean insight into what motivates them and how you can influence their buying decisions.

For example, if you sell sneakers at the $30 price point, you shouldn’t be pouring energy into targeting people with significant disposable income. Even if you convince them to visit your website, they’re just not likely to resonate with your product and make a purchase.

Don’t publish content without a purpose

Great content should be at the heart of your e-commerce marketing strategy. As much as 88% of online shoppers say that access to detailed product content is extremely important as they make buying decisions. And that’s just one small example of how content can help your business grow—from bringing in targeted traffic to increasing conversions and retaining customers, content has a vital role in keeping your audience happy.

Don’t publish content that contains direct advertising. It won’t attract visitors to your site via search, and if they do happen to see it, it won’t bring value to them or capture their attention long enough for them to complete a purchase. Instead of going for the hard sell with your content, focus on education and entertainment.

Every piece of content you publish, from blog posts and product descriptions to Instagram Stories, should be a planned part of your content strategy. Give every piece a purpose—i.e. align it with a SMART goal—so you can measure the effects your content has on your audience. Some possible goals might be: drive more traffic to your website, grow your email list, increase your number of monthly sales, or lower the number of abandoned carts. As previously mentioned, once you identify the general direction of a goal, be sure to add specificity until it’s fully SMART.

Don’t neglect the power of email marketing

Email marketing is cost-effective, and when used correctly, can attract and convert more customers than any other marketing channel. The numbers speak for themselves:

The flexibility of email makes it a real boon to your e-commerce marketing strategy. Today’s email marketing tools allow you to easily segment your audience and send personalized messages to different groups depending on things like demographics, interests, and browsing habits.

You can even get more granular than that, and use email marketing to encourage repeat purchases and reduce the number of abandoned carts. Here are some examples of email messages you might send to meet these goals:

  • “Just saying hi” email for visitors who haven’t visited your website in a while—be sure to include a strong CTA to get them back on your site
  • Emails offering discounts to potential customers who left items in their cart but didn’t check out
  • Emails promoting helpful no-strings-attached content to build trust

Fill your e-commerce marketing arsenal with the right tools

Another common pitfall in e-commerce marketing is the lack of adequate tools. To build a solid digital marketing strategy, you need to analyze customer data, create buyer personas, put together a content calendar, schedule social media posts, track analytics and measure results. You can’t do any of these without the right tools, and there’s no one tool that can help you with all of these tasks.

Depending on the scope of your needs, you might be able to stick with free software, but at some point you’ll likely graduate to more sophisticated, subscription-based tools. Here’s a comprehensive guide that lists today’s best digital marketing tools according to what they can help you accomplish.

Patience is the key to a successful marketing strategy

Your e-commerce marketing strategy is a journey, not a destination. No matter how well-executed your campaigns are, you’ll rarely see results overnight. You definitely need to wait at least 100 days to see the true results of your marketing efforts, but it could even take as long as nine months to see the returns from a campaign, depending on your industry and audience.

Be patient. Consistently set marketing goals, publish and promote high-quality content, and use the right tools to measure your efforts. In time, your efforts will pay off.