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What are the essentials of a successful e-commerce marketing plan?

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 12 Feb, 2021
Essential Essential topic

Explore the essentials of a successful e-commerce marketing plan, with real-life examples. Plus find out more about our tools and frameworks to support your strategic planning across the omnichannel retail customer lifecycle

What does a good e-commerce marketing plan look like? What structures and frameworks help e-commerce marketers to accelerate their ROI? In this blog, I'll be covering the essential elements for you to apply to your online retail strategy, including a case-study of Clinique. Plus, find out how the RACE Framework will help you streamline your omnichannel marketing, so you can plan, manage and optimize every customer touchpoint in their journey to purchase.

Omnichannel e-commerce marketing planning took the top spot in our recent 2021 e-commerce marketing trends report. Clearly, omnichannel planning is a hot topic for online retail marketers at the moment. But still, so many businesses are not doing it well. In this accelerated digital era, if there was ever a time to optimize your e-commerce marketing strategy - this is is.

Thankfully, we've got frameworks and tools to help you seize the opportunity and increase your profits in 2021. That's why we recommend structuring your e-commerce marketing plan across the RACE Framework - a step-by-step process proven to increase growth. The RACE Framework supports marketers and managers to define a data-driven, omnichannel approach to e-commerce, covering all aspects of the customer lifecycle across reach, act, convert and engage.

Omnichannel customer lifecycle

How do we define omnichannel retail e-commerce?

Omnichannel retail e-commerce is the pursuit of a retail experience that transcends digital channels and physical premises. Customers will feel attuned to your brand experience no matter where they are in the buying process, whether they’re using multiple devices, or browsing and shopping in a physical store.

Omnichannel e-commerce marketing planning essentials

The benefits of an omnichannel mindset are highlighted well by this quote by John Bowden, Senior VP of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable, who said:

"Multichannel is an operational view – how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omnichannel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omnichannel is multichannel done right!"

The omnichannel customer experience needs to be as seamless as possible for customers. After all, these are the decision-makers upon which your profits depend. At the same time, marketers will want to use multichannel data to measure their activity. However, this cannot disrupt the omnichannel expeience.

Omnichannel Marketing funnel

Omnichannel e-commerce in practice

Chris Shaw, Director of Product Marketing at Manhattan Associates, a supply chain and omnichannel commerce technology company, talks about what this means in practice:

"When the customer places that order [online] or calls the contact center or walks into the store, we try to do everything we can to put the customer and the order back together again, because they don’t make any sense without the context of each other – [and] not just the transactions the customer has had at the particular store they may be in right now, but all the interactions they’ve had outside that store: the times they’ve interacted with the call center when they’ve interacted via social when they’ve interacted via chat."

To do this well means combining more advanced tracking of multichannel behavior using attribution and ensuring customer research using techniques like Net Promoter Score to assess the multichannel experience.

Christina Dam, Product Marketing Lead of Square, suggests retail brands need to develop:

"A great omnichannel experience [is one] that feels familiar to the customer, regardless of the channel. Inject your brand’s voice into every communication, and be consistent with pricing policies, offers, and rules so that potential buyers don’t get confused."

In fact, 'effective ux' was defined as an e-commerce trend within its own rights in our 2021 e-commerce marketing trends report. Download the guide to read about all 10 trends in full.

Retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021

Accelerate your growth in 2021 with trends, examples, and practical strategy integrated with our RACE Framework

Get Started Today

Measuring omnichannel shopper behavior

Google Analytics has supported measurement of omnichannel activity for a long time with its Multichannel Funnel attribution feature. Facebook Attribution gives additional insight beyond the last click. This is particularly useful for showing cross-device usage involving Facebook ads. This insight is worth reviewing if you’re unaware of this tool.

E-commerce marketing cross-device interactions

Going forward, most devices that people use to access online resources and make purchases will become integrated. According to RetailMeNot, most shoppers are omnichannel:

"While 64% of shoppers are completing their purchase in a physical store, they don't always start there. Data shows 39% of Americans are starting their shopping journey on a mobile device and 14% begin on a desktop."

It is imperative for multichannel retailers to make use of this trend and make their online experience as integrated and user friendly as possible to be able to reach and target the omnichannel shopper. It is no longer enough to just have an online presence on multiple channels – the channels now also need to be efficiently integrated. You need to make sure that your offline and e-commerce strategy includes consistent branding, design, messaging, and payment methods, to be able to provide the integrated multichannel experience.

A good example of omni-platform, omni-device strategy would be the cookie-enabled ads commonly seen on social media platforms. For instance, if you search for multivitamin tablets on Amazon, eBay etc., you start seeing them on your social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram – that’s no coincidence!

Assessing the offline impact of online ad investment

Measuring store visits and offline conversion tracking has now been a staple of Google Ads tracking for several years, rolling out initially as a beta for select advertisers and now more widely available.

Facebook has also added tracking of offline shopping activity to justify spend on its online ads.

This case study shows that when the jewellery company Pandora used offline conversion tracking to measure the offline impact of its Facebook campaign, it discovered that there was over a 20% increase in revenue attributed to dynamic ads when in-store purchases were taken into account.

Find out more about measuring omnichannel retailing and other aspects of optimizing your e-commerce marketing plan by downloading our free retail e-commerce marketing 2021 trends guide. This brand-new guide covers 10 retail and e-commerce marketing trends, plus your next steps to grow your business. Download the guide and get started today.

Retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021

Accelerate your growth in 2021 with trends, examples, and practical strategy integrated with our RACE Framework

Get Started Today

Marketing plan case study - Clinique

Situation

Clinique’s mission is to be the most trusted prestige beauty brand in the world and lead the dermatological skincare and cosmetics market. In-store sales remain an important part of Clinique’s business, because in-store consultants can assist shoppers and showcase products. This demonstrates recognition that its audience is increasingly shopping while they are on the go. However, Clinique UK has made more of its beauty products available for sale online over the past five years.

E-commerce case study clinique

Solution

Clinique UK wanted to understand the true value Facebook ads brought to its offline business. The initial objective was to measure the incremental impact of ads on offline sales. The second objective was to assess which creative assets were most efficient at generating online and offline sales.

Clinique UK joined with Facebook Creative Shop and media agency Manning Gottlieb to develop an iterative approach to advertising on Facebook known as ‘test and learn’. Clinique ran two consecutive campaigns promoting Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishment Hydrator hydrating cream on Facebook and Instagram in the UK.

Before launching the campaign, Clinique UK needed a way to link its Facebook ads to sales. For online sales, the company could use the Facebook pixel—a piece of code on its website—to understand which ads led to people buying things on its site.

The brand was not able to pinpoint whether Facebook ads drove sales of Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishment Hydrator in Clinique’s own stores. Companies can usually use Facebook’s offline conversions tool, which matches sales data from physical business locations to ad views on Facebook. But Clinique was unable to take advantage of this tool because it was such a huge challenge to upload its physical store sales data to Facebook on a large scale. Facebook removed this roadblock by working with Clinique to automate the data upload process across the UK, which transformed the company’s ability to understand the true effect of its Facebook ads.

With the offline conversion setup in place, Clinique then turned to the campaign itself. Clinique and Manning Gottlieb adopted a powerful approach to campaign optimization: split testing. This involved pitting different creative assets against each other. By split testing over 20 assets, Clinique UK was able to swiftly find the most effective ads and drop those that were less effective. As a result, Clinique improved its campaign results in real time, rather than looking for lessons once the campaign was over.

To measure the impact of the campaign as a whole, Clinique used a Facebook conversion lift study, which measures the number of extra purchases caused by the campaign, as well as a brand lift study, which polls people to determine the additional effect the campaign had on its target audience’s attitude towards Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishment Hydrator.

Results

Clinique UK transformed its Facebook campaign by measuring the impact of its ads on offline sales and by optimising the creative in real time. By doing this, Clinique UK and Manning Gottlieb achieved:

  1. 22% lift in online sales
  2. 7% lift in in-store sales
  3. 9.8-point lift in likelihood to consider Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishment Hydrator as the only or top 2-3 brands when shopping for moisturiser
  4. 1.8 million people estimated to have been influenced by the campaign

Takeaways

Clinique's size as a company affords them a certain leeway when troubleshooting with Facebook. Their solution is unlikely to be available to the majority of companies.

This doesn't mean that attributing offline sales to Facebook ads is impossible. Indeed, Facebook works very hard to prove the worth of running ads with them from both an on- and offline perspective. Clinique's peculiarity arises largely due to their size and complexity as a company.

If you'd like to implement attribution of Facebook ads to offline sales, the first port of call should be Facebook's offline conversions tool. This is likely to be easier to implement for smaller to medium sized businesses with relatively simple customer relationship management systems (CRMs), product structures and points of sale (POS).

This technique does require you to link your CRM and POS to your Facebook account and you'll need to qualify and set some relevant offline goals in order for it to work.

Getting your e-commerce marketing plan right in 2021

Without an omnichannel planning mindset, you may be missing out on crucial opportunities to improve your brand experience across all channels, at every stage of the buying funnel identified by the RACE Framework. In fact, all of the retail e-commerce marketing trends identified in our 2021 report can be structured across RACE, as identified in my e-commerce trends blog.

Need a plan to optimize your e-commerce marketing strategy? Start today by downloading our free 2021 retail e-commerce marketing trends guide. This brand-new guide covers 10 retail and e-commerce marketing trends, plus your next steps to grow your business. Download the guide and get started today.

Retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021

Accelerate your growth in 2021 with trends, examples, and practical strategy integrated with our RACE Framework

Get Started Today
Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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