Ecommerce Marketing in 2021: Trends and Strategies to Drive Growth

Ecommerce Marketing in 2021: Trends and Strategies to Drive Growth

ecommerce marketing 2021

Updated January 4, 2021

Trying to sell goods or services online? Ecommerce marketing is different from marketing for brick and mortar stores because you can’t rely on foot traffic. People don’t just stumble upon your ecommerce store, they find it because of concerted effort on your part. This requires taking advantage of all the digital tools available to you to develop a relationship with consumers and convince them to purchase over time. 

As ecommerce continues to mature in 2021, ecommerce marketing will become more sophisticated and diversified across several channels. As a marketer, it’s important to have an understanding of each channel and craft an ecommerce marketing plan that takes advantage of each one. 

What is ecommerce marketing?

Ecommerce marketing refers to the art and science of creating awareness of a business that sells a product or service online before then driving consumers to make purchase decisions. Ecommerce marketers in 2020 use a variety of channels such as SMS marketing, social media, email and content marketing to create an ecosystem for their business that moves consumers down an online purchase funnel. 

Building your 2021 ecommerce marketing strategy

Since online culture is always changing, ecommerce marketers need to anticipate new trends to succeed in a digital environment. Knowing what will be upcoming for ecommerce marketers in 2021 is crucial to mapping out an ecommerce digital marketing plan that succeeds. 

Here are some of the top 2021 ecommerce marketing trends you can expect to see. 

Trending 2021 ecommerce marketing strategies

These 2020 ecommerce marketing trends are expected to influence ecommerce marketing plans throughout the year. 

  • Personalization: After spending most of 2020 social distancing. consumers are ready for content that speaks directly to them and helps them with the constantly changing challenges they’re facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With all the chaos of changing work and school routines, they need brands to provide value specific to their circumstances. Consumers want personalization, just not in a creepy way. In fact, 80.3% of consumers surveyed a year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal say brands still contact them in ways they find inappropriate. The key to personalizing the right way is to use information your customers have already given to you with informed consent.
  • Security: The same survey found that 94.1% of customers were unlikely to do business with a company if they doubted their security practices. Keep in mind that, as a result of changing privacy regulations in 2019 and 2020, there is more general awareness toward internet cookies. As people continue to opt out of third party tracking, alternatives to cookie based tracking need to be pursued. 
  • Marketing automation: With decreasing marketing budgets, especially for small businesses and restaurants that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more marketers are looking for ways to automated all or part of their process to maximize resources. In order to succeed at digital ecommerce marketing you need to have a presence on a variety of marketing channels. Producing content at scale requires a level of automation. The more sophisticated you can automate your marketing in 2021 the stronger your ecommerce marketing strategy will be. 

Common ecommerce marketing strategies

Successful ecommerce marketing plans don’t rely on one strategy. Instead, they take advantage of several marketing tools to continue a conversation with customers that guides them toward a purchase decision. As a marketer, you’ll want to make sure you’re using each of the tools in your plan. While you might find that you rely more heavily on one channel over others, it’s smart to include each channel in your marketing strategy and not to exclude any that could prove to be important as your strategy matures.  

1. Ecommerce text marketing

While SMS marketing has been around for a long time, it is seeing a resurgence lately as a tool in ecommerce marketing plans. One of the reasons for this? People actually read their texts. In fact, statistics show 98% of text messages are read. They’re also usually read within minutes of receipt. If you’ve ever looked at the open rates on marketing emails that you send, you know this number stands in stark contrast to email marketing trends. 

Here are some ways you could leverage a mass texting service to help with your ecommerce marketing.

Create an additional sales channel

It’s possible to actually sell and fulfill orders through text message, and as more companies adopt text message marketing as their go-to solution in 2020 we predict you’ll see this strategy used in more creative ways. Not sure how it could work? Take the below example from Wine Library called Wine Texts. In this case, customers are texted a daily wine deal and then reply with how many bottles they want to purchase. Their card on file is then charged and the bottles are shipped to the address they inputted when they signed up for the Wine Texts. You could also modify this example to include a link to your online store if you would rather drive customers to the store to have them complete the purchase. In general, the less friction in the purchase process, the better. Companies who front load the friction — getting the shipping and billing information at the beginning and not asking for it again — tend to see better results overall when it comes to ecommerce marketing. SMS marketing sales channel

Recover abandoned carts 

When customers add items to their virtual cart and exit the website before completing their transaction, they are abandoning their cart. Cart abandonment rates have been steady and rising — from 75% since 2015 to an average of 79.19% as of 2018. Though rising abandonment rates can be discouraging, try to view them as an opportunity to make conversations rather than impending ecommerce doom.

With the ease and appeal of shopping online, you might be wondering why cart abandonment rates are so high. According to a study done by Statista, the most common reasons for cart abandonment are:

  • Shipping costs
  • Total cost of the order
  • Hassles of making returns
  • Lack of payment options.

Cart abandonment rates differ by market segment, with airlines having the highest abandonment rate of 87.87% as shoppers browse flights and leave the site before purchasing. Retail and fashion fall just below 75%, presenting a large portion of your audience that stands to be recovered with the right form of outreach.

Though some online retailers use email for abandoned cart outreach, data suggests that text messaging is a more effective platform. 

  • Text messaging can reach up to a 58% abandoned cart recovery rate while abandoned cart email conversation rates tend to sit around 3% depending on the sector of the market, according to the SaleCycle statistics.
  • Text marketing is a personal, accessible and casual way to reach out to clients who have abandoned carts, and could be the difference between a conversion and a lost sale. 

The chart below shows an abandoned cart recovery rate of 58% after 30 days of sending abandoned cart text messages.

shopify abandoned cart recovery statistics

Successful abandoned cart text messages are typically sent immediately after the cart has been abandoned, although it’s even better if your text message marketing software can allow you to set up more than one “if, then” command. With this capability, different follow up text messages can be automatically sent depending on certain actions a customer may (or may not) take. 

Also, make sure your abandoned cart text messages feature a clear call to action and include a link leading the customer right back to their abandoned cart. Make sure to structure your text message in as few words as possible, and that the link is fully functioning before sending it out. Additionally, try to find a text marketing service who can set you up with a dedicated short code for sending your text messages. With a short code, you won’t have to worry about your texts being caught up in spam filters like they can with traditional 10-digit phone numbers.

Engage customers

Creating a connection with customers is how you’ll bring them into your ecommerce sales funnel and keep moving them down it until they make a purchase decision. It’s also how you can nurture customers and turn them into brand evangelists, ensuring repeat business. Using text messages to create engagement can be impactful because text messages feel personal. Here are a few text messaging strategies you can use to drive engagement:

  • Text to win contest: A text to win contest incentives people to join your text list, which is how you can grow your text list initially. However, it also encourages people not to remove themselves from your text list. If they know you have really great contests periodically, they’ll be more inclined to stick around. 
  • Loyalty rewards: You don’t need to pay for a fancy loyalty rewards software to have a digitized loyalty program. You can offer SMS loyalty rewards that are just as effective. 
  • Mobile coupons: Sending mobile coupons that are exclusive to your text list creates a lot of value for customers that will encourage them to sign up and remain on your text list. You can use coupons throughout the year to incentive people to return to your ecommerce store and make another purchase. 
  • Birthday texts: Letting your customers know you’re thinking about them on their birthday is a nice touch and gives you another good excuse to reach back out and continue developing that relationship. As an ecommerce marketer, one of the challenges is that you don’t actually get to see your customers in person. This could make developing a personal relationship hard. Birthday texts are one easy way to get send customized messages. 

2. Ecommerce email marketing

Even though email open rates aren’t anywhere close to SMS open rates, that doesn’t mean that you should completely end your email marketing initiatives. While you might choose to place more emphasis on other marketing channels, email can still be helpful for certain reasons.

Here are some examples for when you might want to use email in your ecommerce marketing plan. 

  • Remind people of your other channels: If you have a robust email list but don’t have an engaged audience through any other methods, you’ll want to start reminding your email list to follow you on other platforms. You never want to be in a position where you’re solely reliant on one marketing channel. If email ended today, would your ecommerce marketing strategy still survive? Maybe it’s time to remind your email list about your text marketing or social.
  • Send a longer message: Sometimes you need to send a long message to your customers. This is particularly important if you’re saying something formal — such as issuing an apology or explaining why there is a delay in shipping. In these cases, email is a great tool for ecommerce marketing that gives you a chance to tell the full story.
  • Do split tests: Some email marketing platforms have robust ways to split test messages that other marketing methods don’t have. While you should be split testing whenever possible, if you’re new to A/B testing it might be easier initially to try split testing your emails before moving on to split testing your text messages. View email as the test kitchen where you make sure your content is fantastic before using only the highest performing messages for text marketing.

3. Ecommerce website marketing

As an ecommerce store, your website is the number one most important asset when it comes to marketing your brand. Since you probably don’t have a brick and mortar location, your website is your storefront. If you’re not sure what to pay attention to when it comes to fine tuning your ecommerce website, here’s where to start.

Clean your ecommerce website

With decreasing consumer attention spans, it’s now estimated that you have only 2.7 seconds to capture the attention of shoppers online. According to SaleCycle, bad website functionality causes 40% of abandoned carts on virtual clothing sales. With an oversaturated ecommerce market, it can already be a challenge to attract consumers to your website. When customers enter your website, make sure your landing page is easy to navigate and features a clean design. Investing in a website that loads quickly and has a simple layout is a good idea, as customers are more likely to make purchases when they can do so without technical difficulties. 

Increase security

Giving personal or financial information online is nerve-wracking for many consumers. In fact, 13% of shoppers abandon their carts due to security concerns. Not to mention, upwards of 30% of online clothing transactions are abandoned because of security concerns. It’s your job as an ecommerce marketer to ease consumers’ minds when it comes to cybersecurity. You can do this by limiting advertisements and pop-ups on your site, coming up with a company cybersecurity mission statement and including positive security testimonials on your website landing page.

Add more payment options

According to research done by Statista, 16% of shoppers abandon their carts due to a lack of payment options. With the rise of payment services like Venmo, Paypal and Amazon’s one-click-shopping, customers often expect a speedy and simple checkout experience. Consider offering the ability to create an account and save payment information on your website, in addition to diversifying your current payment options. 

Review the cost of shipping

While this could fit more under business development rather than ecommerce marketing, it’s important to consider how the cost of shipping might be impacting sales when it comes time to review your ecommerce marketing strategies. Upwards of 86% of consumers abandon carts after seeing the cost of shipping. Based on this statistic, if you offer customers discounted shipping you’ll have a higher likelihood of securing sales online. Try shopping on your competitor’s website to research how much they charge for shipping. This could give you a better idea of the range you should be shooting for when it comes to your own ecommerce transactions.

4. Ecommerce content marketing

Even though you might have a beautiful website that is perfectly optimized for shoppers, if no one ever sees your website it won’t help your end goal. That’s where content marketing can help. Ecommerce content marketing strategies help you use certain keywords to get noticed in Google. You can optimize your current pages so that they rank better in search results, in addition to creating new pages and blogs that provide value to customers.

You might see some websites categorize content marketing as anything that involves putting content out there — as in email, social and website. However, for the purposes of this article we’re talking about content marketing as it relates to SEO marketing. (As you can see, we’ve broken the other forms of ecommerce marketing into their own separate categories). 

If you’re not sure how to get started with content marketing for ecommerce in 2020, here’s what working:

  • Product or service guides: You’re an expert at your product or service, so why not share this knowledge with your customers? Make detailed guides with illustrations and infographics that are focused on educating. This is a chance to be helpful and create value for your customers. Don’t see it as an opportunity to sell. 
  • Trend updates: Since you probably spend a lot of staying alert to trends in your industry, share that knowledge with your customers. Make sure you write detailed, actionable posts that customers can put into use after reading. Also, optimize each post for relevant keywords so that it’ll actually rank in searches. 
  • Be the hub for all industry knowledge: Turn your website into an industry resource for your customers. You can create posts that act as a glossary for jargon, supply case studies or even do your own industry research and present your findings. Here is an example of our own research that we compiled and presented for our customers. ecommerce content marketing

5. Ecommerce social media marketing

Social media marketing should not be neglected in any 2021 ecommerce marketing plan. At the same time, relying only on social media marketing is a risky move because at any time Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever platform you use could change their algorithm and require you to pay more in advertising dollars to reach your audience. There’s also the risk of another platform gaining instant popularity, which can further splinter your efforts (consider how TikTok grew to mass popularity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic). If you have a robust social media following right now, here’s what you should be doing to make sure your ecommerce marketing strategies are still working as organic reach declines:

  • Experiment on new social channels: Don’t be afraid to embrace the new, even if you feel disoriented on new platforms or aren’t sure if they’ll stick around. One great place to start in 2021 is TikTok, if you aren’t on that channel yet, as it is experiencing major growth. 
  • Use social to promote your text list: It’s simple to encourage people to sign up for your text list from your social platforms. Remember, when it comes to social media, you don’t own any information about your customers. When they sign up for your text list you’ll automatically get their number (and any other information they supply). After that, you don’t have to pay a social media platform to get access to your customers. 
  • Create more content: Many businesses vastly underestimate the amount of content they have to put out daily to get attention in the crowded digital marketing space. Make sure you’re providing daily content for people to consume. Don’t use vanity metrics such as likes or views to measure your ROI, and if you’re just starting out, understand that you might have to produce a lot of content for a long time before you start to move the needle. 

What about ecommerce marketing automation?

One of the big 2021 ecommerce marketing trends is automation. Having an automated ecommerce marketing strategy is especially important as you begin to scale. Creating a connection with your audience at scale is one of the most difficult hurdles for a growing ecommerce business. That’s why it’s important to find ways to find ways to do marketing automation for ecommerce wherever possible. 

Here are ecommerce marketing automation strategies you can try in 2021:

  • Drip campaigns: These can be done with email or automated text marketing. You can preset how often you want messages to go out and in what increment — every five days, 30 days, and so on. This shouldn’t be your only messaging strategy, but it is a helpful one to make sure your bases are covered. 
  • Dynamic expiration dates: Sending a coupon to your audience is a great way to engage them and drive traffic to your store, but you probably don’t want to leave your promotion open-ended. At the same time, you want to make sure each customer can take advantage of the promotion, even if they see your text late. So, what do you do? Create a dynamic expiration date with a window for redemption — let’s say three days after the customer has looked at the coupon. Each coupon will expire on a different date depending on when it was first viewed. All of this can be done automatically so you don’t personally have to monitor expiration dates. 
  • Autoresponders: People want to know their message was received and if they’re looking for information, they want it immediately. Some information is possible to send out automatically, without having to customize each response. In these instances, companies often set up autoresponders that reply automatically with an SMS that has all the important details. If customers reply and indicate they need a more personal response, you can jump in to one-on-one texting and take it from there. 
  • Schedule messages: A simple, common way of automating your ecommerce marketing is to schedule messages to be sent at a later date. If you’re running a campaign, you only have to write out all your messages at the start of the campaign, set the dates you want them to go live, and then not have to worry any longer. Also, you can send text messages regularly. Have something you’re reminding your customers of on a regular basis? Just schedule the text message once. 

What ecommerce marketing strategy is right for you?

When it comes to developing an ecommerce marketing strategy in 2021 it’s important to remember that it’s not a binary game. You’ll want to be active in each channel, even if you rely more on one than the others. The goal today is to try to create an ecosystem where your customers are constantly engaging with you.