Reports suggest that across the globe, there are more than 24 million e-commerce websites. These are intimidating numbers for a startup to compete against. It establishes customer demand for e-commerce websites but makes it that much harder to get noticed, and off the ground. An effective marketing and advertising strategy is critical in finding the void in the market, identifying it, and establishing your niche in that, to achieve success.

Understanding your Goals

It’s not enough to learn the tricks of the trade, one must learn the trade. And, when it comes to crafting a marketing strategy, it needs to start from the very foundations of the business.

The goal of an e-commerce startup, any business for that matter, is to generate revenue. Fairly straightforward, right? Here’s the catch. Revenue and Profit are not the same thing. The goal is to generate profitable revenue. There is a fair amount of money and resources being invested in a startup. If the revenue generated doesn’t cover, or barely covers, the investment, it isn’t a profitable enterprise. An effective marketing strategy is one that is cost-effective. It supports your financial goals at every stage of the startup’s journey. The marketing strategy should be crafted in a manner that it generates profitable revenue, even at the growth stage, so that you can scale it and sustain it.

Sustainability and Scalability

Every great business starts with an idea that requires strategic execution and scope to evolve and grow. A marketing strategy that doesn’t evolve and grow with your startup will lose its efficacy. An effective marketing strategy is one that helps you scale and sustain your growth both in the short and long term. The seemingly insurmountable mountain of success is paved with steps towards the top. An effective marketing strategy is one that will have specific short-term goals and specific plans of action for each goal. It will also have a blueprint for long-term success and goals into which every short-term goal will have its precise role to play.

Effective Marketing Strategies for e-Commerce Startups that work

1. Funnel based approach. 

The funnel-based approach weaves both the short and long-term goals of an e-commerce startup from the initial stages of creating awareness to engagement to conversions and purchases.


Funnel-approach to Marketing

a) Analyzing the funnel position

Digital marketers first analyze conversions for path length and time lag, meaning, how many customer engagements result in conversions and how many days it takes to convert a potential customer. Customer behavior patterns are also analyzed to understand and identify how the funnel needs to be set up to optimize conversions.

b) Crafting the Marketing Strategy

Depending on the number of interactions and number of days it takes a customer to convert or make a purchase, re-targeting campaigns need to be set up. Research shows that it takes for 45% of users, it takes more than one interaction to convert. The re-targeting campaign needs to reach the right people at the right time to ensure a conversion.

Research also suggests that 15-20% of users visit more than once in a day before making a purchase. So, re-targeting campaigns should be crafted for short time frames to facilitate micro conversions.

c) Setting up the Funnel

Once the re-targeting campaigns have been set up, the top of the funnel needs to be set up to power and sustain the mid and bottom levels of the funnel to optimize conversion. The top of the funnel needs to be optimized to identify users and their behavior to create lookalike campaigns that will help re-target users, lead to conversions, and find new users.

The lookalike and re-targeting campaigns can optimize the middle and bottom of the funnel. If your product/service is in the affordable or medium price range, a small funnel will suffice to convert users to customers. If it is on the higher or premium end of the spectrum the funnel will have to accommodate more re-targeting and interactions to convert users.

d) Setting up the Budget 


Setting up the Marketing Budget

The marketing budget for the funnel based approach would depend on the price-range of the product/services, the niche market it is targeted towards, the number of interactions it needs to convert users, the re-targeting campaigns it requires, etc. Once these various factors have been analyzed, a budget can be assigned accordingly to optimize the marketing strategy.

e) Scaling the Conversions

The funnel based approach helps identify the channels that optimize conversion, it also helps identify and understand customer lookalikes. This knowledge helps startups target potential customers and scale conversions.

2. The Long Game IS the End Game

Developing fresh, creative, and consistent content for your e-commerce startup might not have immediate sales and change the bottom line but it is worth the investment both in terms of resources and time. Because, it delivers exponential ROI over the long term.

Content marketing, whether it is through engaging blogs, organic growth (SEO), or email marketing, build brand awareness, brand loyalty, and customer engagement. It boosts traffic, sales, lead acquisition and helps develop marketing campaigns for the long term goals of brand recognition and influence.

a) Increasing Traffic

With targeted keywords and link building in combination with creative, fresh content, your e-commerce startup will boost its awareness, customer traffic, and revenue.

b) Boosting Sales

Organic growth through an effective SEO content strategy will ensure that you can scale and sustain your growth. The more users reach your online store through organic search landing, the higher the conversions.

3. Profitability at the core

a) Porter’s 5 Forces

Porter’s 5 Forces is an effective and simple tool to understand the different forces of industry and market that influence the profitability of a business. Identifying and understanding these forces helps adjust marketing strategies to optimize their efficacy.

  • Competitive rivalry helps analyze your competitors in the market with similar products/services. Their strengths, weaknesses, and the strategies they employ to boost revenue.
  • Supplier Power helps determine how easy or likely it would be for your suppliers to increase their rates. how easy or likely it would be for you to switch suppliers, how much it would or wouldn’t cost you to do so, in terms of quality, quantity, and sales.
  • Buyer Power analyzes the power that your customers have. The changes they want or seek from your products/services, the likelihood that they would switch to a rival business, how much would it cost you?
  • The Threat of Substitution deals with the probability and extent to which other products/services can replace yours.
  • The Threat of New Entry examines the probability and ease with fresh competitors could enter your niche in the market.

Only 1.94% of visits to e-commerce sites convert, and it takes more than 12 sessions to ensure 100% conversions, accounting for gross margins in the 30-40% range.

Porter’s 5 Forces though elegant in its simplicity and efficacy relies on massive amounts of probability and data analysis. Expert professionals with years of experience in the field know which data points are critical, how to analyze them, and understand the results. It is a specialized field of expertise that requires specific skills and experience.

b) Understanding the Cost

Understanding the cost of your operations helps you make informed decisions about your profitability and how to set the prices for your products/services.

  • Define what your cost objects are
  • Establish Traceability of cost objects
  • Identify and Understand the Key Drivers and Nature of the Costs
  • Establish a costing method

c) Keeping Track of your Financials

You shouldn’t be guessing how much you spend or should spend on your marketing strategy. You need to keep track of your finances and budget so that you can align your investments in accordance with your marketing budget. It helps keep your profitability in check along with your objectives and goals, both in the short and long term.

Understanding Your Target Market

  • Who is the customer?

One of the cornerstones of a marketing strategy is identifying and understanding the customer, their persona and their journey. It influences the content (tone and language), the platforms and channels that should be used to advertise, and how the performance of the content and advertising should be measured and analyzed.

  • What goals does the business want to achieve?

Effective marketing strategies crafted for the long-term success of a e-commerce startup are more along the lines of a marathon, and less like a sprint. The goal of any business is to increase traffic, boost revenue, and establish customer loyalty. But how does one know if you are moving towards those goals, towards success. By establishing checkpoints, to measure performance across the different channels and the return on investment. Professionals with years of experience craft and execute a marketing strategy. They analyze the results of the strategy, by setting up metrics and monitoring tools that measure every step of the strategy.

  • Who are your competitors and why?

Once you know what your goals are and what it is that you have to offer, it is important to identify who your competitors are. What is it that they are offering and, if or why, it is different from the product/service that you are offering. Identifying and analyzing your competitors strengths and weaknesses, their marketing strategies gives you insight not only on their practices, but more importantly on the customer behavior dominant in your niche market. You need to know why a certain marketing strategy succeeded and why another failed. What was it that customers responded to and what failed to grab their attention and turn into sales? It gives you insight into the gaps in the market and an understanding of how you need to course correct to ensure that your marketing strategy succeeds.

Short Term Goals and Marketing Strategies that support it

The initial short term goals of an e-commerce startup is to attract the attention of potential customers and boost sales. This requires the marketing strategy to rely on advertising on different platforms. The advertising efforts need to be diverse, creative, and cost-effective, given the early stages of the startup’s journey. 

1.Paid Advertising

Paid advertising campaigns like Facebook Ads and Google Ads help startups attract attention and traffic towards their e-commerce websites. These ads include PPC (pay-per-click), PPI (pay-per-impression), display ads, etc. With click-through rates as 3.17% for search ads and 0.46% for display ads respectively, and conversion rates as 3.75% for search ads and 0.77% for display ads respectively, paid advertising helps businesses reach global audiences. The average cost per click is $2.69 for search ads and $0.63 for display, across all industries, making it one of the most efficient and precisely targeted marketing strategies for e-commerce platforms.

Paid Advertising also helps identify and analyze customer persona. Effective marketing strategies incorporate the data and actionable insights gathered from these advertising campaigns targeted for short-term goals into the larger long-term goals of the business.

2. Paid partnerships with social media Influencers

Influencers on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube have vast, cross-sectional audiences from around the world. These are potential customers who are attracted and engaged by the influencer’s specific brand and vision. Paid partnerships with social media influencers help target specific demographics that are  receptive towards the products/services that you have to offer.

Effective marketing strategies help startups and influencers collaborate, creative, and beneficial to each unique brand value. So, the first step is to identify the influencers that can reach the relevant audience for your business. The number of followers an influencer has and the demographic that the followers belong to are key when identifying social media influencers for paid partnerships. As a general rule of thumb, Facebook influencers charge $10/1000 followers, while Instagram influencers charge $25/1000 followers. The second step would be to understand how your business can help the influencer and vice-versa. You can then reach out to the influencers on their social media platforms and pitch the collaboration and take the negotiations further accordingly.

Influencer marketing platforms like Grin, Upfluence, and AspireIQ help businesses connect with influencers, mediate and monitor influencer marketing campaigns, and help businesses build a comprehensive influencer network. Some platforms offer plans that can be customized according to your needs, while some offer specific services/plans. The software solutions that these platforms offer businesses to execute and scale their influencer marketing and social media community can be customized, depending on the platform.

3. Promotional Content and Offers/Discounts

Studies suggest that a large majority of customers (both on and offline), discounts, offers, and deals are an important part of their shopping experience. Promotional content (images, display ads, etc.) with personalized offers attract potential and existing customers and are an integral part of effective marketing strategies.

Long Term Goals and Marketing Strategies that support it

Planning is everything when it comes to success. A marketing strategy that is crafted to ensure that you can scale and sustain growth over years is critical. An effective marketing strategy with long term goals ensures the consistency of content, brand values, the startups ability to re-target audiences and find new audiences.

A blueprint for the long term goals helps you revisit and enhance short term goals better, making them more effective and lucrative.

1.Content Marketing

Content marketing is more than just communication and engagement with potential and existing customers, it is a long-term strategy to maintain consistency and relevance. The different channels of content marketing like organic growth via SEO, paid search traffic via SEM, etc., need to focus on building and maintaining the brand’s image and values. This is a long-term goal that influences every step of the marketing campaign.

2. Partnerships and Affiliates

Affiliate marketing helps e-commerce startups boost revenue and reach new audiences. More than 81% of brands and 84% publishers, investing an affiliate marketing budget of $6.8 Billion, have boosted their profitable revenue, reached potential audiences across the globe, and promoted their products/services. By associating with a wide range of affiliates, you can scale both your marketing/advertising efforts and the revenue generated. Studies report that 15-30% of the revenue generated from digital media advertising can be credited to affiliate marketing.

The affiliates may market the product/services on their own blogs, websites, or social media platforms. Startups pay commissions to their affiliate partners for each sale that occurs through the track able link. The model for payment of the commission might be Pay-per-sale, Pay-per-lead, or Pay-per-click. The payment model for affiliate partnerships would depend on the scale and stage of your business. Affiliate marketing platforms like CJ Affiliate and ShareASale offer tools and solutions to execute and scale affiliate marketing campaigns by connecting businesses with their comprehensive database of affiliates.

3. Email marketing

Email marketing helps e-commerce startups create and maintain one-on-one communication with their customers. It provides actionable insights about customer history and behavior.


Email Marketing

Email marketing platforms like SendInBlue help businesses streamline and automate their email marketing campaigns. By crafting and automating transactional emails, re-targeting and promotional email, they help e-commerce startups reach audiences with precision, i.e., with the right content, to the right people, at the right time to boost profitable revenue. The software and marketing solutions you avail from these platforms would depend on your budget and the target number of emails you want to send in a month. With more than $44 generated in revenue for every $1 spent, the budget assigned to email marketing efforts is money well invested.

What sets effective Marketing Strategies for e-Commerce Startups apart?

1.Advanced Analytics

Decisions based on data is what drives success and advanced analytics is critical to making those decisions. Advanced analytics help identify, understand, and analyze customer behavior and customer journey. Analytics when set up by experienced professionals who understand and can effectively analyze the results help businesses identify the different channels that offer the best ROI. More than just recognizing the channels that boost revenue, advanced analytics identify and optimize the key touch points of a customer journey.

The data from advanced analytics help define customer personas and provide actionable insights that help businesses find and reach out to their target audience with precision. Advanced analytics help startups make accurate marketing decisions, so the budget is neither misspent nor misdirected.

Advanced analytics includes web traffic analysis, which helps startups identify the channels that your target audience engage with the most. It includes user activity analysis, which accurately calculates the frequency, length of time, and accessibility of your e-commerce website. It includes the analysis of different factors related to user activity and interaction to identify and understand the customer persona.

2. Personalized Experiences

e-Commerce startups need to personalize their customer’s shopping experience with them to distinguish themselves from the established retailers online. With well-defined customer personas, the services and products of a e-commerce website can be customized in accordance with the demographics of the target audience. The age group, preferred language and currency are key factors to consider when customizing the user’s experience.


Personalized e-commerce experiences

Personalization plays a key role in scaling the startup, by engaging and catering to a global audience. Discounts and deals offered on e-commerce sites are more likely to boost sales if personalized to the user’s consumer history. Reports suggest that 91% of e-commerce customers are more likely to engage with and shop from a brand/website that offers customized deals.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube can help startups engage, interact, and communicate with their customers. Social media marketing helps startups become more visible and accessible to new audiences across the globe.


Social Media Marketing

Once the customer persona has been identified and defined, the content can be crafted and marketed on social media to attract customers. Paid advertising like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and Ads on other social media platforms help generate traffic towards e-commerce websites. Social media plays an important role in not just attracting new customers but also in maintaining communication and engagement with existing customers. Paid advertising on social media platforms may vary, pay-per-impression (PPI), pay-per-click (PPC), display ads, etc., depending on the startup’s budget and goals.

4. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the creation, curation, and distribution of relevant content across different channels to increase traffic for your e-commerce site. It is a nuanced and multifaceted approach of using content (articles/blogs, images, videos, etc.) to engage customers and boost sales.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of developing content that attracts customers to your e-commerce site. It is a tool that can be used across the different channels to generate traffic.


Search Engine Optimization for e-commerce Startups

The visual content (images and videos) play an important role, especially when it comes to an e-commerce website. Customers are attracted to, and expect to find, engaging and informative visuals on an e-commerce site to learn more about the services/products being advertised.

5. Automated Marketing

Automated marketing takes personalized marketing and advertisements a step further. It is interactive, customized content that can help passive browsers into active consumers. It also brings back past customers. The marketing tools need to be set up in a manner that the potential and past customers can be identified and segmented so that content customized to each category can be delivered precisely.

Much of automated marketing (the tools and the content) depends on data analysis of customer journeys. The information found from analyzing customer journeys provide actionable insights that can and should be used to boost sales.