10 of the Top Ecommerce Marketing Strategies for 2021 to Drive Sales

GRIN also recommends this Guide: Step-by-Step Guide to Optimize your Ecommerce Budget

Concept of online shopping, internet payment, e-commerce.

2020 has been a year for online shopping, and many experts contribute much of that success to the economic effects of COVID-19. However, experts report that the boost in eCommerce during 2020 is unlikely to slow in the coming years. In fact, shoppers went online to avoid brick-and-mortar stores, and in doing so, found that they loved the online shopping experience more than they realized.

As eCommerce trends accelerate into 2021, here are some critical concepts and strategies to keep in mind.

Ecommerce in 2021

“The last three months [Summer 2020] have really pushed eCommerce adoption 10 years into the future. We’re actually at 2030 levels from where we believed eCommerce was going to grow because of the pandemic.” – Steve Hutt, Shopfiy’s Merchant Success Manager

eCommerce Trends

eCommerce brands are growing their online presence and adding more UX design features to enhance the online shopping experience. Brick-and-mortar stores are shifting resources to establish their online stores as the center of gravity for future profitability.

ecommerce trends you should know 2021

Image via Finances Online

Consumers expect more from eCommerce brands than they did just a couple of years ago. And as brands push the envelope on what constitutes “cutting edge,” those consumer expectations will only grow.

Buying Behaviors

Experts predict two critical trends in eCommerce for 2021 and beyond. First, consumers will grow to appreciate the DTC model which removes the middle-man distributor from the equation. This business model lowers costs for retailers and can even improve the quality of what consumers buy.

ecommerce and dtc strategy stats 2021

Image via eMarketer

Second, eCommerce greatly favors the mobile shopping experience. Consumers love being able to browse products from the palm of their hands. Mobile development also allows brands to help consumers buy products with fewer clicks and more intuitive features.

US smartphone search users

Image via eMarketer

How eCommerce Brands are Pivoting Strategy in 2021

In light of these realities, eCommerce brands are turning their attention to, or increasing their budgets for 10 marketing strategies next year:

  1. Retargeting
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Social Media Advertising
  4. Website Optimization
  5. Personalization
  6. Consumer Connected Communication
  7. Customer Retention and Re-engagement
  8. Voice-driven UX
  9. Brand Collaborations
  10. Influencer Marketing

#1 Retargeting

What is retargeting?

Today, browsers allow web analytics software to embed pixels or cookies that track when a consumer clicks an ad, visits a product page, and more. Using this technology, marketers can further target their digital ads to users that – based on their previous web behavior – demonstrate a greater interest in the product/service advertised.

Why It Works

Retargeting follows warm leads, as opposed to targeting audiences with general demographics similarities to a brand’s buyer persona. Often, retargeting looks like a “second round” of PPC advertising by using paid ads to follow-up with web users that responded positively to the last campaign.

How to Use It

There are many ways to integrate retargeting into your marketing mix, but the two most popular methods by eCommerce brands are:

  • Follow up on previous ad campaigns
  • Incentivize consumers to return to a product page that they visited previously

Initial PPC campaigns may target audiences based on your buyer personas and customer data contained in your POS. After a campaign or two, pixels and cookies can “tag” users who clicked on your ad. You can use this information to retarget future campaigns to those users.

Similarly, you can retarget consumers that visit your online store and certain product pages. This data can help you build more personalized ads to web visitors.

#2 Content Marketing

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is using various forms of owned media – website, social media, email, and SMS – to deliver value to audiences through written, audio, or video content.

As the key component in an inbound marketing/sales strategy, this approach attracts consumers to your owned media channels and nurtures them toward a purchase based on their needs. A strong content marketing strategy usually involves developing content across three stages of the marketing funnel, as seen below. The funnel guides the consumer through the buyer’s journey with helpful (accurate) information and storytelling.

marketing funnel content marketing

Image via SingleGrain

Why It Works

Content and inbound marketing work harder to inform the consumer rather than convince them. For example, TOFU content focuses on helping target audiences wrap words around their problem(s).

After understanding what their problem is, the MOFU content helps audiences understand the different approaches to solving those problems. Lastly, BOFU content seeks to convert audiences after informing and building trust with that audience using reliable, compelling content.

Done well, content marketing leaves buyers feeling empowered in their buying decisions. And empowered buyers always come back to the brands that make them feel empowered.

How to Use It

Most content marketing strategies begin with building out informative web pages (such as blogs and free resources) with SEO best practices in mind.

But a strong social media marketing strategy also falls within content marketing. You can use social media to promote webpages (especially free resources) and engage audiences with written, image, or video posts.

Many brands (like GRIN, for example) use webinars, podcasts, and case study interviews to deliver valuable content to relevant audiences. These resources are typically free to enjoy and help customers improve their quality of life before they ever spend money with the brand.

#3 Social Media Advertising

What is social media advertising?

Most leading social media channels have their own paid ad platform, similar to Google’s PPC platform. Using these PPC platforms, you can design ads, target specific audiences, and choose ad placements, such as within a newsfeed, banner ads, or along the margin.

Why It Works

Particularly on Facebook and Instagram, brands have a nice variety of ways to incorporate paid ads, also known as sponsored ads, into their broader social media strategy. These ads widen your reach beyond your followers and can give you insight into your various audience segments.

How to Use It

Standard ads tend to be more congested than other advertising approaches, but you will still have access to PPC metrics, such as impressions, CTRs, and conversions. 

You can employ more creative social media ad campaigns using repurposed user-generated content, dark posting (embedding sponsored ads into user newsfeeds), and influencer partnerships.

#4 Website Optimization

What is website optimization?

Website optimization is often confused with search engine optimization (SEO) and UX design. And while optimizing a website does involve both of those components, it also includes other considerations.

When optimizing your eCommerce site, your goal is to attract more visitors and keep those visitors engaged on your site. Some of the most common ways to do this are:

  • Increasing your site loading speed
  • Using more life-like product images
  • Adding relevant content
  • Using SEO best practices to make it easy for consumers to find your website

Why It Works

In many ways, website optimization is about removing barriers to the online shopping experience. When your website is free from glitches and off-putting designs, visitors will feel more comfortable on your site and want to stay and/or return.

How to Use It

Many of the suggestions in the list above can help you perform a site audit to get a sense of how easy it is for users to engage your website. Ideally, you should partner with a web developer who can uncover performance issues within your website and resolve them.

#5 Personalization

What is personalization?

In eCommerce, personalization refers to using consumer micro data (such as an online shoppers web behavior and product preferences) to further customize the online buying experience.

Analytics and omnichannel technology make it possible for online retailers to provide the kind of white glove experience one usually enjoys at an in-person luxury showroom. Cookies, cross-device tracking, and user IDs (customer logins) can help brands use the consumer information contained in their analytics and POS to deliver personalized ads, recommendations, and informative content.

Why It Works

Focusing on products/services that customers love, informing them of sales especially for them, and keeping them in the loop with relevant industry updates will nurture brand loyalty with customers.

Using the digital tools described above to track consumer behavior on your website can also allow you to incentivize them to retrieve abandoned carts, try out a new product matching their online “window shopping,” and more.

How to Use It

One critical caveat to personalization is focusing on consumer shopping behavior over personal details. Target came under fire after they deduced from a customer’s purchases that she was expecting a child – news that she had yet to tell her family. The national chain inadvertently “let the cat out of the bag,” thereby violating the customer’s privacy.

As such, brands can achieve higher sales and interest by keeping a careful balance between customer privacy and personalization. Using limited-time offers, email marketing, and SMS with personalized messages to nuanced audience segments targeting buyer preferences will make them feel appreciated and more inclined to buy now rather than later.

#6 Consumer Connected Communication

What is consumer connected communication?

Content marketing doesn’t have to be static – there are many ways today to engage your consumers through various channels and authentic media.

Consumer connected communication includes any efforts that nurture collaborative conversations with consumers. When most people discuss consumer connected communication, they’re referring to a brand’s social media strategy. But you can achieve this quality engagement through forums, SMS two-way messaging, and experiential marketing campaigns.

Why It Works

Engaged consumers feel more connected to the brands they love. This marketing approach invites user feedback and delivers an interactive experience that consumers will enjoy. It will also nurture brand trust and seamlessly move audiences through the buyer’s journey. 

How to Use It

Simple ways to use consumer connected communication is through social media posts that invite participation, such as Instagram Story polls or TikTok challenges.

But this communication can also be more information based using tutorial content or participating in industry forums. Brand representatives can assist members of their target audience aside from selling them products.

#7 Customer Retention and Re-engagement

What is retention and re-engagement?

Customer re-engagement occurs when your brand reaches out to customers that bought from you in the past and incentivizes them to return to your online store. This approach keeps your brand front-of-mind.

Why It Works

A timeless truth in business is that it is always more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain them. eCommerce brands that focus on customer retention see lower costs and higher profits.

The more connected a customer feels with your brand, the greater likelihood that they will spread positive word-of-mouth and habitually return to your store for more products and services.

How to Use It

A fundamental way to re-engage customers is to encourage them to opt-in to emails and text messages. You can use their contact information to tastefully keep them updated on new products and promotions.

Staying in touch with your buying customers allows you to generate more personalized offers and product recommendations.

#8 Voice-driven UX

What is voice-driven UX?

Voice-driven UX allows omnichannel tools (websites, mobile apps, etc.) to respond to vocal feedback from consumers. Often, this technology allows users to issue commands to a web service, such as a product or brand search.

Why It Works

Voice-driven tools give consumer thumbs a break and greatly enhance the overall shopping experience. The technology is both convenient and novel, both of which attract online shoppers.

How to Use It

Voice recognition technology is still developing, but there are two common ways that eCommerce brands choose to employ it. First, voice-driven UX allows shoppers to perform product searches by speaking into their smartphone microphone.

Second, voice recognition can help users request assistance from your brand, such as a request to speak with a representative or navigating to FAQ pages.

#9 Brand Collaborations

What are brand collaborations?

Most consumers enjoy an ensemble of multiple brands when it comes to home decor, fashion, and more. As a result, some brands achieve synergy and agree to co-brand a portion of their marketing efforts.

Brand collaborations occur when two or more brands see the potential for complementing one another among a shared consumer base. While brand collaborations don’t typically happen between competitors, they most often exist within the same industry. For example, a clothing line might collaborate with a jewelry brand.

Why It Works

When a consumer already loves a certain brand, and that brand recommends an auxiliary brand to accompany their products, those consumers listen and are more inclined to buy from that other brand. Essentially, both brands in partnership may benefit from audience alignment and subsequently grow their audience and sales.

How to Use It

Brand collaborations will feature products/services from each brand as a bundle. These bundles may simply exist within co-branded collateral or sell as a unit of several complementary products.

One of the most popular forms of brand collaboration today exists in influencer marketing.

#10 Influencer Marketing

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing occurs when brands partner with social media power users (influencers) that have curated an online community. These online communities typically share an affinity for a particular lifestyle. 

Influencers work very hard to build meaningful relationships with their growing audiences. When these influencers find a product that they love, they are usually quick to share it with their followers.

Why It Works

Influencer content is highly creative. Influencers also work hard to be authentic – something many brands have difficulty achieving on their own. 

Influencer endorsements serve as objective, third-party opinions among audiences that are heavily engaged. Particularly among Micro and Nano influencer audiences, followers take their influencer’s suggestions or endorsements very seriously.

How to Use It

Brands that identify influencers who truly love their products can suggest a formal partnership, either for a single campaign or in the form of a long-term brand ambassador relationship

In a series of posts, that influencer incorporates the brand’s products/services into their content. These posts usually tell a compelling story and receive excitement among followers. Marketers can track audience engagement and use IRM tools to track influencer performance.

Conclusion: Ramp up your eCommerce marketing strategy for 2021 and drive revenue.

As you allocate resources for 2021, consider incorporating some of the strategies above to enhance your online presence. Each upgrade you embrace will attract and delight your online shoppers. You will also be able to trace these improvements through notable increases in revenue and ROI.

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Additional Resources

What the best brands are doing to drive revenue from influencer marketing

Whether you are just getting started with influencer marketing or already have your program in place, this guide gives you the tools to get the return on investment your C-level will love. 

How to get ROI from influencer marketing

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