The success of an e-commerce brand is usually measured by the number of orders and the resulting revenue. But as great as your product quality and store design might be, it all comes down to being able to promote it — attract traffic, or real website visitors, preferably among your target audience. Most of the online niches are highly competitive, and without enough exposure and advertising, your store could end up being overshadowed by similar businesses that are ranked higher on search engines or have a more prominent position on social media.
As a Shopify store owner or marketing manager, you might be wondering what are the best practices to raise brand awareness, whether offline campaigns are still worth the effort, if email newsletters are something to look into, and how to approach different social media channels. There are so many options as to platforms, partnerships, and budget ranges, that finding the right instruments that work for your situation might seem daunting. This guide is aimed at helping you form a general understanding of how you could market your Shopify store, along with suggestions on short-term and long-term strategies.
Optimize your website for search engines
A very common scenario for people that want to buy something is finding product offers on Google. Search engines reserve the first few result lines at the very top to show paid ads, and the rest of the feed is arranged in a changing order that corresponds to current website rankings. Your positions can be improved with the use of SEO strategies that help display your website above competitor stores and receive more organic traffic. Keep in mind that you will have to keep up the optimization efforts for at least a couple of months before you start seeing a shift in ranking.
As the very first step, you will need to register your business on Google Search Console and submit a sitemap (automatically generated by Shopify) to make sure your store pages are properly indexed. Next, you need to lower your loading times (can be measured on the Shopify online store speed report) by getting rid of any apps you don’t use, compressing product images, and using web-safe fonts. Other on-page optimization tactics include working on alt image texts, meta titles, and descriptions. They need to be short, following the required character limits, enticing, and ideally unique. Shopify lets you edit those fields for each of your product pages and images.
Another instrument provided within Shopify that can help strengthen the position of your store is the blog. Regular high-quality posts provide real value to your website visitors by offering expertise, advice, tutorials, or entertainment. If the text corresponds with the relevant keywords and queries, the blog can show up in the search results. Don’t forget to use proper headings and great images. Finally, to work on SEO, you can try link-building to make as many other third-party websites as possible publish a content piece or a button with a link to your store.
Use pay-per-click (PPC) ads for marketing a Shopify store
Paid ads are the best way to quickly get targeted traffic to your store with no specific budget limitations or requirements. With pay-per-click ones, you will be expected to pay a fee each time a user clicks on the images, banners, or pop-ups that promote your store and take them to your website. Don’t forget to add an on-page code-tracking snippet to your website to monitor the conversions. To choose the appropriate advertising channel, think of your target audience, their behavior, and online habits. If you are marketing globally, these choices might be influenced by regional tendencies: for example, WeChat in China and Line in Japan.
In this paragraph, we will focus on Google Ads and cover social media a bit further below. Google Ads will display your website at the top of the results page when customers use a relevant search term. There are two options to consider: text ads and shopping ads. For a Shopify store, shopping ads would likely be more appropriate as they showcase your product photo with pricing and shipping details next to it. Google PPC ads would work especially well to promote trending products, local businesses, and stores with a high search volume and low competition. As for budgets, you can start as low as $10, which can be easily returned with a single sale.
Use social media to market your store
Social media is not only a marketing channel with enormous potential — it is a necessity for any brand that wants to cover younger audiences, expand their reach, and get access to a user base with willingly submitted personal information, which is perfect for targeting options. Think of the sources that your potential customers would have profiles on and register your business accounts there — preferably with the same username all the way across. With shoppable posts that include buy buttons or take customers to your store, you can promote products just like you would on the Shopify website.
To use social media proactively, you can try joining online communities. Don’t underestimate the value of dropping a link to your store in the right place, like a themed group or a recommendation thread. Niche audiences and forums on Facebook, Linkedin, and Reddit would work especially well here. Each of these channels provides an opportunity to reach people that have specific interests or inquiries related to your product. If you engage in genuine conversations and add value to them instead of solely trying to sell your product, people are more likely to be receptive to any links or discount codes you share.
Instagram is good for marketing your online store to a millennial audience and has one of the most engaged user bases among all social networks. It would work especially well for products in fitness, food, and fashion. The recent changes to the structure of the feed make advertising posts more prominent and visible, and this is something you could take advantage of. Images or video ads can also be placed in Stories. Focus more on the visual aspect of the creative than on any text since your goal is to get people to stop scrolling, and you only have a few seconds to get their attention.
A beauty brand called Follain can promote free samples via Instagram.
Other ways to use your Instagram feed to raise more awareness and attract new sales are contests or giveaways with other brands. Within this mutual collaboration, you will be able to tap into one another’s audiences. It’s best to choose non-competitive niches that work well together, like, for example, sportswear, water bottles, and smartwatches. As for free store marketing options on Instagram, you can include relevant hashtags in your stories and posts. Consider offering a small compliment, like a discount on future purchases or free shipping, to anyone who mentions your account in a product review. That user-generated content (UGC) is great for building your credibility as a business.
Facebook is one of the most popular social networks with a very diverse user base in terms of age, gender, income, and ethnicity. Besides these parameters, you can create Facebook ads that target job title, marital status, and interests to name a few. Interest targeting has the highest potential of reaching a very niche audience, so this type of advertising would work best for store owners who have a clear idea of target customers and their preferences. The ads will showcase products with images and short descriptions and include a CTA button that takes users to your website.
A carousel ad from United By Blue helps promote their different collections. They are targeting people interested in sustainability.
As for managing your business account and growing it organically, you can try sharing videos like how-to guides or product overviews (Facebook tends to favor them over images), focusing on informative and engaging content rather than constant product offers. To build a connection with your audience, share your brand milestones, ask questions or initiate polls, answer all comments, and ask for feedback and suggestions on how to improve your products. That will make the customers feel heard and reassured and can provide you with valuable insights about your target audience and their perception of your brand.
YouTube has two options for growth: paid video ads and content marketing. To produce a good creative for the instream promo, make an emphasis on the first five seconds of the video when a user can’t skip the clip yet to grasp their interest and make them watch it for longer. The context can either be funny and even a bit absurd or clearly define a pain point that your products can solve. It also needs to highlight your competitive advantages among other niche representatives. You could also try YouTube’s search ads to make your videos appear higher for relevant queries.
Pinterest is a somewhat underappreciated channel with the most clearly defined user base: most of them are female and have a disposable income. You can drive a significant amount of traffic to your store using both free and paid efforts. People often use Pinterest as a scrapbook to plan events, curate wardrobes, and get inspired by travel and lifestyle images. With each image you upload, you can include a link to your store. The same can be done for promoted and buyable pins.
A tall Pinterest ad by ThirdLove.
Twitter is not as trending right now compared to the giants like Instagram or Facebook, but some target audiences prefer this platform exclusively, so you shouldn’t rule out an opportunity to reach them. Shopify supports seamless integration with Twitter and lets you add a buy button to any products shared from your website. Users can make purchases without leaving their accounts on PCs and mobile devices. As for content ideas, you could create relatable memes or posts, share updates, and utilize currently trending hashtags that make sense for your brand.
Reddit is more of a community than a social media platform. Here, it is more about asking questions and starting conversations, joining threads, and discussing shared problems. There is a collection of threads and queries dedicated to Shopify, so you might be able to find answers to your own concerns about working with the platform or reach out to other owners with partnership offers. As for bluntly posting links to your products, the strategy might bring you a few leads but is not really suited well to Reddit, since it favors quality content above promotions.
An example of a thread you could join if you were the Bombas store owner and your products were socks.
Look into content marketing
Content marketing has a rather wide spectrum of activities that fall under the definition, some of which we covered above by talking about the kinds of posts you could do for social media. A more distinct approach is sharing information and educating people through webinars, guides, how-to videos, and articles. They should revolve around how users can interact with your products or address their shared issues and concerns. This type of marketing is not something you should use from the start since there are more direct ways to raise sales.
Use email marketing
Email marketing requires gathering a user base which can be tough to achieve in the first few months after the store launch. However, in the long-term, you can collect addresses and consent for receiving marketing materials from post-purchase clients or via blog post subscriptions. Contrary to some industry opinions, people do still read emails or at least glance over the heading and short description that come up in their push notifications. And with the customization tools for segmenting the audience, you could send highly-targeted offers to customers at a relatively low production cost.
Special coupons and deals
Emails are great for sharing special deals and coupons, offering a more personalized approach compared to social media. People are more likely to scroll through a post than ignore an email delivered straight to them, especially if it addresses them by name. You can also use these newsletters to your advantage, asking people to fill out a short survey to redeem the coupon. That way, you will gather more information about your target audience while encouraging them to shop at your store.
The coupons don’t have to revolve around specific products. In this example, free express shipping is offered for all of the product types, which could interest a larger group of users.
Emails can be used for sending out flash sale offers or deal-of-the-week kind of bulletins. If you stress the urgency of buying certain products now rather than later with limited availability, substantial discounts, or collections going out of stock soon, you can create a compelling reason to follow the offer and cultivate the fear of missing this opportunity. It’s important to draw a line here and not overuse the limited-time scenario to not turn people off.
Create a referral marketing program
A referral program allows you to introduce rewards for customers that recommend your business to their friends. With this marketing approach, you can create your own brand ambassadors through win-win partnerships. They get the reward, which could be a discount for the next purchase, free shipping, or store credit, and you would attract new customers that already have a higher trust level for your store based on a recommendation for someone they know. You could also offer the new clients a bonus as well.
Try influencer marketing
Outreach and partnerships will help you support the messaging about your brand with the help of influencers that already have a loyal audience and credibility. Collaborations build trust and awareness and allow you to kill two birds with one store by attracting new traffic and producing more content at the same time. Here are some partnership options to consider:
- Prepare a pitch based on the journey of your store creation (interview-style) to be featured in business venues or industry blogs,
- Ask a blogger for a product review (a feed post, a mention in stories, or a blog post) in exchange for a free sample,
- Purchase guest posts on relevant blogs or do a post-for-post collab,
- Collaborate with an influencer to make a custom product.
Consider publications based on fit first and the size of the readership second. Find bloggers with audiences that overlap with your niche so that you are marketing to your ideal customer. Otherwise, even if the chosen influencer has a six-figure following, your campaign could still fail since only a few of them would need the products you sell. For example, if your store focuses on beachwear, partnering up with someone from Hawaii makes more sense than a Northern Canada resident.
Consider offline marketing
While the whole world seems to be shifting to a digital model, offline marketing is still relevant, especially for Shopify stores that have a physical location beyond an online presence. Offline creates opportunities for face-to-face communication and ways to spend real quality time with your customers, which is more valuable now after all the lockdowns and pandemic restrictions. And, technically speaking, you can rely on offline efforts to collect client contact information and shift further marketing efforts to your preferred digital channels later on.
Opt for print media
Print media includes newspapers, posters, flyers, and even billboards. You can follow the same approaches as you would with digital ad banners or content pieces: pitch your business creation journey to industry or cross-industry media, advertise your physical store location or highlight any special offers, and buy paid placements in consumer magazines. The only exception is, these campaigns might require a higher budget than online ones since you will have to produce the necessary materials or meet advertising fees.
Offer offline coupons
Offline coupons do not necessarily require you to have a physical store. A good practice here would be to pack a small flyer with every offer for, say, a 5% discount on any future purchase. Alternatively, coupons could be distributed on the streets in busy places like office buildings, train stations, or malls, but there are no guarantees that you will be reaching your target audience with this method.
Attend a conference
If you want to build more professional connections or establish business partnerships for cross-promotion, you can attend an industry conference and engage in networking. Besides the possibilities for getting useful information that could help your store, you get to meet other store owners and exchange strategies, contacts, and experiences. For stores that sell products B2B, this would also be a great way to find new clients.
Help sponsor an event
Sponsoring an event that corresponds with your business values provides a good opportunity to pitch a product to an audience similar to your target customers. During the event itself, you can take photographs of the guests in front of a press wall with your logo and encourage them to share it on social media with certain hashtags. You could also package free product samples for everyone in attendance in exchange for their contact information.
Tell your friends and family
If you haven’t done this already, add your store URL to your private social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.), and spread the word by reaching out to your friends, family, and business acquaintances. No matter what kind of product you are selling, there is likely already someone in your network that would be interested in buying it and might recommend it to their friends. Focus on providing a great customer experience to leave a good first impression and consider offering a complimentary discount for social media mentions or reviews to raise more awareness.
Suggestions from people we know carry more weight than random adverts on the web, and you can use that to your advantage. Go through your contact list and select a few people that fit the description of your target audience and send them personalized product offers, schedule a call, or set up a meeting to share your story. Even if they don’t end up making the purchase, they are still the perfect candidates to support you and give honest feedback on the store. This word-of-mouth marketing approach would work especially well for stores with lower advertising budgets.
Build a mobile app for your Shopify store
Mobile applications are in a league of their own, giving unprecedented access to the daily lives and devices of every single member of your target audience. Besides selling your products via a mobile-responsive website, you could offer a stand-alone app that can utilize native smartphone features like push notifications or geolocation. Keep in mind that the application has to offer a certain value that the website does not have, like a live chat or a chatbot, enhanced order tracking, ease of use, or special discounts. With services like Pocketfied, you can turn your Shopify store into a mobile app within a few hours from first submitting a request to seeing your application approved by Apple and Google Play stores.
As an e-commerce business, you should focus your efforts on driving highly targeted traffic to your store, which will, in turn, allow you to make more money and grow your brand. If you have just recently launched a Shopify store, instead of trying to get every little detail right, like nitpicking brand colors or overthinking prices, you should start promoting the website as soon as possible. Before you dive into any of the steps and strategies covered above, like social media, influencer or referral marketing, email newsletters, SEO and content, and PPC advertising, make sure you have Google Analytics enabled for your website to measure the effectiveness of each method.
When you truly expose your brand to an audience, based on their feedback, you will be able to make data-driven decisions on how to improve the website, which is way better than unsubstantiated guesses. Once you’ve implemented the chosen strategies, use performance-tracking tools to take a step back to see what works and what hasn’t. That way, you will be able to see how people are reacting to your brand and work on weak points in the customer journey like cart abandonment or high bounce rates to achieve better campaign conversions.