Top 5 Essential eCommerce Strategies for 2017

closeup of man making move with black piece at chess

The eCommerce industry is constantly evolving, and those who don’t stay on the cusp of new innovations and trends will quickly fall behind the competition.  Despite the healthy growth in the eCommerce market, many online business owners are finding it more and more difficult to break through the noise and make their products stand out.

These challenges aren’t going away as we head into 2017.  In fact, there is a good chance that winning over customers in the year ahead will only become harder for online merchants.  If your online store is going to have any chance of beating out your fiercest competitors this year, you will need to develop a winning eCommerce strategy.

Emerging trends and changing technologies continue to shape our eCommerce strategies each year.  Here are the top eCommerce strategies for 2017 and how they can put your online business on the path to success:

1. Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing is a hot topic among digital marketers as we move on into 2017.  It’s now becoming absolutely necessary for eCommerce sites to create a unified experience for consumers across different channels and devices.

Why You Need It:  As consumer behavior changes, marketers also need to change how they approach their marketing strategies.  Rather than think of mobile users, desktop users, and tablet users as separate people, it’s time to think of them as the same person—because, in many cases, they ARE the same person.  A customer can browse products on their mobile device and switch to their desktop to make a purchase.  It’s up to you to make sure that this transition is seamless for the customer.

omnichannel buyer journey - Springbot

How to Do It:   To implement an omnichannel strategy, you first need to understand how it differs from a multichannel strategy.

A multichannel strategy is most likely what you have now. Your business probably has a website, a blog, a social media presence, a mobile marketing strategy, and other channels.  However, these channels tend to work independently of each other.

To create an omnichannel experience, you need to integrate all of your channels and devices properly.  This means that you will need to define your goals and work closely with each department within your business to reach these goals.

Yes, this can be a lot for a single business to handle.  Developing an omnichannel strategy isn’t easy, but the bright side is that marketers now have a wide array of marketing automation platforms that can help solve their biggest obstacles.  Take advantage of these innovative marketing tools to give your customers a smooth journey across every channel.

Who’s Doing It Right:  Starbucks is a great example of omnichannel marketing done right.  The coffee chain’s omnichannel strategy is successful due in part to its reward app, which allows cardholders to accumulate rewards that they can use in their brick-and-mortar stores.

The app also pulls up the location data of Starbucks stores near the cardholder, allows them to purchase gift cards for friends, and even order ahead of time at the location they choose.  If you’re going to follow an omnichannel example heading into 2017, Starbucks should be a source of your inspiration.

Image: Starbucks

Image: Starbucks

2. Consistent and Unique Content

With content marketers pumping out content left and right, it has become increasingly difficult to see the same results we once had with content.  Does that mean you should give up on content marketing in 2017?  Of course not!

Why You Need It:  Whether marketers like it or not, content marketing is still one of the most effective marketing strategies today.  Consumers are tired of the constant bombardment of ads that are thrown their way, and traditional marketing efforts don’t work as well as they used to.

Now, your eCommerce business needs to do more than blatantly market your products to consumers.  It needs to provide them with something of value.

How You Do It:  It’s no longer enough to post mediocre content on your blog once a week and call it good.  In 2017, you need to be producing high-quality content to your audience consistently if you want to be thought of as a leader in your industry.

To do this, you need to understand your customers on a deeper level.  Creating buyer personas can give you a better sense of what problems your customers face and the types of content that would help solve these problems.  It’s also beneficial to check out your competition and look at the types of content they are creating to see what you’re up against.

Who’s Doing It Right:  If you have ever searched for answers to your digital marketing related questions, you have most likely stumbled across something written by Neil Patel.

Why is his content everywhere?  A good part of the reason is because the entrepreneur has extremely valuable information that he shares with digital marketers, and he does so on a consistent basis.   He’s also found new ways to share this information with others and has branched out by starting a podcast.

If there is one thing that you might notice about Neil, it’s that all his goals focus on what value he can provide customers—regardless of whether they are his own customers or the company that he works for.  Center your content around your customer’s problems, and you will be rewarded for your efforts.

3. Increase Your Shares on Social Media

It’s been more than a decade since the birth of Facebook and social media as we know it, and the growth of social media isn’t slowing down.  Not only should your eCommerce site be on Facebook in 2017, but it also needs to be on newer platforms such as SnapChat—especially if your customers are on the younger side.

But it isn’t enough to simply be on these platforms.  You should also be focusing on creating highly shareable content if you are hoping to achieve a better ROI from your campaigns.  Although social media shares aren’t always easy to get, they can do more for your eCommerce business than you may realize.

Why You Need It:  Content that gets more shares does more than just increase your online visibility.  First, it tells you that your audience is engaged—one of the key metrics that marketers use to gauge the success of their social media campaigns.

Second, it helps drive huge amounts of traffic and sales to your eCommerce site and increases brand awareness.

And, lastly, links to your website that came from social media may have a significant impact on your search rankings.  Although Google has said that it doesn’t look at this kind of data, Bing has stated that it does take it into consideration.

How You Do It:  A simple way to encourage social shares is to put social media buttons on your site to make it easy to share your content.  Another good strategy is to test your content’s headlines to see which ones resonate with your audience more.  It also doesn’t hurt to know the best times to post on social media for greater visibility and shares.

Who’s Doing It Right:  Bundle Monster, an online nail art supply retailer, uses a custom shoppable landing page on Instagram to lead followers from image to store. When they feature products from their online store on Instagram, they can direct their audience to the link in their profile bio that contains the images they share along with direct links to product pages. Since Instagram doesn’t allow links in image captions, this is a great option for turning followers into customers.

bundle monsterbundle monster

4. Exceptional Customer Service

One of the rising eCommerce trends in 2017 is to be more like Amazon and provide customers with exceptional customer service at all stages of their purchase.  Consumers are interacting with brands more and now demand greater customer service than they did in previous years, which means that your own online store needs to adapt to this change if it wants to compete.

Why You Need It:  According to a 2016 report from Microsoft, 56 percent of global consumers say they have higher expectations for customer service now than they had just one year ago.  Mediocre customer service is no longer going to cut it in 2017.  This year, your business needs to go above and beyond to wow your customers and inspire brand loyalty.

How You Do It:   Amazing customer service should be provided at every stage—including after the purchase has been made.  It may surprise you just how valuable it is for customers to be promised a hassle-free return if they don’t like their product.

Offering free shipping and returns to your customers will inspire trust in your business and persuade customers to make a purchase.  And, if you’re worried about your ROI, just keep in mind that some companies have increased their profits by 357 percent with this policy.

Other ways that you can make your customer service exceptional is by using a live chat service, personalizing their shopping experience, and offering 24-hour phone support.

Who’s Doing It Right:  Amazon, of course.  Their same-day delivery for Amazon Prime members offers ultimate convenience to their customers.  They also offer customers a high level of personalization from the moment they visit their site.

5. Video Marketing

Have you noticed the increase in videos on your Facebook newsfeed these past few years?  The visual trend is taking off in the marketing world, and more businesses are now incorporating videos into their marketing strategies as we head into 2017.

Why You Need It:  Video consumption has risen significantly in the last few years, mostly thanks to social media.  With the introduction of Facebook Live and the rising popularity of video-based social platforms such as SnapChat, it isn’t surprising that videos are becoming the go-to means of communication for consumers.

However, many brands still view videos as a way to get their content to go viral.  Instead, the focus should be on creating videos that actually meet their content marketing goals.  By making video marketing a part of your eCommerce strategy, you will be one step ahead of many online businesses who don’t have video figured out yet.

How You Do It:  Video is a great way to reach consumers when it’s done properly.  Before you make your videos, you should be thinking about what they will offer your audience.  Is it to explain how your product works?  Is it to give an inside look into your brand?

Once you have that figured out, you will plan how you will tell your story in a way that engages your audience.  Just as you would with written content, your headlines need to be attention-grabbing, and you should have a clear call-to-action at the end.

After that, it’s just a matter of uploading it to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, your own website—anywhere that can potentially reach your target audience.

Who’s Doing It Right:  Brands like Purina have nailed their video marketing campaigns in recent years.  Their “Dear Kitten” video series became a viral hit in 2014 and racked in more than 50 million views over the seven videos that were created.

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It also demonstrated that great video content can run successfully on many different platforms. In addition to YouTube, their “Dear Kitten Regarding the Big Game” episode ran on TV as well.

Other brands are leveraging social media tools such as Instagram Stories to create and share videos.  NASA is a great example of how to use Instagram Stories to engage followers.  They use Instagram Stories to conduct short interviews with notable people in the scientific community and use their videos to supplement their Instagram posts.

Final Thoughts

Your 2016 eCommerce strategy may be fine for now, but the truth is that it can become obsolete in the blink of an eye.  As we move on into 2017, eCommerce store owners need to revamp their strategies so that they can handle the challenges and trends that are to come.

With the top eCommerce strategies listed above, you can remain competitive despite the challenges that online store owners face.