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Best Practice Digital Marketing for Ecommerce Websites | Top Tips & Insights

Ecommerce websites are the most vital tool in an online business. Without them there would simply be no business, so why are so many ecommerce websites still so difficult to use and manage? In this age of customer-centric inbound marketing the customer doesn't expect to have to think, they expect to have their needs met intuitively. They expect websites to predict how they like to search, browse, decide and buy and they definitely don't expect to find it awkward, frustrating or difficult in any way. Removing friction from the buyer journey is one of the key principles of inbound marketing and in this video Tim Butler, our CEO talks to Sagar Nayyar, Director of SCommerce Mage and Magento wizard about how best practice digital marketing can transform the performance of an ecommerce website.  

In this video Tim explains how we approach the 'healthchecking' of an ecommerce website and how we go about strategising effective optimisation and promotion for it, based on data and objectives, in order to deliver maximum Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and Return on Investment (ROI). He also covers how to use proven digital marketing techniques, where to start, the choices you will have to make and what data you will need to make them as well as how to measure and benchmark your results.

If you would like to download our free In-Depth Guide to healthchecking your ecommerce website then simply complete the form to the right of this page. 

Video Transcript

- Hi, I'm Sagar Founder and Director of Scommerce Mage. We build eCommerce websites using platform Magento. In this video, I'm talking to Tim, from Innovation Visual. He helps companies in digital marketing. And today, we are going to ask a few questions from him. Tim, if you want to introduce yourself, and then I'll ask you a few questions, is that alright with you?

- Yeah, yeah, that's good. So, I'm Tim Butler, and I'm the Founder and CEO of Innovation Visual, and we're a performance digital marketing agency. As Sagar said, we've been working with him for quite a long time. It's been a number of years now, and we've had some really great performance together. So, it's good to be sitting here today and chatting to you.

- I have some questions, you know which would be helpful even like for me, as well as for our audience as well. So, we to get more clients on board. They can understand how you can make a difference on their websites. So, the first question I have is when a customer comes to you to help with digital marketing, what do you look at?

- Okay, so, it's a good question. So, I think the first thing you have to do when you talk to any client about digital marketing, is take it step back from that go. What's the business objectives? And having a very blunt answer, like we'll sell more stuff on, on the website, you've got to go beyond that. You've got to go into the detail of, what's the strategy? What are the hero products that they've got? What's the market opportunity? You know, what's the objective around taking market share from their competitors? Where do they see themselves as different? Really understanding a business is the first thing that we look to do. And then when we have got that understanding of where they want to go and where they see themselves on a competitive position, then we'll dive into the data and we'll undertake a benchmarking exercise where we'll look at everything to do with the data on their website, but also the activities that they're undertaking. So, what is it that they are doing in the way of paid search, biddable media, organic search, that kind of thing? And really look at that whole setup, look how far they are and best practice at that point. and then from there, we can start looking at making a plan as to what's going to be the most effective thing going forward.

- Aright, okay. So, whenever the client asks you to improve the performance of the eCommerce website, where do you actually start?

- So when we've undertaken that benchmarking exercise and understood what they want to do as a business, the way to look at it is to look, if you like, at the problems or, how we like to see it, the opportunities that they've got in terms of developing their digital marketing. So, where are they a long way from best practice? And so, you want to identify quickly as a team, where is it that we can maximize impact? Because if people are spending on digital marketing, they've got to get that return on investment. So, if you look at the areas that will make the biggest increase in relevant traffic, increase in conversion rate, increase in basket value, those kinds of things, and you weigh up the different options they've got and then say, okay, that's where we'll start, because that's going to be the biggest thing to make a difference. Then we'll go on to that. Then we've got this, this and this to do. And so, it's about seeing where they are and then how to take them forward quickly and make a difference quickly.

- Cool, okay. So, you know, just curious to know that what are the most common issues you find, you know, that limit a site's performance.

- It's interesting. The most common I would say is data issues in that few eCommerce sites, take enough time to actually clean up their data. I know you're really strong on data and you've got like enhanced eCommerce tracking that we've used on all the clients that are running Magento sites. And that adds to, you know, the kind of detail that we need. And it's amazing to think that some people aren't doing things like advanced eCommerce tracking. In fact, we've even seen eCommerce sites where they've gone, oh, no, we're still not able to track the actual sales volume. It's like, oh my God, how can you run an eCommerce site? You know, saying, it's held in the backend of the admin system is simply not good enough. But the other thing is developing things like Filtered Views in Google Analytics. So, they really have a clean set of data and that's probably the most common problem. And what we find is if they don't sort that problem out, they're making kind of poor decisions down the line, they're thinking they're doing better in areas than they should. And then from a performance digital marketing perspective, when it actually comes to moving the needle, not just measuring it, I would say common issues we come across are badly run paid search accounts, where the brand terms that are owned by that business are supporting the profitability of the whole Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising Account, because they're the ones generating all the revenue. When you strip those out the rest of the page search account actually isn't really delivering a profit but the agency or whoever's doing it internally is hiding effectively behind these brand terms that you don't really need to pay for to support the profitability. That's the common one on paid and then organic, I think, lack of coherent content strategy and eCommerce sites. Looking at the short-term growth, ploughing money into biddable media and audience access that way and failing to have a coherent plan and strategy when it comes to organic, which gives you much more longevity and better value access to your target audience. So, I would say those are the three biggest.

- Just to add to that, do you find it really challenging to work with the platforms? I know that you work with us, we use Magento, but there are other platforms as well out there. Do you find it, you know, within the platform challenges or common issues?

- Oh yeah, I mean, we've got clients using a variety of different platforms, Magento, our most profitable eCommerce clients are all using Magento platforms because they're seeing the depth in what that offers them. But we've got people using Shopify, we've got people using things like WooCommerce on WordPress. I think from a platform viewpoint, probably WooCommerce when sites are growing, seems to be the most problematic because it can get really slow, it can get very clunky with the way that things are bolted together and not seamlessly developed. It's basically taking loads of add-ons and making a jigsaw puzzle and hoping it works. Speed is also an issue I find with the WordPress sites and obviously speed's really crucial for organic optimization. So, you know, that's a big thing we're talking to our clients about. And then depending on what people are doing, Shopify can become inflexible for certain things because it is a SAAS Platform. By its nature it's not designed to be like Magento, which you can do what you want to because you've got the control. So, yeah, sometimes, you know, it restricts it you have to work around those problems. We always go to a client with the expectation that we will work with what they've got. And then we will look to help them long-term with their strategic technology stack. So, whether that be what, you know, what eCommerce platform they're using or whether it's behind the scene stuff, whether they should be using a different kind of email marketing tool or something like HubSpot for marketing automation and those kinds of things, so, yeah.

- Cool, okay. So, I think I have a very interesting question, you know, which I always have that, you know, would you say organic search or paid search would be better to focus on?

- Yeah, the million-dollar question, paid or organic? You got to drive traffic to the site and for a start, I would say search is where it's at, in terms of driving new people who want what you do. So, if they're typing in a search term, which is what you do, you need to be there. You know, it's all well and good having social media strategies and having, you know, strategies to bring people back. But they're not at the sharp end of driving new customer acquisition and in the right space. So then when you come to get on that search results page and get the attention of those people. Paid is great from a tactical viewpoint and being fast. You can put an add up, you can drive them to a page that will convert, you pay your money, you take your price. The issue that we see is that businesses which start doing that, then get hooked into it. If you'd like. So, they start spending on paid, they get a bit of an ROI and they keep spending and they try and scale by paid alone. And that's naive because you have no competitive advantage in that it's not defensible from a competitive position. Say, "well we get a better click through rate than somebody else". Somebody else will come along and get a better click through rate and with, you know, Ads being created dynamically by Google, writing ads is not anything that is defined by the individual companies anymore. It's also about that money you spend it, you know. These companies get sucked into spending a lot on media with whether it be Google, whether it be Facebook on biddable stuff. But if we're talking specifically about search, what's going to happen is there's more people coming into your market. If you're paying a pound a click, they want to come in, they want to take that. They're going to end up paying more than that pound. You're going to end up having to pay more than that pound. So, your ability to get the ROI becomes more and more compressed. So, what should happen, and what we advise people, is use paid tactically. There's definitely an ongoing role for paid search in your digital marketing mix but invest sufficiently in organic. Think about how you're going to have a defensible position. You know, try and own the content around your product subject matter if you like and build that up, because if you've written a great piece of content once a week, every week for a year, that's 52 pieces of content that are ranking driving relevant traffic, helping to convert that traffic on your site. That's very hard for a new competitor to come in and replicate. And I think that gets lost in the mix. A lot of the time people go short term, paid access to the audience, and then they start to struggle down the line.

- Yeah, so for the new clients, who come on board, they've never sold anything online, just first time they went on. Do you think that they could get organic search going or to start with what your advice would be to go with the paid search first?

- I would say that their expectation should be that the sales would come initially from the paid, because the competitive terms, unless they're going into a very greenfield market of which there are very little, unless you're inventing a new product. As a brand-new site, you've got domain penalty, you've not got much inbound links, you've not got much content, you're going to really struggle to deliver the sales through organic. But if you don't invest from the start with organic, you'll never catch up with your existing competitors. And what you want to do is you want to overtake them. And the good news is for somebody entering a market, if you're smart and have a coherent solid content strategy which is organic search focused, you'd be surprised how many eCommerce sites mess up their organic as they change from one site to another. They do an update, they get a, you know, smartass digital marketing manager, who actually hasn't done the sums or whatever and they end up not migrating from one site to another or making a mess. So, you can, even if you're starting in a market that's had people in it for years, you can claw back that organic presence and, overtime, do it. But on a brand-new site, you won't get the sales there, but you still need to invest. You need to think about medium and long-term.

- So, how quickly can well executed digital marketing have an effect on the bottom line?

- The speed. So, people often, when we're talking to them about working with them. So how quickly can we get these results? You know, can we have them next week? We're going to spend all this money with you when are we going to see results? And the answer is, it depends. It depends on what the current position is, how far they are from best practice. There are quick wins to be had. So, switching off paid campaigns that are, you know, not delivering an ROI and investing that in the campaigns, which are good instant results. Other things can take time. Things like improving the conversion rate, improving the organic presence through content and through technical optimization. And technical optimization, you know how big some of these eCommerce sites are. Some technical optimizations are very time consuming, just because of the scale of sites that have to be applied to them. So typically, we would say, you know, two to three months for making a really significant impact in the numbers. But I would be disappointed with any client engagement that hasn't got to the point within three months where they're going, 'wow, this is great'. You know, our goal is to excel in terms of the results that they're getting by that point. And then I think you get a, the next 9 months, maybe to 12 months, that becomes the time when you really start ramping up. And, in terms of a performance curve, slow gains to start with building up, and then you have in that three to 12 to 15-month area you can make really big gains. And then it's getting harder and harder. You're playing against maybe the biggest sites, you're playing against hardest search terms, really high-volume terms. It becomes more difficult, but you need to keep working at it to get that competitive advantage, get the difference over your competitors.

- Cool, okay. The next one I have on the list is key components of an effective eCommerce based digital marketing strategy.

- The components. It's really interesting because I would say that you look at the three elements of how you get business online, from your eCommerce site. You've got to attract the visitors to come to your site in the first place, then you've got to engage with them when they're on the site, and then you've got to make that conversion happen, and the conversion optimization. And your efforts should always fall across all three of those areas. No point just driving loads of traffic to a site, and then not paying any attention to conversion. And at the same time ramping up your conversion optimization. So, you know, you're doing 10% conversion of every visitor that arrives rather than 1%. Well, that's great, but if you're not putting any more customers visitors in at the front end, you're not maximizing those results. So, what I would actually say is rather than individual components of say how much paid search, how much, you know, Facebook advertising, or how much social media organic or whatever. It's actually the components I think should be short, medium and long-term effort. So, if a typical client, if they're working with us and, you know, we're doing five, six days a month retainer. Out of those, if we say six days a month, probably two of those days will be focused on very short term, you know, optimizations, paid search campaigns, getting it right for next week, this month, that kind of thing. And then two of those days, maybe three of those days are the more medium term. This will deliver results in a month to six weeks. This is a bigger play, it's more complex to do. And then, you know, a bit of that time is the really long-term strategic play. So, what are we doing to hold onto our clients long-term? What, you know, are we maximizing customer lifetime value by having a good email engagement system? Are we actually future gazing sufficiently? So, we're looking at things like, is a player like Amazon going to come into our market? And if we think that's going to happen, we need to be spending some time each month on our defensive play against that. Or maybe we've got an offensive play that we're actually, we know we've got a new product coming in down the line. What are we doing on that? Knowing that that's going to launch in six months, we should actually start working now. We shouldn't wait until a month before launch and go, what do we need to do strategically to get that in there? So, I'd say the components should be a blend of, you know, short, medium and long. And depending on how far from best practice you are at the moment we walk in the door will also depend on where that time and that emphasis falls. And obviously also the business goals, because if the business is desperate, you know, to go cashflow positive, they're not going to be in a position to spend lots of money on the long term. They need to get the short-term right, get cashflow positive, then they can invest more medium and long term.

- Cool, okay. Sorry, just last few questions here.

- I'm not talking too much for you. I hope this is useful for your,

- Definitely. for your visitors. I think these will definitely help. So, you know that, you know, Coronavirus is affecting the whole economy.

- So, what's the effect of economy downturn on advertising spend?

- I think everybody's seeing that the offline stuff has taken a massive hit. Why would you advertise on a billboard in a city centre, where nobody's going to a city centre? We all know that that's obvious. TV and things like that are also taking a hit. Although, people are spending more time on screens, they're going to more of these on demand services. The online space had some really weird behaviours in that there were some people that cut paid search and things like that back significantly at start. Then they bounced back up very strongly, very quickly afterwards. Others just maintained it. Others ramped it up as soon as they were doing it. I think the Coronavirus, and if you look at the larger share, recession kind of issue that the economy is shrinking. The advertising behaviours, the smart money is on those people that are thinking about getting more share of voice than their market share at the moment. So, they're using this time to actually grow quicker than their competitors. The interesting thing with a lot of eCommerce businesses at this time is that they're all rubbing their hands together, going, oh, it's brilliant. You know, we've had, you know, we've had 10% growth this month, or we've had 10% since COVID or 15% or whatever. And they're thinking that what they're doing is awesome. The problem is if they're not benchmarking against the whole market, what they might not realize that actually their market has gone up by 85%. They've only had 10%, so their competitors are way out doing them. And I think that there, certainly there'll be a realization maybe towards the start of next year when things change in the bigger macroeconomic climate further. But I think there'll be a realization with some of the sites that maybe have been complacent. Though they've been doing a great job. They've not invested properly in their marketing and their advertising, and they've not invested in doing a better job as well and getting that. So, I think rather than it being a purely about spend, I think the danger for eCommerce sites at the moment is that they're growing, but they're not growing as fast as their competitors, and they don't know that yet. And that's what I would say is the COVID danger for eCommerce at the moment.

- Last question, I promise. What's your advice for eCommerce managers who are wondering how to make the website work harder and perform better?

- Yes, there is lots of things. And you could dive into all the granularity, couldn't you, of What can you do to make your eCommerce site better, work harder, get more performance? I think that the kind of people that we talk to the eCommerce managers, the marketing managers, CMO's and things. They are particularly eCommerce managers and marketing managers are often down in the weeds and they're probably doing a good job day to day, but they're busy. I bet, I mean, hopefully they're still watching this video because they're really busy. They're flitting from one thing to another. But the thing is when did they last take a step back and review the whole thing? So, what I would say is that I would say the best use of time as an eCommerce or a marketing manager running an eCommerce site at this point, take a step back. So, book into your diary a half a day, switch off your emails, switch off your messaging, switch off your phone even, right. Give yourself half a day and actually benchmark your site and all your digital marketing to see where you really are. I mean we do this with clients, and we've got a guide on how to benchmark eCommerce sites. So, we can share this for your visitors and the people watching this video. But the whole purpose of the benchmarking is you'll look at all the different elements and you'll think about it. So, it's not necessarily the score that you get, although the score is really good because it'll identify weaknesses in certain areas that you may not even realize. But that process of taking that half day out from the day to day, that you probably doing really well as an eCommerce manager and marketing manager, and actually assessing with critical eyes to say, are we doing this? How close to best practice are we? Are we doing this well? That is enlightening. And it would open up so many things, you know, that will give them then the power to go, "Wow, we need to do that next, that's what we need to do". So, I would say that is, that's the thing to do.

- Brilliant, thank you very much Tim. That was really valuable, thanks for your time. I really appreciate that. Hopefully I think our audience will also, you know, help from all the answers you have given. Thank you.

- They can contact us through you, I mean, that'd be really good. We're always happy to talk to people and yeah, it's been really, really good to talk to you today. It's always nice catching up with you.

- Same here. Brilliant. Okay, thanks.

Exclusive Free In-Depth Guide to Healthchecking Your Ecommerce Website

Don't forget to download your copy of our exclusive guide to healthchecking your ecommerce website. The Guide, developed by Tim Butler, comes with an easy to use Benchmarking Tool so that you can see at a glance how your site is performing and what areas need attention.  Simply complete the form on the right of this page and we'll email the Guide and Benchmarking Tool to you straight away. 

Next Steps

We hope hope you enjoyed this video and have found the tips, tricks and insights useful. There is always so much to learn so why not visit our Knowledge Hub for more articles? If you'd prefer to get more advice or help then do not hesitate to contact our team of digital marketing experts who would be delighted to chat to you about your website.

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