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10 types of ecommerce marketing and how they help you speak to your customers’ needs

Whether you're a newbie in the ecommerce game or a seasoned pro fine-tuning your marketing strategy, there's one golden rule: know your customers inside out.

Just having the basics like age, gender, location, and even income level won't cut it. To craft a message that really hits home, you've got to dive deeper. What makes them tick? What do they care about? What gets them pumped up, and why?

Last updated

6 Dec 2023

Reading time

12 min


Let's break down how you can build a customer-centric marketing strategy by choosing suitable marketing types and channels. That's not all—we're walking you through some tips to make your marketing plan perfectly tailored to your target audience.


Explore the 10 types of ecommerce marketing included in the most successful ecommerce marketing strategies:

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO): ensure your target audience finds you organically on search engines

  2. Pay-per-click (PPC): use paid digital ads to capture more potential buyers

  3. Content marketing: offer valuable content to attract and educate visitors

  4. Email marketing: nurture prospects and customers to achieve significant results

  5. Brand marketing: create a consistent brand image and sentiment across all touchpoints

  6. Behavioral marketing: analyze consumer behavior data to tailor strategies to targeted segments

  7. Social media marketing: increase brand recognition and engagement through relevant social platforms

  8. Affiliate marketing: partner with individuals or entities to promote products for a commission

  9. Influencer marketing: collaborate with influencers to amplify your reach within specific communities

  10. Local marketing: craft localized content and support community-centric initiatives to stand out in local markets

Bonus tip: creating customer-centric ecommerce marketing strategies starts with harnessing site traffic and user behavior data with tools like Heatmaps, Recordings, Funnels, Feedback, and Surveys—all available in the Hotjar suite.

1. SEO to lead shoppers straight to your website

SEO and ecommerce marketing are the perfect pair. 🤝

Remember: SEO involves practices that make your online store more visible on web or app search engines, such as Google, Amazon, YouTube, and Bing. If your goal is to give your target market what they want, they must find you first—and organic search is where most online shoppers go, especially those getting to know a brand or comparing competitors.

Glossier’s unique product descriptions set them apart from competitors

Take a page out of the SEO playbook of Glossier, the beauty brand that started as a blog. They’ve come a long way—thanks partly to well-executed techniques that have bolstered them to the top of online searches. Also, their targeting has always been on point, as they’ve mined their followers’ data for brilliant customer insights since their blogging heyday.

Here’s how to create a winning SEO strategy like Glossier: 

  • Keep URLs short and ensure keywords appear at the beginning for better visibility

  • Employ user-friendly design and intuitive navigation to reduce bounces

  • Optimize site speed to improve your search rankings and the user experience (UX)

  • Collect and analyze user behavior data to uncover UX issues that impact SEO

💡 Pro tip: SEO experts don’t simply monitor metrics like bounce rate and time on page. They ask why these SEO issues exist and harness UX insights using tools like Hotjar. 

For instance, looking at heatmaps enables them to see that visitors take extra steps in navigating their website, causing their mobile bounce rate to increase. This prompts them to split-test two flow options, where they watch recordings to check first-hand which solution helps people find what they need faster on the site.

2. PPC or paid search to increase visibility across the web

Ecommerce brands seldom succeed with only one channel, even if it's organic search. That's why advertising options like pay-per-click (PPC) exist. 

This form of digital advertising is called such because it charges you a fee each time a user clicks on your ad on a search engine or mobile app. People who click PPC ads usually have a strong intent to purchase.

Grove Collaborative’s ad copy, images, and hashtags are specific to the needs and motivations of its niche audience (feed collage courtesy of Panoramata)

Grove Collaborative, a seller of natural home essentials, really gets their eco-conscious consumers. They use ad copy that speaks to their audience's needs, and offer free trials to encourage sales and conversions.

Keep these tips in mind if you want to attract more eyeballs and drive sales through pay-per-click marketing like Grove Collaborative: 

  • Target relevant and high-intent keywords, prioritizing relevance over volume

  • Craft landing pages that align with your ad's message, are easy to navigate, and have clear calls-to-action (CTAs)

  • Consider special offers or discounts to grab potential customers' interest

  • Regularly check your campaign's performance to see (and improve) what isn't working

3. Content marketing to create stories that convert

Ecommerce content marketing is a type of inbound marketing for ecommerce businesses. This means drawing visitors to your app or website via free content that adds value to their lives—all while building trust and thought leadership in your industry.

Your content primarily intends to inform, educate, help, or entertain. This guide is an example, alongside blogs, infographics, case studies, video tutorials, podcasts, and webinars.

Ecommerce platform Shopify regularly publishes feature stories and how-to posts to cater to its top-of-the-funnel audience

How do you craft content that people who know little or nothing about your brand will read? Shopify’s Content Lead, Kameron Jenkins, said on conversion rate optimization (CRO) agency The Good’s The Ecommerce Insights Show podcast: “Do your keyword research, talk to your customers, [and] you’ll get questions out of that.”

Additionally, apply these tactics to kickstart your content marketing:

  • Discover and create detailed audience personas—know who you're writing for to ensure your content resonates

  • Maintain a regular publishing schedule to build a loyal readership over time

  • Incorporate visual elements like images, GIFs, or infographics to increase engagement and shareability

  • Consistently gather feedback on your content to figure out what your target audience thinks and refine your strategy

Hotjar in action: bringing accurate results

After conducting a Google Analytics audit, The Good used Hotjar to understand user behavior on their ecommerce client Swiss Gear's website. 

The team tapped into Heatmaps to see how visitors engaged with the site and then watched relevant session recordings to validate assumptions toward visitor behavior. These in-depth insights helped them identify three main user groups and uncover usability issues—particularly with mobile users confused by the site's design and content filters.

Following The Good’s strategic changes and A/B testing, Swiss Gear saw its mobile bounce rate decrease by 8%, time-on-site rise by 84%, and a significant 132.7% boost in overall online revenue.

A snapshot of Swiss Gear’s site heatmap

4. Email marketing to nurture leads throughout their buying journey

Great online brands nurture prospects and customers by sending them messages that allude to their needs. Nothing is more potent than email marketing in achieving this goal. 

This channel guarantees a captive audience: it’s just a matter of segmenting your subscribers by their user persona, jobs to be done (JTBD), or stage in the buyer’s journey. From there, you can automate sending emails about your products, promos, topics, and themes.

Airbnb considers how to drive sales and soft conversions through their ecommerce email marketing campaigns

Rental platform Airbnb is a champion of this strategy. The company’s newsletters range from listings that remind you where you left off on their app to checklists for various cities and updates on their Experiences offerings.

Follow in Airbnb’s footsteps with these four quick starter tips:

  • Display sign-up forms on your website or offer exclusive content in exchange for email subscriptions

  • Address subscribers by their name and tailor content based on their preferences to enhance engagement

  • A/B test your email campaigns, experimenting with different subject lines, body texts, and sending times to see what resonates best

  • Use email analytics to track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversions—leveraging the data in your future campaigns

5. Brand marketing to build a name customers trust

Why do some brands become household names? You guessed it right: it’s the cumulative effect of consistent brand marketing. Think about it as building your marketing efforts on the back of the whole brand instead of specific products or services.

The purpose here is to have a strategy that allows your brand to express itself and make people feel a particular feeling about your brand. It’s visceral—and it works.

#These brands need no introduction
These brands need no introduction

Even if we don’t use their products or services, we likely know about Apple’s elegant design, Netflix’s streaming dominance, and Nike’s ‘Just do it’ slogan.

How do you conduct solid, customer-centric marketing to build brand awareness like these three giants? Here are a few building blocks:

  • Conduct market research, via surveys and interviews, to truly grasp your customers' needs, desires, and pain points

  • Create a brand narrative that connects emotionally and offers value beyond the purchase

  • Actively seek and act upon customer feedback, letting your customers know their voice matters and shapes your brand's evolution

  • Provide experiences, solutions, and genuine connections that enrich your customers' lives

Putting people at the heart of strategy

Customers buy from the brands they like and trust. To truly connect, you must dive deeper: discover what they really desire, empathize with their experience, and help them achieve their goals. 

6. Behavioral marketing to craft the right message for your audience

This powerful type of marketing comprises various techniques focused on customer behavior and interactions with your campaigns, offerings, and website. It also determines user profiles using demographics (e.g. age, gender, income) and psychographics (interests, activities, opinions).

People-focused marketers then pull up crucial aspects of the data to segment their customers and tailor their strategies accordingly. 

Imagine an online bookstore noting a segment of male users aged 18-30 frequently exploring the ‘Science Fiction & Fantasy’ section without always buying. Using insights about their sci-fi interests, the store crafts a campaign with bundled offers, signed editions, and exclusive author interviews.

That’s personalization derived from user behavior analysis and segmentation. Here’s another example:

You’re probably familiar with the product recommendation feature, which skincare brand Neutrogena employs on its site. The brand used customers’ past shopping behavior to suggest new product pairings

Check out below to learn how to put these behavioral marketing techniques to work:

  • Closely monitor user interactions on your site, from pages visited to items clicked, to understand their likes, dislikes, and motivations 

  • Based on behavioral data, segment your audience into specific groups (e.g. frequent browsers, cart abandoners) for targeted campaigns

  • Use the insights to create dynamic content and product recommendations tailored to each segment's unique behaviors and interests

  • Test often to refine campaigns for improved conversion rates and customer engagement

7. Social media marketing to boost recognition for your brand

In the beginning, brands and businesses used social media to widen their reach. It was a way for them to be discovered by users who wouldn’t have found them otherwise via search engines or word of mouth. 

Today, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter have taken ecommerce social media marketing up a notch. They’ve added more features—such as ads, online reviews, and shoppable content—to help ecommerce companies attract leads, drive traffic to their site, and amplify conversions.

Mejuri uses visual storytelling to captivate their target market

A direct-to-consumer jewelry brand, Mejuri uses Instagram to showcase their minimalist fine and semi-fine pieces. They take advantage of the power of visuals and social proof to move their audience to embrace ‘the new luxury’ concept surrounding their products.

Begin your social media marketing journey with these best practices:

  • Engage your audience—answer questions or join in on trending topics— to foster brand loyalty

  • Maximize Stories and Live features for quick promotions, exclusive peeks, and real-time interaction

  • Prompt happy customers to share experiences as their stories enhance credibility, serving as social proof

  • Maintain a consistent brand voice across channels for relatability

💡 Pro tip: capture critical issues raised during live sessions, such as product page errors. Then open Hotjar to check relevant recordings to figure out the cause: is it a simple coding issue or a broken link?

Save error clips in Highlights for seamless sharing in Slack or team discussions, making it easier to get buy-in for your solution ideas.

8. Affiliate marketing to partner with a team that helps you grow

If you love Wirecutter (or your friend who recommends the best bargain items), you may not be a stranger to affiliates. These are people or entities earning a commission from the sale of a product they're promoting. All they need is a referral link and a few words to convince their audience that it's worth buying.

Big or small, your affiliate partners provide support and a low-cost means to market your offers. Some well-known affiliate programs are run by bigwigs like Amazon Associates, eBay Partner Network, CJ Affiliate, and ShareASale.

Beardbrand has rolled out their affiliate program in hopes of boosting sales

Beardbrand, which sells men’s grooming products, has gained market share through this strategy. Remember, results may take time, but these small steps help you move forward:

  • Not all affiliates are equal, so collaborate with those whose audience aligns with your product

  • Use advanced tracking tools, ensuring your affiliates get their due commissions

  • Urge partners to create compelling content around your products, boosting their appeal to potential buyers

  • Periodically assess affiliate performance—whether or not they’re consistent with your brand's message and goals

9. Influencer marketing to amplify your reach among target communities

There are mega-influencers with millions of social media followers, but there are also micro- and nano-influencers with audiences ranging from thousands to just a few hundred. Working with them to promote your products or services is essentially ecommerce influencer marketing.

You'll learn more about how to tap influencers to bring in traffic and sales to your business in the next chapter of this guide. But for now, consider this: nano- and micro-influencers are effective in creating messages that resonate with niche audiences. In contrast, mega-influencers tend to appeal to broader ones.

One of the influencers Koala worked with on a campaign (image courtesy of The Right Fit)

Koala, an Australian mattress and furniture brand, teamed up with micro-influencers. This enabled them to broaden their reach across numerous influencer audiences.

To launch a sustainable influencer marketing strategy, consider adopting these practices:

  • Don’t hesitate to work with smaller-scale influencers, seeing the potential from their intimate connections with followers

  • Prioritize genuine influencers who resonate with your brand's values

  • Track metrics like engagement and conversion, allowing you to assess return on investment (ROI) and determine the most effective influencer campaigns

  • Maintain open communication with influencers for continuous improvement and feedback

💡 Pro tip: filter session recordings by influencer traffic to see how these users engage with your site, products, or services. Which parts of the page do they interact with most? How long do they dwell on specific content?

To delve deeper, use Hotjar’s on-site surveys or Feedback widget (it’s that red button to the right of your screen. 👉) Ask site visitors what they think of the influencer's words or actions. This allows you to gauge whether the influencer’s message fits well with your brand.

10. Local marketing to focus on potential customers in your area

Do you want your ecommerce store to be the talk of the town? Optimize your search presence for local queries and partner with local influencers. 

Set your brand apart from global or regional competitors through this popular ecommerce marketing strategy. At the same time, capture a dedicated segment of consumers who prioritize community-centric shopping.

Snapshots of Flowers for Dreams’ landing pages for Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Detroit

From creating local landing pages to crafting location-specific blog posts to donating to local charities, Flowers for Dreams has tried various personalization tactics to expand their flower delivery service. They now handcraft artisan bouquets out of four cities across the Midwest in the United States.

 Just like Flowers for Dreams, become your community’s go-to brand for specific products or services through these local marketing tips:

  • Create unique landing pages for different cities or locations you serve, adding a personal touch to customers from that particular region

  • Craft content with a local flavor, such as stories about local festivals, traditions, or even popular landmarks

  • Partner with local influencers who have a strong foothold in the community to bring instant recognition and trust to your brand

  • Show genuine interest and investment in the community by supporting local charities or initiatives

The only ecommerce marketing tip you need: put your customer first

Putting the customer at the heart of your strategy ensures meaningful engagement and tangible returns (see: your bottom line). How do you prioritize your audience in your marketing plan? By harnessing site traffic and user behavior data.

So let’s set aside the qualitative vs. quantitative data debate—it’s better to combine both data types to understand customer behavior. Hotjar’s suite of tools helps you do exactly this by explaining not just what is happening on your site, but the why behind the behavior. 

  • Track performance: view various quantitative data points—such as page views, bounce rate, and conversion rate—that help you determine whether your ecommerce store pages work as planned. Use Hotjar Funnels to analyze drop-off rates. Filter conversion funnels by marketing channel or country for richer insights, and add your critical charts to a customized dashboard to see your data in a flash. 

#Funnel analysis showing user drop-off and conversion rate
Funnel analysis showing user drop-off and conversion rate
  • Lower exit rate: use Recordings to figure out why your sneaker page has a higher exit rate compared to other similar product pages. Identify issues by observing behavioral patterns, such as users zooming frequently on product images and infrequent clicks on the size guide. From there, set up an exit-intent survey using Hotjar AI 🤖 for Surveys to hear directly from users about what stopped them from purchasing. Is it poor image quality, do they struggle with the size guide, or is it something else entirely?

#Set up an exit-intent survey in seconds with help from Hotjar AI
Set up an exit-intent survey in seconds with help from Hotjar AI
  • Boost conversion: view the click map on your checkout page to understand why users abandoned the session. After you find out that the 'Proceed to Payment' button is visible but under-clicked, click the ‘View recordings’ button to jump into session recordings and see the individual behaviors behind your Heatmaps data. It could be that users hovered over the button without clicking, struggled with the discount code section, or returned to product pages, likely to verify details or prices.

#See where your customers struggle or get stuck—and empathize with them—through session recordings in Hotjar
See where your customers struggle or get stuck—and empathize with them—through session recordings in Hotjar

Effectively connect with your target market

Ecommerce marketing is about tuning into your customers' desires, pain points, and motivations. Whether through boosting your visibility via SEO, promoting your brand on social media, or teaming up with influencers, you need to shape your strategies to resonate with your audience.

Remember: you’re not just selling stuff; you’re making real connections. Nail this, and your customers will keep coming back.

Putting people at the heart of strategy

Customers buy from the brands they like and trust. To truly connect, you must dive deeper: discover what they really desire, empathize with their experience, and help them achieve their goals. 

FAQs about ecommerce marketing