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How to build a brilliant ecommerce marketing strategy

An ecommerce marketing strategy is a research-backed plan to attract, engage, and convert leads and customers. 

This guide shows you how to create your own ecommerce marketing plan in five steps, along with five proven tactics to use to make sure your strategy’s a smash success.

Last updated

3 Nov 2023

Reading time

8 min



Create an ecommerce marketing strategy in five steps:

  1. Evaluate your data: review and analyze data from various sources to identify your strengths and weaknesses

  2. Set goals: create one or two specific goals to guide your marketing strategy

  3. Get to know your target customers: create user personas and customer journey maps to deeply understand who they are and what they need

  4. Find market gaps: analyze your competitors’ marketing decisions to discover new opportunities for your brand and effectively position your products

  5. Decide on tactics for each channel: sketch out what methods you will use to reach and engage customers 

And try these five proven ecommerce marketing tactics: 

  1. Build awareness on social media by leveraging influencer marketing, paid ads, and contests

  2. Grow your email list by sending newsletters, hosting events, or offering useful lead magnets

  3. Showcase social proof by including social content on your ecommerce website, including testimonials, and making reviews searchable

  4. Optimize your product pages through exit-intent surveys, A/B testing, and search engine optimization (SEO)

  5. Minimize cart abandonment by launching cart abandonment surveys, sending SMS or email reminders, or providing on-screen abandoned cart notifications

5 steps to create a customer-centric ecommerce marketing strategy

Creating campaign after campaign without guidance from a solid ecommerce marketing strategy is like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. The problem? That spaghetti—random marketing tactics—can quickly blow the budget, and you may not see any results at all. 

Here’s how to create a unified, customer-centric marketing plan guaranteed to attract and engage more prospects:

1. Evaluate your data

To create a digital marketing strategy that remains effective well into the future, you need to revisit what worked (and what didn’t) in the past. 

Start by gathering all of your data in one place. Make sure you have a variety of quantitative and qualitative data.

Quantitative data is numerical; it tells you what’s happening. Qualitative data, including text-based information from surveys, interviews, or social media comments, tells you why.

Pull data from the following sources:

  • Ecommerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms like HubSpot or Salesforce

  • Email marketing platforms like Omnisend or Klaviyo

  • Advertising platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads

  • Website analytics platforms like Google Analytics 4

  • Behavior analytics platforms like Hotjar 

  • Social media platforms like TikTok or Facebook

Then, conduct data analysis, paying close attention to your company’s successes and areas for growth. Effective data analysis starts with asking insightful questions that uncover weaknesses in your previous strategy—as well as strengths you can leverage to improve.

Ask questions like:

What marketing channels generated the most leads?
What tactics led to higher conversion rates?
Which campaigns were most successful? Why?
Which campaigns underperformed? Why did they fall short of expectations?
What opportunities did you overlook?
What were your biggest customer segments?

Data analysis is often overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Select the right data analytics tool and follow a simple process, and you’ll have all the information you need to shape your marketing strategy.

💡 Pro tip: save time analyzing website traffic and sales data for your ecommerce store with Hotjar.

Use Hotjar Trends to create custom metrics, view them as charts, and add them to your personalized Hotjar Dashboard to visualize your most important metrics on a single screen. When your dashboard reveals something critical—like a drastic drop in sales for one of your top products over the last month—just click the play icon to view relevant session recordings that help you understand why.

Hotjar Trends lets you create custom metrics and then click through to a relevant session to learn more

2. Set goals

Once you analyze your data, you can create new goals for the year or quarter. Look at the numbers you hit last year, and use these as a jumping-off point for setting realistic goals. 

Consider your ecommerce company’s overarching business plan and last year’s performance, and then set one or two goals, such as

  • Increase website traffic through SEO or paid ads

  • Build brand awareness through guest blogging or creating referral programs

  • Diversify your lead-gen sources to include brand partnerships or an additional social media site

  • Retain current customers by improving customer support or starting a customer loyalty program

Make your goals as clear, specific, and measurable as possible, attaching specific numbers and time frames to each one. To ensure your goal ‘works’, ask yourself how you will assess progress toward your goal next quarter or year.

3. Get to know your target customers

Once you have goals, you need to figure out how to achieve them—and that involves diving deep into who your audience is.

Start by building or updating your user personas, simple psychographic profiles that capture who your customers are, what they want, and what obstacles stand in their way. These user personas let you add more personalization into your marketing strategy, improving your customers’ experience and encouraging them to make a purchase.

Create a user persona—like this one by Crayon’d—for each type of customer at your online store

The jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework is the perfect complement for user personas, helping you consider your customers’ end goals (or ‘jobs’) in your strategy. This approach shows you what users want out of your products, i.e. why they are looking for a certain thing now.

👉 Read our comprehensive guide on ecommerce jobs-to-be-done to make this framework part of your strategy.

Then, create or revisit your customer journey map (CJM) to visualize the journey shoppers have with your brand or products. Understanding each touchpoint not only helps you empathize with your customer—it also shows you how you can target your digital marketing efforts to achieve your goals.

#While you can create a CJM with simple sticky notes, some companies build a digital version, like this one from Airbnb
While you can create a CJM with simple sticky notes, some companies build a digital version, like this one from Airbnb

Creating user personas, JTBD, and a CJM ensures you understand customers’ demographics, problems, goals, shopping habits, and behaviors so you can effectively meet their needs and attract qualified leads to your site.

💡 Pro tip: go straight to the source and get insights from real customers when building your user personas and customer journey map. 

Hotjar Surveys lets you gather shopper input—fast. Trigger an exit-intent survey to launch as potential customers abandon your checkout, and ask them to leave their email for a follow-up. When you discover something significant from a survey response, invite the user to an interview hosted in Hotjar Engage.

Build your marketing strategy around customer data from interviews with Hotjar Engage

4. Find market gaps

Next, you need to think strategically about the market landscape and your company’s place in it. This will help you find new ways to reach your target audience and position your products effectively.

Start by conducting a competitor analysis to identify your main competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. By looking at what they do well—say, engaging with customers on social media—you might find ways to up your own marketing game. 

On the flip side, discovering their weaknesses, like slow-to-load product pages or a lackluster SEO strategy, might help you identify market gaps—customer needs that aren’t being met (read: opportunities 🤩).

5. Decide on tactics for each channel

By this point, you know who you want to reach, what they need, and why they might choose you over a competitor. Now it’s time to dive into the how

Based on all of the research you’ve completed, decide how you’ll attract your target audience to grow your ecommerce business.

Create a separate plan for each channel that includes your

  • Budget: how much of your total marketing budget will you allocate?

  • Tools: will you need a keyword research tool for SEO to direct organic traffic to your site or live chat software to support new users?

  • Objectives: how will you measure success in this channel?

  • Tactics: what strategic actions will you take to accomplish your objectives? 

Remember: make sure your plan addresses the needs of your potential customers at every stage of the marketing funnel, from awareness to conversion, to ensure you meet customers where they are.

Boost ecommerce conversions with Hotjar

Hotjar’s product experience insights help you fine-tune your ecommerce marketing strategy to improve conversions and UX. 

5 effective ecommerce marketing tactics 

Once you have a solid marketing plan in place, you need to fill in the details. Get specific on the actual approaches you will use to reach your goals and objectives. 

Let’s dive deep into five popular tactics, why they work, and how you can start using them today.

1. Build awareness through social media marketing

The average person spends 2.5 hours per day on social media, giving ecommerce brands a major opportunity to connect with their target customers where they already hang out. 

Building an active presence on a site like Instagram or TikTok gives prospects an opportunity to know, like, and trust your brand. You create a community of loyal customers who choose you over competitors.

The Honest Company creates Instagram content that resonates with its target audience. With over 1 million followers, its posts get hundreds or thousands of likes.

Create more brand awareness across social media through

  1. Influencer marketing: pay popular social media personalities to promote your brand or products to their audience

  2. Paid ads: target specific segments and reach new leads by launching a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign

  3. Contests: ask users to comment, like, or share your posts to win prizes

💡 Pro tip: test creative content before you post it on social media with concept testing

Use Hotjar Surveys to put a popover survey on your site to get feedback on a single design or ask visitors to compare two prototypes. You show users that you value their input—and get invaluable feedback before you invest time and effort in your campaign.

Hotjar offers several survey templates perfect for validating early-stage creative content

2. Grow your email list

Over 80% of marketers worldwide rely on email to reach customers—and for good reason. In 2023, email marketing generated more than $10 billion in revenue. 

An email list gives you a quick way to let shoppers know about deals and offers, but it also lets you nurture a relationship with customers and show them you have their best interests in mind.

Makeup brand Il Makiage uses a personalized foundation-matching quiz to collect leads’ email addresses

Grow your email list by

  • Sending newsletters with content tailored to your audiences’ preferences, from engaging stories to special offers

  • Hosting virtual or in-person events, like conventions or summits with relevant experts

  • Offering appealing lead magnets, like interactive quizzes or shopping guides

3. Showcase social proof

Shoppers want validation before making a purchase. For that, they turn to social proof—evidence that others have had a positive experience with a product. 

Great reviews, endorsements, and ratings help buyers feel more confident in their decision-making, encouraging them to take the plunge and convert.

Meal-service delivery company Blue Apron includes social proof on a prime piece of real estate—right below the hero image and above the call-to-action (CTA) button

Offer social proof by

  • Highlighting happy customers’ social media content on your website 

  • Using customer testimonials throughout your site, including contact, product, and landing pages

  • Making reviews searchable or sortable on product pages, helping customers find the ones that facilitate their decision

4. Optimize your product pages

For an ecommerce company, a product page is where the magic happens. It’s that critical juncture in the customer journey where a shopper decides whether to click ‘add to cart’ or exit out. 

By optimizing these pages—thinking critically about each component on the page and its overall design and layout—you show new shoppers what makes your product so great and provide a seamless experience that keeps returning customers coming back for more.

Mattress company Casper creates an all-in-one product page with photos, videos, testimonials, product details, comparison charts, and reviews

Optimize your product pages by

  • Launching exit-intent surveys to find out why users leave your site, so you know how to make it better

  • Conducting A/B tests to compare two versions of a product page and see which one performs better

  • Writing SEO-friendly product descriptions to ensure your product page attracts traffic from search engines like Google and Bing

💡 Pro tip: use Hotjar Heatmaps + Recordings to decide how to optimize your product pages for users. 

Each micro-movement—a small but critical action a shopper takes—matters on your product page. Investigate with this two-step process: 

  1. Use Heatmaps to generate visuals of aggregate data on users’ clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements. Pay close attention to rage click maps, a special type of heatmap that shows where users click repeatedly out of frustration. These highlight obstacles in your shoppers’ paths to conversion.

  2. Then, click the ‘View recordings’ button to put yourself in a shopper’s shoes by watching relevant session recordings to see how individuals navigate your product page. What led to their rage clicks? How can you optimize the page to improve the customer experience and create delight? 

A rage click map shows clusters of angry faces where users most commonly clicked out of frustration. Hover over an area of interest to watch relevant recordings.

5. Minimize cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is a major issue for ecommerce retailers: according to the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 69.99%. If you can reach even some of your wayward shoppers, you’ll increase your conversions and boost your revenue.

Cart abandonment emails, like this one from online store Wayfair, nudge on-the-fence shoppers to purchase 

Minimize cart abandonment by

  • Launching cart abandonment surveys to learn the real reasons your customers abandon their carts, like a long checkout process or sticker shock at shipping costs

  • Sending helpful SMS or email reminders—sometimes customers simply forget to complete checkout

  • Providing on-site abandoned cart notifications, like a banner or push notification, for new users who aren’t on your mailing list

Put your ecommerce marketing strategy into action 

Once you get your marketing strategy for ecommerce in place, it’s time to execute it. But remember, a marketer’s work is never done. Evaluate your marketing campaign’s success and tweak your plan as needed to boost your ecommerce conversions and create satisfied customers.

Boost ecommerce conversions with Hotjar

Hotjar’s product experience insights help you fine-tune your ecommerce marketing strategy to improve conversions and UX. 

FAQs about ecommerce marketing strategy