Barry Feldman is a content consultant for ShortStack. He is the author of several books and contributes to many of the web’s top marketing sites. Barry was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn.
Ecommerce wars are raging.Obviously, we’ve long since passed the day when a company wanting to sell online had to worry about the technicalities of website creation and transaction security. Ecommerce platforms have that covered. The real battleground is generating awareness, capturing leads, inspiring purchases, and stealing the hearts of customers -- all to increase word of mouth marketing.What’s an ecommerce company to do? In this post, we’ll zoom into 11 tactics that have proven to increase engagement on social media channels and win over online shoppers.
A contest you promote on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, other social networks, and your website is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build an audience.Sure, we’re partial to contests because they rank amongst the top reasons ecommerce brands subscribe to ShortStack. But we can be 100% impartial and tell you contests:
- Bring in leads
- Inspire participants to share
- Add an element of fun to your promotions
- Enable you to collect persuasive user-generated content
- Enable you to collect email addresses and data about prospective buyers
Contests motivate people to engage with brands, and to share their best email address.New to conducting contests? Check out our “everything you need to know” post here.
Ask for user-generated content (UGC)
People trust their family, friends—and even unknown peers who have come before them—more than they trust brands. We could get into data-rich proof statements, but don’t need to.Simply ask yourself: Do you…
- Read product reviews?
- Look at images and watch videos about products you’re considering?
- Depend on consumer research for large purchases?
- Read customer stories?
I suspect you said “yes” a time or two. A customer satisfied or excited enough to invest the time in posting a review, image, video, story or any form of homegrown content tells a more convincing story than a brand-generated ad ever could.
People love to share advice, opinions and their photos -- a contest like the one above collects all three.
Video contests ask the user to put in slightly more effort, but nearly everyone now carries an HD camera with them everywhere they go, so don’t hesitate to create video-based promotions.Here are some tips to help you maximize your mileage with UGC collection efforts:
- Create a unique hashtag for promotions involving UGC to make it easy to find.
- Create an example photo or video to announce your contest.
- Use a moderation tool.
- Secure legal rights when making plans to post user-generated content on your website.
- Display your UGC in posts, on webpages, and social media channels.
Ecommerce companies can create a brand buzz with giveaways. Who doesn't love free stuff?Hosting a giveaway is the “easy peasy” way to conduct a promotion. While they feature prizes, of course, determining a winner doesn’t include any sort of judging or voting process.The ease of entering creates a compelling pull, which helps inspire greater participation.Promoting giveaways on your website and via social media puts your brand in front of new eyes and grows your email list.
I took me all of 15 seconds to enter this giveaway from Traveler Guitar—on my phone—while I was in the park with my dog.
A holiday giveaway hosted by Mixed Hues offers prizes for 12 days, and delivers a discount just for entering to make everyone a winner.
Offer coupons and discounts
Contests are judged. Giveaways introduce an element of chance.There’s no doubt both forms of promotion offer tremendous pulling power for ecommerce companies, but they don’t necessarily offer instant gratification.Actually, ShortStack does make it easy to reward contestants with discounts, but also enables you to flat-out give potential buyers coupons in exchange for their email address.Coupons have always been a powerful tool in the retail promotion trick bag. The ecommerce model just makes them more powerful, easier to deliver, and easier to redeem.You can offer coupons explicitly for product purchases, but can also marry coupons with offers to receive newsletters and useful downloadable content.
Digital coupons are so easy to make and distribute -- use them to hook new customers.
You might also deliver discounts to everyone who enters into your promotions. Immediately after entering the Traveler Guitar giveaway (shown above), I was offered a special 25% discount for ordering on a guitar or accessories on their store.
Invite buyers to “pick and save”
Why not make coupons a bit of an interactive experience? You can customize your promotion and gather useful insights about customers at the same time by offering a “pick your discount” promotion.
This template in ShortStack's arsenal demonstrates how you can easily offer numerous options to compel the customer to tell you what they’d like to save money on.
Your ecommerce store can provide insights and advice to help buyers make more informed decisions. And you can make it fun and interactive with quizzes.Your quiz walks the customer through a series of questions and delivers recommendations based on the answers—like a helpful salesperson would do.While your quiz helps prospects and customers determine their priorities and preferences, it also helps you gather useful data, which might drive sales in the moment, or later, when the data is used to personalize subsequent communications.
A quiz from Kershaw Knives asks a series of questions to guide users to purchase the style of knife that best fits their needs.
Create promotions for big days and events
An obvious strategy ecommerce brands that collect user data can use is to offer special deals when customers celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.However, potential ecommerce promotion ideas can spring forth from the calendar from January 1 to December 31—for occasions big and small. Holidays. Sporting events. Special shopping days.We’ve published a number of blog posts to present all kinds of ideas. To name a few…
- Super Bowl marketing strategies
- Valentine’s Day promotion ideas
- March Madness advertising ideas
- Halloween social media campaigns
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategies
- Christmas Instagram promotions
Not all of the samples included in the articles above are for ecommerce companies, but you can easily springboard from one you like using the basic idea and a ShortStack template.
No matter what time of year it is, there's always a special event just around the corner.
Present testimonials and reviews
While it may not be a separate promotion idea, it’s always a good idea to gather testimonials and reviews from your customers and use them in various ways in your marketing.Of course, standard ecommerce product review systems are useful, however, those that include photos and/or videos are even more convincing.
Ecommerce company, Free Machine Clothing Company, populates many of its product pages with testimonials featuring images, star ratings, testimonials and share buttons. It makes for a convincing combination. ShortStack makes it ultra simple to create a page to collect and present testimonials from your customers.
Support a charity—or several
Toms, the world-renowned shoe company, tells its customers, “Every purchase has a purpose.” The ecommerce giant has built a reputation for improving lives and giving back. Their customers support the mission and everyone wins.You might consider creating a program to rally support for your brand and the greater good in a similar fashion.Charity programs that come to my mind from ecommerce leaders include Pura Vida Bracelets and Warby Parker eyeglasses.
PuraVida Bracelets has a “Giving Back” program that supports artisans and a variety of causes. A counter atop the page posts updates of donations made. A pull-down menu allows you to choose from seven charity causes and after making a selection, specific products are shown that raise funds for specific causes.
Send Instagrammers to your store
Obviously, Instagram attracts millions of social media enthusiasts who love sharing images and videos. Instagram claims 30% of their 800,000,000 (and counting) users have purchased something they discovered on Instagram.
- 60% of Instagram users say they learn about products and services on the platform (Source: Instagram).
- The average order value from Instagram marketing is $65.00 (Source: Shopify).
Ecommerce companies should strive not only to build a prominent Instagram presence but also to encourage users to visit their online stores.
The link in American Apparel’s Instagram bio directs traffic to a gallery of (mostly) user generated images and videos. Each is a link to a product page.
Offer content-based lead magnets
Most of the ecommerce promotion ideas we’ve discussed and looked at here qualify as “lead magnets.” That is, in addition to stoking social engagement and fostering sales, they enable you to collect email addresses from prospects and customers.However, as an ecommerce company you can effectively expand your email list not only by offering prizes and discounts but also with enticing freebies.The potential list of content-based tactics for offering lead magnets can include:
- Buying guides
- Educational ebooks
- An email series
- Research reports
- Online tools
- Free sample
- Gifts of any kind: recipe books, templates, etc.
Here’s a creative lead magnet where Crafter’s Companion offered free, downloadable designs to create cards, frameable art and gifts for coffee lovers.
Mix and match, socialize and sell
I’ll leave you with a 12-pack of thoughts you might use to further leverage the 11 ecommerce promotion ideas presented above.
- Mix and match—Use these ideas in combination where it makes sense. Example: Create a quiz about a “big day.”
- Follow-up with emails—All promotions that require signing up enable you to being marketing to participants. Marketing automation features built into the ShortStack platform make it easy to schedule instant autoresponders and lead nurturing sequences.
- Ask for less—Make your promotions easy to enter and try not to ask too much of participants in your forms. Remember, more fields = lower conversion. For example, you probably do not need to collect phone numbers.
- Put your user-generated content to work—When generating content is a part of your promotions, apply the best (or all) of what you collect in various ways: email, online galleries, product pages, ads, and of course, in social media updates.
- Make it easy to share (and find)—Use the available tools and options to enable participants to share their entries or notices about your promotions. For many promotions, you can build-in incentives to share via social. Also, give your promotions unique #Hashtags to build community and track all the action.
- Use popups (and other notices)—Your options for calling attention to your promotions on your website are many. Consider dedicating some of the tricks of the trade such as popups, sticky bars (page toppers), slide-ins, interstitials pages, and so forth.
- Introduce ideas to make your promotions stickier—Many promotions lend themselves to keeping participants engaged after the initial signup. For instance, you can introduce voting into contests, extend your promotions over days or weeks, and create multiple phases—such as a bracket-style tournament.
- Create some post-promotion hoopla—Showcase the winners… Share UGC… Report results… Create sequels.
- Do it again—Your promotions can gain traction over time if you repeat them. For example, you can have an annual contest each holiday season, create a sequence of promos around major sporting events, etc.
- Follow the rules—Each of the social channels has their own set of rules for contests, giveaways and promotions. You’ll want to understand, abide by, and publish them.
- Gather feedback and analytics—Reference your analytics during your promotion and after to learn the tactics that did or didn’t help you achieve your marketing objectives. You might also survey customers or simply ask for feedback.
- Experiment—Consider your ecommerce promotions (and everything you do in the digital realm) an ongoing learning experience. Try different approaches to become a master of promotions.
- Enlist the help of experts—New to these types of promotions? Consider working with a consultant or scheduling a call with the design experts at ShortStack.
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