Wherever you are in your ecommerce venture, whether you’ve just set up your first online store or you already run a digital empire, how to better market your site and your products is probably never far from your mind.

What is your current marketing strategy, and how has it been working for you so far? One thing is for sure: you can’t afford to be complacent. The nature of marketing is always changing – and you need to stay abreast of trends to remain relevant.

Following our post on 3 Little Known Online Marketing Secrets to Help Grow Your Business in 2017, we’d like to share with you 8 examples of ecommerce brands who are getting their marketing right – and how you can do the same.

The rise of UGC

User-generated content (UGC) has become a popular form of marketing for two reasons: 1) shoppers love to see real customers using your product, and 2) it is essentially free advertising.

UGC could include anything from blog posts and tweets to photos, videos or sound files – it is anything submitted by a user, rather than the ecommerce company. Social media offers vast opportunities for sharing UGC and spreading the love.

MVMT Watches – a simple but stylish online store created using the Shopify platform – sells a mixture of fashionable jewelry and accessories, along with watches of course.

MVMT mixes up its professional product photography with Instagram UGC images to create a more comprehensive gallery of its products. Instead of showing a picture of a watch in isolation, we can now see just how that watch looks on a range of different people. We have context.

This makes it easier to imagine how the product might look on us – its size and color – and how we might style it with other accessories. Professional photography is expensive, so why not embrace your customers’ take on your products for more variety?

MVMT Watches Shop Insta Page

The fashion store Forever 21 actively encourages its customers to share UGC content all year round, using the Twitter hashtag #F21xME.

By establishing a single hashtag for all UGC, it makes it easy for the company to keep track of and regulate, and it forms a pro-sharing relationship between the brand and its customers.

The #F21xME hashtag forms a central part of Forever 21’s brand, showing how much they value their customers’ input, and thereby encouraging others to get involved. Free endorsement willingly given – what’s not to like?

Today’s consumers feel compelled to share their experiences online, whether through photos, reviews or social media. Embrace this marketing trend by opening up your ecommerce brand to welcome UGC.

Forever 21 Shop the ‘Gram Page

Getting chatty with conversational commerce

Chances are, you are already familiar with a range of messaging apps, perhaps using them frequently yourself to chat with individuals and groups of friends. But now, conversational commerce is taking the capability of messaging apps much further.

Social media marketing is one thing, but research suggests that messaging apps is where people are really spending their time. And so live chat was born.

In a short time, live chat has already become a popular channel for customers to engage with businesses, ranking far higher for satisfaction rate than both email and phone. And who’s to blame them? No-one likes to sit on-hold listening to terrible, crackly music. Live chat is swift and efficient, and it answers your query immediately. It’s the ideal solution for real-time ecommerce, and a winner for promoting your commitment to customer service.

Let’s take Ruffwear, the performance dog gear store, as an example.

Ruffwear has used its live chat feature as an opportunity to do something fun and memorable with its brand. When visitors decide to engage via live chat, each agent has a creative dog photo to identify themselves. Since the site is aimed at dog lovers, this is a clever move on behalf of Ruffwear.

The chat function is also highly targeted – for example, if you are visiting the Dog Toys page, the chat invitation will be specific to what you are currently looking for. It’s the perfect balance of offering personalized help, without being too invasive.

Ruffwear Dog Boots Page: With Live Chat

Creative content marketing

Great content marketing has the potential to be the making of your brand. What’s more, it gives you interesting, unique content to put out there on a regular basis, and keep users coming back to your site.

The importance of a strong content marketing strategy for an ecommerce store cannot be emphasized enough. Here are two ecommerce brands who are nailing their online content strategies.

The clothing brand Bonobos understands the value of useful content that helps customers to make buying decisions. That’s why they created The Official Bonobos Chino Fit Quiz.

There is something about the lure of an online quiz that people just can’t seem to resist (that’s modern narcissism for you – people love to share things that are in some way representative of themselves).

Bonobos created the Official Bonobos Chino Fit Quiz to tell customers what kind of chinos they should buy, allowing you to then share the results via social media. And in doing so, it spread far and wide at great speed. Clever, interactive content will always appeal to your customers, more so than any targeted advertisement.

The Official Chino Fit Quiz From Bonobo

But you want another example? Oh go on then. Let’s take Van Winkle’s sleep store, an editorial mattress startup with a quirky and informed approach to content marketing.

This website claims to ‘explore the science, culture and curiosities of sleep’: in short, it provides regular, informative and interesting content, mixing up product recommendations in amongst reports, trends and articles.

Popular articles from the site include Sleep Habits of Great Minds: Renowned Autism Advocate Temple Grandin and What Happens to Our Sleep in Various Stages of Love? Here’s the thing: online shoppers do their research before they commit to buying something. And if you can be the source of that research with great content marketing? All the better.

Van Winkle’s Blog Post: What Happens to Our Sleep in Various Stage of Love?

Social sharing psychology

We wrote previously on what we think are the 10 Best Ways to Utilize Social Media Marketing. One of the most important points to remember is that you need to make your posts visually appealing. You need to inspire your audience, whether or not you directly relate to your brand or not. It can be just as effective to appeal to lifestyle choices.

This is what Nike did with its Motivational Images campaign. Nike is particularly active on social media platform Pinterest, with several separate accounts aimed at individual customer segments – teenagers, women, men, etc. Its ‘Nike Women’ Motivation Board is full of motivational quotes written over attractive Nike-branded imagery – a great way to display content in a pinnable, shareworthy context. A woman likes the quote and shares it, and at the same time, she is promoting the Nike brand.

‘Nike Women’ Pinterest Motivation Board

Try including quotes for your products, as they can work wonders. Be sure to keep your messages aligned with your brand identity – this will only work if the messages resonate with your specific audience. How can you use the sharing and pinning culture of sites like Pinterest to your advantage?

IKEA is similarly clever with its social media marketing strategy. When it wanted to get tongues wagging about its new catalogue, it encouraged its followers via social media to post photos of their favorite products contained in the catalogue itself – with the chance to win those items for free.

They called this project the Social Catalogue, and while users enjoyed happily posting their photos, what did Ikea get? An insane amount of social publicity. That’s how it’s done. Sometimes, all you need is a little incentive. Remember that users will want to know what’s in it for them.

Inspired use of video

A final consideration: have you thought about using video in your ecommerce marketing strategy? If not, why not? YouTube channels are a great way to connect with your customers, whether you host Q&As, give tours of your company or film How-To videos for your products.

It’s always worth remembering that customers want to see as much as possible of your product before they decide to buy, and depending on the nature of the product – if it’s a tool for example – they will want to know how it works. Videos help to humanize your store, and show customers that they are buying from real people, which is far more appealing than a faceless corporate husk. Want to see how it’s done?

REI, the outdoor clothing company, offers a comprehensive library of videos that give expert advice, instruction, stories and inspiration. They sell outdoor gear for a range of pursuits, from cycling and hiking to camping and kayaking. There is plenty to be learned about these activities, and REI does its best to deliver.

The result? It’s content marketing at work all over again, but this time in video-form. What kinds of videos could you offer your customers to add value and get them sharing and buying from you?

REI Presents: (To)day Dream

Hopefully this post has provided you with some ideas to spice up your ecommerce marketing. Take them one at a time, and see what works for you.

About the Author: Patrick Foster, “the ecommerce guy.” I love to help struggling ecommerce businesses and brands connect with their ‘why’ more. Whether it’s content, social media, or marketing – I can help.