How to market your e-commerce website

In the final part of her series for on setting up and running an e-commerce business, Chloe Thomas looks at building a website and marketing it online.

To be able to say you have an e-commerce business you need two things:

  • A website where people can buy your products
  • Sales customers buying your products.

Unless you piggyback on Amazon or eBay your website isn’t going to bring you the sales on its own – you’re going to need to invest in marketing too.

A website fit for purpose

Your website needs to be fit for purpose; it needs to display your products well, do justice to your brand, and encourage visitors to buy. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a five-figure site on day one, especially if you’re only going to sell four figures worth of products in year one.

If you’re a boutique ‘bricks and clicks’ business, it would be really helpful if your website talked to your shop stock system. If you’re a piggybacker then you probably don’t need a website (even a blog) of your own on day one.

Before building your website you need to work out exactly what you want it to do and write a really thorough brief for the website designers. The more detail you give them the easier it will be for them to quote because they’ll be able to give you a more accurate price. Website builds frequently go over budget and over deadline – and that is nearly always because the brief changes during the build process. The best way to avoid that is to have a really clear brief on day one.

It also helps you avoid building a site with a company that can’t actually deliver what you want.

If your website doesn’t work or is too slow, your customers won’t buy – so don’t scrimp on your hosting fees either.

Spending money on marketing

Putting a website live is not the same as opening a shop. When you open a shop you already have people walking by on the pavement. You don’t have that online (unless you’re a piggybacker of course, selling via Amazon, eBay or similar).

You will have to spend some money on marketing to get people to your website. From day one you’re going to need a marketing plan. Often that will be built around the strengths of the people in the team – so if you have a background in PR then it would be silly not to include that.

There are nine core marketing tactics you can use to drive traffic to an e-commerce business:

  • Email
  • Brand awareness (including PR and advertising)
  • PPC (Pay per click)
  • Content marketing (blogging, video)
  • Offline (including direct mail)
  • Social media
  • Search
  • Remarketing
  • Partnerships

On day one you will probably not have enough data for it to be worthwhile sending out emails or direct mail, but please, please, please include an email sign up form on your website. AND opt your buyers into both your email marketing and postal marketing to make sure you’ve got the data ready when you go down that route.

Whilst playing to your marketing strengths is great, very few eCommerce businesses have been built on one marketing tactic alone – so you need to use at least three, if not more. For me a start up eCommerce business would be crazy not to have the following methods in their plan on day one:

Social media

The only cost is time – so get those social media profiles set up, and make it easy for people to follow you and share your products.

Content marketing

If you do nothing else – create a blog and write great copy about your products. This will give the search engines something to hold onto, and make people want to come back to your site.


A partnership is when you find a company that’s targeting your customer base with a different product. Waitrose and Boden for example. Start a conversation with them, and find a way you can help each other. It might be writing a blog post about each other, or putting a flyer in your parcels – this is a time to be creative!


This one is going to cost you more than time, but is a great way to get traffic quickly to your website and drive some sales. Just be careful of the costs and never stop optimising the account.

Remember – neither a marketing plan nor a website are ever actually finished. They will always be evolving as you test and roll out new ideas and as the marketplace changes.

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