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The Best Marketing Tactics for Online Retailers

What are the best marketing tactics for online retailers? As we head into the holiday shopping season, smart marketers want to know the answer. A study by Forrester Research for, The State of Retailing Online 2014, has some useful insights.

E-retailers in the survey were asked to choose the three best marketing strategies to attract new customers. SEO (specifically, paid search) ranks first, cited by 85 percent. What’s more, 76 percent of respondents say paid search was better at increasing sales last year than the year before.

Far behind paid search, the second and third most effective marketing tools are organic traffic (41%) and affiliate programs (40%). About three in 10 respondents cite remarketing and retargeting of advertising, 15 percent direct mail campaigns and 10 percent sweepstakes.

What tactics are less effective? Fewer than 10 percent of respondents say online marketplaces, offline advertising, social media and text advertising are among their top three most effective marketing tactics.

A whopping 99 percent of the e-retailers in the survey report spending money on PPC search advertising. In fact, 19 percent of respondents spent more than half of their marketing budgets on paid search.

Ecommerce retailers in the study also say they’re spending more of their marketing budgets on mobile marketing via smartphones and tablets. However, they’re not getting very adventurous—most of the mobile marketing is focused on sending mobile-friendly marketing emails. The focus on mobile email makes sense, because e-retailers say that 42 percent of their e-mails are opened on smartphones, compared to 41 percent that are opened on desktop computers and 17 percent on tablets.

Although the companies in the survey were primarily large ones, you can learn a lot from what they consider the best marketing strategies because on average, they’d been in the ecommerce space for 10 years. With that much experience, what can their marketing tactics teach you?

  • Get ready for mobile marketing. If you haven’t already made sure your marketing emails are mobile-friendly, start now! Want to get out ahead of the competition? Look into cutting-edge marketing tactics like text message marketing.
  • Invest in your marketing budget. You can’t afford to scrimp on marketing—not with such stiff competition. Be sure you regularly assess what types of marketing are working for you, and devote the bulk of your budget to those areas.
  • Try paid search advertising. It may be hard to afford the keywords you want if you’re competing with big companies like the ones in the survey. Put in the extra effort to find niche keywords that work for your business without breaking your budget.

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Author information

Maria Valdez Haubrich

Maria Valdez Haubrich is Chief Liaison Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at