ecommerce marketing 2021 trends

Top 9 Advertising Channels For Ecommerce In 2021: The Essential Guide

Top 9 Advertising Channels For Ecommerce In 2021: The Essential Guide

The top ecommerce marketing channels you need to use and the trends to watch in 2021

Here at Trafiki Ecommerce Marketing, our clients look to us to advise them on the biggest trends in online retail and to ensure they’re kept ahead of the game in all areas of e-commerce marketing. Our Top 9 Advertising Channels For Ecommerce In 2021: The Essential Guide has been created to pool together our tried and tested methods with the latest research so you can learn where best to invest your advertising budget this year.

Know your products and your audience for best results

Before we get started, it’s important that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What is the best way to present my product to them and where is the best place to reach them?

Our guide is intended to advise you on the top-performing channels for ecommerce, however each business is different so having some idea of what’s appropriate for your business and your customers will help you achieve the best results.

Why you should advertise: Organic vs. Paid

While it’s beneficial to work on a long term SEO strategy in order to establish long-lasting brand presence authority and drive “free” visits to your site, Paid traffic gets you instant results. From day one you could be, and should be, delivering instant traffic and converting sales and revenue on your site. But where best to acquire your Paid traffic from in 2021? At Trafiki Ecommerce Marketing, we work with numerous online ecommerce companies, from SMBs to large online retailers, so know the best channels to use to drive you both short-term ROI and long-term customer value.

organic vs paid ppc advertising

Is your website primed for advertising?

Always do the groundwork. You need to make sure that your website is performing as optimally as possible before you start shelling out on advertising.

  • Check for things that will produce a poor user experience: broken links, unclear instructions, poor quality product images, single or limited product images (always opt for multiple images), missing product information such as product descriptions, no easy contact options such as live chat, etc., etc. 

Note: sometimes it’s not clear where the issues with your site are until you start testing your website and receiving traffic. Aside from receiving real traffic on your site, you can use website user experience tools such as Optimizely to help you. 

  • Check for features that will IMPROVE user experience: include USPs – free delivery, next day delivery, free returns (make sure these are clearly visible), first-order discount, easy and quick checkout process, multiple payment options, etc., etc. 
  • Make sure that you’ve setup a website tracking and measurement tool such as Google Analytics so you can see how visitors interact with your site and where they’ve come from. 
  • Product feed – a good product feed with all necessary attributes added is essential. Product titles, descriptions, right price-points all need to adhere to best practices. If you are using an app or a plugin to pull attributes from your site then be sure to check that all information is populating.

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Do you know your numbers?

This is a minimum requirement – know your numbers. You should consider…

  • What ROI you need to achieve in order for your advertising to be profitable.
  • Benchmark data: bounce rate, average session time, abandoned cart rate, conversion rate, performance by user type and device… If you know your average performance across different KPIs then you can gain an understanding of how each advertising channel is performing and where best to increase, decrease and pause your advertising spend.

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Skip to the channels:

Google Ads (Google AdWords)

google ads logo

Google continues to dominate with a 91.38% search engine market share globally in 2020. So, in order to appear where the majority of product searches initiate and to capitalise on high volumes of traffic then you need to be advertising on Google. 

The average Google Ads conversion rate is 2.81% according to industry benchmarks however this does vary by industry and campaign format. Both Search and Shopping campaigns are essential, however Shopping campaigns usually outperform Search due to exposing pre-qualifying product details such as image, price, and rating before the searcher has even clicked on a Shopping ad.

The Google Display Network (GDN) can be utilised effectively, especially with the use of Remarketing campaigns, however expect your KPIs to focus on branding and awareness, with e-commerce conversion rate being the lowest for Display campaigns vs. Search and Shopping. Target CPA (cost-per-acquisition) values can be set in order to control spend and yield higher ROI.

Pros and Cons

  • Highest search engine market share – this is where you need to start.

  • Shopping ads are a great format for e-commerce – pre-qualify your website visitors before they’ve even clicked on an ad!

  • Campaigns such as Smart Shopping campaigns use AI to do most of the hard optimisation work for you. You can even specify your ROAS (return-on-ad-spend) and Google will try to meet and exceed this.

  • Fully integrates with Google Analytics.

  • You can add custom labels to group products by business goals or targets, such as high-profit margin and best-seller, low-profit margin and low-seller.

  • Free product listings! If you’ve setup a Google Merchant Center account and product feed then your products should be eligible to appear across Google surfaces and leverage free clicks.

  • You can maximise your visibility by running Google Search and Shopping ads together. A Google study showed that searchers are 90% more likely to visit a retailer’s website if both Search and Shopping ads are visible.

  • Highly competitive. Some e-commerce advertisers may experience high click costs, low CTRs (click-thru-rates) and low conversion rates.

  • Sometimes machine-learning and AI can take away too much control and leave performance at the mercy of Google’s mysterious matching algorithms. If you do not follow best practices when setting up your Google product feed and adding your product attributes, you may attract irrelevant traffic that fails to convert.

  • Newer Smart Shopping campaigns don’t allow for negative keyword application, so you cannot specify what terms your ads definitely will not appear for.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 9/10
  • ROI: 7/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 6/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 8/10

Overall Rating: 8/10

google ads ppc rating

Bing Ads (Microsoft Advertising)

bing ads microsoft advertising

Bing, owned by Microsoft, incorporates three search engines – Bing, Yahoo, and AOL – so when you advertise on this platform, your ad is actually seen on all three, plus partner sites. Microsoft Advertising includes most of the same features and campaign formats as Google, including Search, Shopping, and Display campaigns, and some audience targeting.
Bing held a 9.96% share of the search market in the UK as of September 2020, not quite the same epic proportions as Google, but it is still an important and growing network, having increased its market share from 6.85% in 2018. If you’re not using Bing Microsoft then you’re missing out on 63 million searchers that aren’t reached with Google Ads.
Bing’s demographic also varies from Google’s – 75% of users are over the age of 35 with a higher household income, so users are older and more affluent than across other networks including Google.

Pros and Cons

  • As with Google, this is mainly push (direct) marketing so you can be sure that your products are being viewed by users actively seeking your wares.

  • Higher CTRs and conversion rates, as well as lower CPCs and CPAs (cost-per-acquisition) than Google due to less competition.

  • Appear to users actively searching for your products via Search and Shopping ads. Just like Google Shopping ads, Bing Shopping ads display important information that helps to pre-qualify the user before clicking on an ad.

  • If you are already running Google advertising, then you can quickly and easily import your ads into Bing using the Google Import tool.

  • Improved device targeting. Bing allows advertisers to target specific audiences based on their OS and device type.

  • Less volume. With a lower market share, results will be much slower than across other networks.

  • Audience targeting is still fairly limited. Bing has recently included in-market audiences and customer match, but it’s still behind the other networks.

  • Not as fully or as easily integrated with Google Analytics as Google Ads is. We recommend that you use a reporting automation tool such as SuperMetrics to pull in and consolidate your Paid Search data.

  • The user interface is a little dated and not as streamlined as Google Ads.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 5/10
  • ROI: 8/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 6/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 6/10

Overall Rating: 6/10

bing ads microsoft advertising rating

YouTube Advertising

youtube advertising logo

Great for branding and awareness. This is a highly visual and emotive channel, so you can select a relevant audience likely to resonate with your brand and build a connection through your media.

In the current homebound COVID-19 environment, more and more time is being spent on YouTube, making this an increasingly attractive and engaging platform to advertise your ecommerce business or brand. You can create videos that showcase the benefits of the products you’re selling and the USPs of shopping in your online store.

YouTube advertising can be relatively cheap, gaining you a large volume of video ad impressions and traffic to your site, but acquiring converting traffic can sometimes be challenging. If you want to succeed, be certain to demonstrate two core content marketing strategies:

  1. Make users aware of your products and ecommerce website.
  2. Why you/your products? Your video ads need to convince people that your offering is better than the competition’s.

You also have 6 ad formats are your disposal: Display ads, overlay ads (show up in the bottom 20% of other videos), skippable video ads (usually longer running times), non-skippable ads (shorter videos), bumper ads (very short more disruptive video ads) and sponsored cards (shoppable featured products in your video). Select an ad format that is most suitable for your target audience and campaign goal. Tip: shoppable cards are more direct-selling, so possibly show these to a warm audience already familiar with your brand and/or products.

Pros and Cons

  • Tap into a large content-consuming audience: there were 2 billion active YouTube users in 2019.

  • Tell your brand story and control your narrative.

  • Connect with an audience and core demographic likely to purchase your product.

  • Reconnect with a warm audience, such as previous non-converting website visitors, to shuffle them down, or re-enter them into your buying funnel.

  • Drive low-cost website traffic to your e-commerce website.

  • You have to create winning video ads first! Well executed and professional-looking videos are a must, if you fail to create engaging content then you may be implicating your brand image.

  • Typical KPIs for YouTube videos are more aligned to branding and awareness. You may not be able to achieve a high conversion rate or ROI via this channel.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 4/10
  • ROI: 3/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 8/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 6/10

Overall Rating: 5/10

youtube advertising rating 5 out of 10

Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads

facebook ads instagram ads logos

With social marketing, products and ads are shown to users based on their interests and behaviour, whereas Google and Paid Search advertising shows relevant ads to users specifically searching for a product. Facebook and Instagram, as push and nondirect advertising channels, are great for brand awareness and nurturing increased customer lifetime value, but can struggle to achieve Google-level ROIs.

Facebook and Instagram rank highly for ecommerce marketing, however the need for 1) producing creatives that cut through the noise and 2) cultivating cold-to-warm-to-hot audiences means that instant ROI can be hard to achieve. Creating ads and selecting, building then optimising audiences can be time-consuming and costly, depending on whether you’ll be recruiting an experienced agency to undertake Facebook advertising management or managing ads in-house. A 2019 study conducted by Wolfgang Digital observed a 1.8% average conversion rate for ecommerce businesses in the UK, lower than Google Ads. Retargeting ads perform with marked revenue improvement and also help to increase conversion rate over time with continual exposure. We suggest starting with a Facebook and Instagram Dynamic Ads retargeting campaign, targeting website visitors who viewed products, abandoned their cart, or didn’t complete checkout. This campaign and targeting option combination will help capture sales you would otherwise lose, boosting overall conversion rate, revenue and ROI. 

Pros and Cons

  • Extremely granular audience creation and micro-targeting.

  • Increased customer lifetime value.

  • Dynamic ads can effectively show the right product to the right user, capturing a sale that would’ve otherwise been lost.

  • Once your warm to hot audiences, such as checkout abandoners, are performing across your campaigns, you can create ‘lookalike’ audiences that are likely to perform similarly to your high-value customers.

  • If you have a Shopify store, you can easily integrate it with Facebook and Instagram and sell your products instantly.

  • Account and campaign setup and ad creation are time-consuming and potentially quite expensive.

  • Initially building and targeting cold audiences may result in poor ROI.

  • The endless audience possibilities may be overwhelming to begin with.

  • You must try to use fresh ad creatives as ad fatigue will negatively impact campaign performance resulting in lowered CTR and CPC (cost-per-click) hikes.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 6/10
  • ROI: 6/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 10/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 6/10

Overall Rating: 7/10

facebook instagram ads rating 7 out of 10

Pinterest Ads

facebook ads instagram ads logos

Similar to Instagram, Pinterest is a highly visual advertising platform. The largest age group on Pinterest is comprised of 18-29 year olds, so if your product is most appropriate for a younger, more millennial demographic, and female (a whopping 70% of users!) then this channel may be suitable for your business.

The most popular topics are Art, Art Supplies and Hobbies, then Flowers, Food, Drinks and Gifts, followed closely by Home, Garden, Pool and Spa. To condense these, the most dominant categories are: home, food and lifestyle. If you are hoping to drive conversion-ready traffic to your bespoke alloy wheels website then you may have to advertise elsewhere.

Pinterest offers three main advertising goals:

  1. Brand awareness.
  2. Boosting engagement – this goal encourages sharing, repinning and clicking on your product image pins.
  3. Website traffic – you only want to drive traffic to your site from users clicking on your pins.

Pinterest also features ‘shoppable pins’ – you can upload your entire product catalog and add a ‘buy it’ button next to the ‘pin it’ button in your product image. To setup shoppable pins you must use either Shopify or BigCommerce.

Pros and Cons

  • Perfect for home, food or lifestyle product advertising.

  • Shoppable pins are a great feature to use with reported high engagement rates, but you have to be eligible to run these.

  • This network attracts visual researchers with higher buying intents, so high conversion rates may be achievable.

  • This channel can be very aspirational, and your conversion rate may be low especially if your product is niche or has a high order value.

  • You may struggle to use many e-commerce features unless you have a Shopify or BigCommerce site.

  • If your core demographic is older, male, or male and mature, then Pinterest is not the platform for your strategy.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 5/10
  • ROI: 5/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 7/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 4/10

Overall Rating: 5/10

pinterest advertising 5 out of 10

Amazon Advertising

facebook ads instagram ads logos

Amazon is predicted to make up 50% of all e-commerce sales in the US this year. What’s more, this platform boasts exceptionally high conversion rates: Amazon Prime members have a conversion rate of 74% whereas the non-prime members convert typically at 13% according to Millward Brown Digital.

Why is Amazon so successful? Their consumer-centric platform has been designed to provide a convenient, user-friendly shopping experience and deliver quick dispatch and delivery times – instilling total trust in the customer. It is also a consideration-phase platform – most research is carried out elsewhere – so by the time the consumer lands on Amazon, they’ve narrowed down what they’re looking for and their buying intent is peaking.

Much like Google, Amazon advertising campaigns use keyword targeting, automated targeting, and product/interest targeting to showcase products, display banners, or brand ads.

In order to advertise on Amazon, you must meet their strict eligibility criteria including:

  • Have an active professional seller account.
  • Make sure you’re selling new, in-stock products.
  • Your products must be in one of the eligible categories.
  • Be enrolled in the Amazon Brand Registry.

Pros and Cons

  • Attract highly-qualified shoppers and benefit from Amazon’s high conversion rates.

  • Specify the exact keywords you want your product ads to appear for.

  • Target and appear for products similar to yours – if you’re a fairly new brand then you can win a lot of traffic and sales via this method.

  • Not all products and product categories are open to sellers and advertisers.

  • Their eligibility criteria is very strict.

  • Sellers need to continually meet high performance and customer service targets in order to compete and win sales.

  • Seller central marketing analytics is limited and clunky.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 8/10
  • ROI: 8/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 6/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 7/10

Overall Rating: 7/10

amazon advertising 7 out of 10

TikTok For Business (TikTok Ads)

tiktok ads for business logo

With over 800 million monthly users, TikTok is heralded to be the hottest social platform to advertise on in 2021. Despite the demographic diversifying over the last 12 months, over 60% of its users in the US are under 30. As mentioned before for Pinterest, if your product is aimed at a younger demographic, then this platform is a good option for you.

You can apply for an advertising account and, once reviewed by a TikTop representative and approved, you can start setting up advertising campaigns to reach your target demographic. Campaign types include:

  • In-Feed Video: ads appear in the news feed on the ‘For You’ page.
  • Brand Takeover: ad appears when users open the app and completely take over the screen for a few seconds before turning into an In-Feed Video ad.
  • Hashtag Challenge: ad appears on the Discovery page. This format encourages users to participate in user content creation challenges.
  • Branded AR (artificial reality) Content: ad appears as branded lenses, stickers, and other content for users to select and use in their videos.

Pros and Cons

  • Very much an up-and-coming social media marketing platform – your competitors are unlikely to be using this yet.

  • If your product and content is suitable for TikTok’s core demographic, you could gain viral fame in no time.

  • Advertisers can take advantage of TikTok’s own creative tools to help them create engaging content. Tools include a video creation kit, smart video soundtrack, and TikTok Ad Studio.

  • Best for brand awareness, ROI is likely to be negligible.

  • Advertisers with small budgets need not apply: Tiktok’s recommended spends as leaked from their pitch deck suggest advertising spends ranging from a hearty $1,000 per Influencer campaign post, to an eye-watering $25,000 minimum per In-Feed Video campaign – yikes!

  • Not suitable if your product isn’t hashtag-worthy, or likely to resonate with the social media-obsessed younger demographic.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 6/10
  • ROI: 4/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 5/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 6/10

Overall Rating: 5/10

tiktok advertising 5 out of 10

Email Marketing

tiktok ads for business logo

Email marketing is a powerful direct marketing channel, primarily used to retain, and often attract, customers. An effective email marketing strategy can effectively advertise your content, products, and brand. If you add personalisation and automation to the mix, your business can develop lasting relationships with customers, in turn promoting brand loyalty and increasing lifetime value exponentially. 

Once you have done the hard work by building up your email database, you can market to your email audience for “free”. With a reported average conversion rate of 15.11% in 2020 and generating $38 for every $1 spent (3,800% ROI!), email marketing should be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.

Pros and Cons

  • Promotes customer retention and increased lifetime value.

  • You can communicate new products, latest offers, loyalty programs, whatever you desire for free!

  • Segment your email database for best results – shopping cart abandoners convert at 18.54% and ‘my cart’ emailers convert at 24.58%.

  • Email lists can also be used to great effect across other marketing channels including Paid Search and Social advertising.

  • Email subscribers have a higher average order value vs. other digital channels.

  • Easily shareable – you can gain new customers via digital word of mouth.

  • Open rates and conversion rates are declining as the email marketing space becomes increasingly saturated – it can be hard to get your voice heard over all the spam noise.

  • Resources, skills, and time are all needed to create effective email marketing campaigns. Consider using an agency or outsourcing if you aren’t able to create and manage email campaigns.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 6/10
  • ROI: 10/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 9/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 6/10

Overall Rating: 8/10

email marketing 8 out of 10

SMS Text Marketing – Bonus!

sms marketing icon

So this isn’t technically digital marketing, but contact details are usually acquired through digital marketing and it’s becoming an increasingly vital part of a multi-channel ecommerce marketing strategy. 

Although SMS text message marketing is nothing new, it has been growing in popularity over the last few years – primarily for ecommerce businesses. With improvements in data technology and tracking, important KPIs including ROI are now easier to track and measure.

It is one of the most under-utilised channels with only 39% of brands using SMS despite its high-value. SMS boasts open rates as high as 98% – email averages 20% by comparison, 90 seconds respond time. 

It complements other digital marketing channels, especially social media and email, exceptionally well and helps to augment their results.

Pros and Cons

  • A low percentage of e-commerce businesses are utilising SMS marketing so there’s far less competition than other marketing channels.

  • High engagement and conversion rates.

  • Mobile shopping is increasing every year, so reaching your audience on their mobiles expedites the sales process.

  • Improve customer service relations with automated acknowledgement and service messages.

  • Give an instant boost to any flash sales you’re running.

  • You must have permission before sending texts, therefore you must have a sizeable audience who explicitly agrees to SMS marketing for this channel to drive results.

  • It may feel invasive to some of your audience. Try not to irritate recipients with frequent and unnecessary messaging.

  • 160 character limitation, so messages must be kept short and to the point.

Ratings

  • Instant results: 9/10
  • ROI: 10/10
  • Customer lifetime value: 8/10
  • Ease of setup and functionality: 7/10

Overall Rating: 9/10

sms marketing 9 out of 10

The ecommerce advertising leaderboard

The results are in and our top 9 channels for 2021 are…

  1. SMS Text Marketing 9/10
  2. Google Ads 8/10
  3. Email Marketing 8/10
  4. Amazon Advertising 7/10
  5. Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads 7/10
  6. Bing Ads (Microsoft Advertising) 6/10
  7. YouTube Advertising 5/10
  8. Pinterest Ads 5/10
  9. TikTok For Business (TikTok Ads) 5/10

If you would like to find out more information on how to advertise on Google, Bing, Facebook or any other channel, then get in touch with our friendly team. We would be more than happy to audit your ecommerce website or marketing campaigns and work out a strategy to guarantee you high ROI. Complete the form below or call us on 0203 411 2680.

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