In 2018 Amazon’s share of the US eCommerce market was 49%. Think about it. One company. Half of the entire US eCommerce market. How are you supposed to compete with that? And it’s not like the other half of the market is distributed equally among all the other eCommerce stores. But don’t despair just yet. Every year savvy entrepreneurs manage to get their new eCommerce businesses off the ground. So it is possible to compete against all these giants with deep pockets. Social media and email marketing can help you do just that.
Why should anyone buy from you?
Look, you won’t be able to build a successful eCommerce business if you don’t deal with reality, which is that people want to buy something they go on Amazon.
Moreover, you might also be competing with brick-and-mortar retailers, especially if you sell products that can be found in your local mall.
So the million-dollar (or more!) question is this: why should anyone buy from you?
There are two ways to answer this question:
- Offer a unique product.
- Build a unique brand.
One way or the other, you need to tell a story that inspires people, and the best way to do that is to leverage the power of social media.
Which social media platforms should you be active on?
There’s no “best” social media platform out there. You need to evaluate social media platforms based on your target audience and how you can integrate your social media strategy with your email marketing strategy. Where do the people that you want to reach hang out?
It’s a massive social network with over 2.3 billion active users.
However, despite its continuous growth, Facebook seems to be past its prime.
What was once a hip and cool new thing is now a place where not-so-young-anymore Millennials share photos of their kids and Baby Boomers share photos of their grandkids?
Even Mark Zuckerberg, once a rebellious college dropout in a hoodie, is now a creepy corporate overlord embroiled in scandals (still in a hoodie, though!)
This makes Facebook an okay place to reach Millennials and a great place to reach Gen Y and Baby Boomers, but if you want to sell to Gen Z you need to look elsewhere.
Instagram, Facebook’s younger sister, doesn’t appear to be affected by the problems of its older brother at all. It has over 1 billion active users and it is the social network for the young, attractive and successful (and everyone who wants to live vicariously through them).
It’s also the place for eCommerce businesses to promote their products, both through building their own following and by collaborating with influencers.
Whatever it is that you sell, if your target audience is Gen Z or Millennials, you need to get on Instagram.
However, if you want to sell products to Gen Y or Baby Boomers, this is probably not the platform for you.
It took Twitter a while to find itself.
But now it has finally come into its own by becoming the go-to place for following news, participating in discussions and sharing ideas.
Basically, Twitter is the public square of the Internet, and as such it’s not conducive to selling unless you run a media company, are an author, or sell online courses.
YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet.
Whatever it is that you are interested in, from cat videos to pasta recipes to political debates, you can be sure that you will find it there.
This provides brands with a unique opportunity to generate traffic by making helpful videos related to their products as well as videos that are interesting to their target audience.
For example, Beardbrand has over 1.2 millions subscribers on YouTube, and they built their channel by offering male grooming advice as well as making interesting videos about beards, haircuts, etc.
Whatever it is that you sell, you can reach your target audience on YouTube, but you need to really commit to creating valuable videos (competition is fierce!).
Snapchat might seem like an obscure social network that no one uses.
Now, if that was your first reaction, that means that you are getting older.
It is a platform beloved by Gen Z with over 190 million active users, the majority of whom are under 25 and a significant portion of whom are between the ages 13 and 17.
This is a great place to promote your products if you want to sell to very young people.
And if you want to target people over 30, then don’t bother with Snapchat, people in their thirties and above just don’t get it.
You are not selling your product, you are selling a dream.
You are probably not the only person selling whatever it is that you sell.
And even if you do have a unique product and you are the only person selling it you probably haven’t invented a brand new category of products, so you are still competing against others.
For example, Minaal sells unique travel gear. You can’t just go to your local mall and buy a Minaal bag.
However, you can get a decent travel backpack in your local travel store, as well as on Amazon, as well as on other online stores. So why do people buy travel bags from a tiny New Zealand company?
Well, first, Minaal does make great products, so they can compete with other travel gear out there in terms of quality.
But if you take a closer look at the company, you will realize that they aren’t selling backpacks, they are selling the dream of the digital nomad lifestyle.
It’s a dream of being able to fit all your possessions in a backpack, run your business from your laptop, and have adventures all over the world.
And if you look even closer, you’ll realize that they are selling the dream of being that kind of person, someone who is free and adventurous and open-minded, yet also smart and disciplined and productive.
Is it any wonder that this message resonated with their target audience of digital nomads?
You will see the same thing if you look at other successful companies. Coca-Cola doesn’t sell sugary drinks and Apple doesn’t sell gadgets. So the question is… What should you be selling?
Case study: MVMT on Instagram
Now, you might be wondering, what does selling the dream have to do with social media?
Well, the only way to stand out on social media is to sell a dream and to do it well.
For example, MVMT is an incredibly successful eCommerce company (Movado acquired it for 100 million), and they sell watches. Their watches look great, but do you think they are exceptional? So why did MVMT become such a sensation?
Just like Minaal, MVMT does have quality products, and they have a unique selling proposition of quality watches for a low price.
That being said, it’s not really the watches that MVTM is really selling, it is the dream of being young, stylish, and successful.
Their Instagram is an absolute masterpiece of social media marketing as evidenced by the fact that they have 1M followers.
Note how the very few product shots on their profile. In most pictures, the watch is a seemingly minor detail. And some pictures don’t even have a watch in them.
Let’s take a look at a few random pictures from the MVMT Instagram page. Would you be able to guess what they are selling?
There is a picture of New York. There’s also a picture of a man and a helicopter in a desert. And then there’s a picture of a couple on an adventure.
Now, when you see these three pictures out of context, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess that MVMT sells watches.
That’s because they aren’t selling watches.
They are selling the dream of being a successful man who is making a ton of money, has a beautiful girlfriend, and can afford all kinds of adventures around the world. And what young man doesn’t want that?
You won’t get any traction on Instagram if all you do is post boring product shots. No one cares about your product. Give your target audience something that resonates with them. Sell them a dream.
And what kind of dream should you sell? Well, that’s for you to figure out.
Once you have their attention, capture it and keep it—hence, email marketing.
Social media is a great way to get someone’s attention.
However, that attention is fickle, because when someone is scrolling through their feed they are bombarded with posts from their friends, public figures and brands.
In other words, they are easily distracted, and they will forget you the moment they see their friend’s vacation photo.
This means that social media, while great for selling dreams, is not conducive to selling products. So what should you do?
You should leverage your social media following to build an email list to which you can then sell directly.
All you need to do is put a link to an opt-in form on your social media profiles, provide a quick explanation of why people should subscribe, and then occasionally post teasers related to the email list (snippets from upcoming emails, praise from your subscribers, subscriber-only discounts, etc.).
Of course, that means that you need to figure out how to provide value to your email list, because “Click here to get updates” won’t cut it. No one wants “updates.” What can you offer to your subscribers?
For example, Beardbrand invites website visitors to “Join Our Kickass Community” and offers them to “Become a part of the Beardbrand community to get in on grooming tips, educational videos, product launch pre-orders, and anything and everything that’ll help you groom with confidence.”
Much better than “updates,” right?
Keep in mind that you need to consistently provide value to your subscribers if you want them to keep opening your emails. And no, endless sales pitches aren’t “value.” Value is information that helps them solve their problems.
You can learn how you can growth hack your email list here.
Play the long game
It’s naive to think that you will be able to get a sale the first time someone stumbles upon your store, social media profiles, or ads.
Sure, some people are impulse buyers, but they are an exception rather than the rule, and even they are wary of buying from an unfamiliar online store.
So don’t try to push for a quick sale in your marketing efforts. People need time to learn what you are all about, make sure that you are legit, and decide that they want to buy from you and not from your competitors. This is especially true if you are selling products that aren’t in the impulse purchase price range.
What you want to do is move them along the sales funnel. Your aim should be to turn a random person who has just learned about you into a social media follower then into an email subscriber and finally into a customer.
This might seem like a lot of effort, but it will put you head and shoulders above your competition, and it’s actually easier to get sales this way as opposed to going for the sale immediately.
It doesn’t matter how great your product is. You won’t be able to compete on product quality alone.
For example, in many countries, you can find cheap local alternatives to coke, yet Coca-Cola remains dominant despite being more expensive. Why?
It’s not because the taste is that much different. Sure, people say it is, but would they be able to tell the cheap alternative from the real deal in a blind test? Probably not.
The truth is that people are willing to pay more for Coca-Cola because Coca-Cola managed to imprint their brand in our minds.
You need to do the same. Don’t be one of those completely interchangeable “brands” that no one can remember. Be the Coca-Cola of your niche.
Only then you’ll have a shot at building a sustainable eCommerce business in this cutthroat environment.