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Organic Marketing: How to Create E-Commerce Brand Advocates

Every online seller knows that organic marketing, including brand advocacy, social sharing and positive word of mouth can lead to more business, but what are some tangible actions you can take to create e-commerce brand advocates? And make it easy for those online shoppers to help promote your products?

After you’ve turned your passion project into an online business and you’ve started selling your goods all over the world, it’s natural to want to expand. It’s also natural to feel a bit overwhelmed by the variety of tools and techniques available. Well, I have good news. It’s entirely possible to build your brand around real, human connections, and luckily lots of e-commerce businesses have come before yours and tried (and failed) at different ways of creating organic brand advocacy. In other words, the path has already been trodden, all you have to do is follow it. (Easier said than done, I know.)

At ClickDesk, we provide live chat software to e-commerce businesses in over 100 countries. One thing we hear consistently from our customers is that want us to share some of the knowledge and statistics we’ve gathered about e-commerce, so we’ve been looking closely at what works, what doesn’t and what is only effective in certain circumstances. We’ve discovered that the most successful e-commerce businesses build and promote brand advocacy around the “Three C’s”: Clarify, Complement, Communicate. This is how they optimize their businesses for organic marketing...

Clarify Messaging

From store descriptions and product copy (the way you describe what you’re selling, whether that’s a single mp3 or a whole range of custom t-shirts) to broader messaging like web copy and advertising campaigns, consistent messaging is directly related to brand advocacy because it helps consumers forge a bond with your brand. As Susan Gunelius has written, advertising that helps to create vocal brand advocates consistently emphasizes both differentiators (what makes your product or product line unique, whether that’s) and emotional triggers.

Clearer messaging can be something as simple as changing a list of product details, such as what a shirt is made out of, to a more emotional description like “the softest t-shirts in the world”. Since brand advocates are usually the most “talkative” of all your customers, sometimes the messages they pass along to other potential customers are not totally in line with your brand. This isn’t always a problem--sometimes they could find new ways to talk about your e-commerce products that you hadn’t even thought of yet--but it can also be confusing to potential customers who want to understand your product more generally before leaping into specifics.

When starting to clarify your messaging, ask yourself this question: if you had never heard of your own e-commerce business before, what’s the one thing that would draw you in? That one thing is the message to promote and share. Satisfied customers will want to share it too.

Use Complementary Technologies

Is it easy for your customers to share their positive thoughts about your company? Too many e-commerce companies offer either too many options for social sharing and “digital word-of-mouth” organic marketing, or offer them on the wrong channels.

Using complementary technologies to build brand advocates means that the technologies you use to promote organic growth should match the technologies you use to sell and market your products (where customers make purchases and where they hear about new offers, receive support, and otherwise communicate with your brand, whether that’s mainly social channels, your own website, email communications or even their mobile phones).

A good example of this is those sellers who choose to focus on Facebook. E-junkie offers a streamlined social selling feature where you can set up a shopping cart on a tab of your Facebook business page. At ClickDesk, we offer a similar feature where you can add live chat software to a tab on your Facebook page for customer communications, sales questions, and anything else your customers might think of. If you use both of these services, then your shoppers will basically come to think of your Facebook page as your “storefront”, so it would be most effective to consistently publish Facebook posts with a sharable promotion or special deal, or even just a main brand picture and catchy tagline. That way your customers will be able to promote your brand with just a click and share it with all of their friends/followers. If you don’t use complementary technologies like that, then after a positive experience shopping on your Facebook page, customers will likely just move on and not take the time to share.

The same goes for email marketing or sales based around your website. Make sure to give your shoppers easy ways to share your brand or current promotions using those channels. This can be as simple as an email newsletter that’s easy to forward and has a storyline to hook the reader instantly. People are busier today than ever, but complementary technologies help to keep their attention.

Communicate Well

Communication is key. Even if you’ve honed your branding and made it easy for happy customers to share your brand with their friends and the general public, authentic communication still needs to be your focus. Avoid canned responses in favor of honest communications. And take the time to listen. Following an especially positive customer service experience, over 80% of customers will share their experience online in one form or another.

Communication is especially important on social channels where conversations are public and people demand almost instant responses. In fact, 32% of customers who post questions about your brand on Twitter now expect a response within 30 minutes! My advice to new or small e-commerce brands is to choose their social channels wisely (you seriously don’t have to be on every channel; better to be really present on one than spread thin across many). And my advice to big companies: customer support is the new marketing and it leads. If you’ve been holding out on hiring more customer success staff, now’s the time to change.

Hint: Don’t ignore your difficult customers. In many cases, your most “difficult” customers are also the most talkative, both online and offline, which means that if you turn their negative experience into a positive one and address their concerns directly, then they can turn from complainers into product evangelists!

A note about advocacy programs

Why haven’t I mentioned starting a brand advocacy program, such as a points-based system where customers can earn rewards? Because you don’t need to get that complicated. While rewards programs are great, the most effective advocacy programs, especially for smaller businesses just starting to build their brand advocate community, are often the simplest and most direct, such as trading affiliate links (as long as both companies believe in the products they’d be selling/promoting). 

So start simple today. By clarifying your messaging, using complementary technologies and communicating clearly, you can start to create brand advocates. Online retail sales are expected to grow by 57% in the US alone by 2018. I hope you can leverage these tips to help your e-commerce business grab a big piece of that pie. 

This is a guest blog post by David Campbell of ClickDesk