Insights, observations, and stories from the front lines of ecommerce and online marketing

4 Alternatives to Traditional Advertising to Grow Your Ecommerce Store

As a marketer, I often take traditional advertising channels like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and more for granted. If I need more signups for a webinar, more ebook downloads, whatever it is, I can count on an advertising boost to help bring in new contacts.

But many online businesses don’t have that luxury. Whether it’s because of certain limitations that prevent brands in your industry from advertising (think smoking accessories, etc.), budget limitations, or you’re simply looking for a new customer acquisition channel, here are 4 effective alternatives (bonus: some of which are completely free) to traditional advertising.

Grow your email list

how to grow your email list

Tobi Lutke, the CEO and Founder of Shopify, recently tweeted “Email lists and website[s] are the only things you can own on the internet. Everything else is just rented.” (Thanks, Tobi!) I couldn't agree more. Email marketing is critical to the success of your business. Now, let's talk about how to grow that list. 

If you’re already getting traffic to your site, statistics would allow me to make an educated guess that on average, you’re converting around 2-3% of that traffic. Even with your carefully crafted copy and your perfectly polished images. The problem is that most marketers are creating a one size fits all experience for their audience.

So Cheryl, who’s specifically shopping your Newport Beach collection is getting the same offers and messaging that Sarah (who is in the market for her tenth order from you) is getting. Your shoppers aren’t likely to give out their information for just any offer. The key to growing your email list is using what you know about your customers to serve them a relevant offer or message in exchange for that information.

You can then use those emails addresses to continue marketing to them, rescue more abandoned carts, send coupons and coupon reminders, and newsletters to keep your customers updated.

Aren’t sold on email lists yet? Our customer, Harrison Baum of Daily High Club, said, “The biggest mistake I made in the history of the business was not collecting emails earlier.” In case you’re wondering, he’s now collected more than 270,000.

Focus on organic social media growth

If you aren’t allowed to advertise on paid social channels, don’t rule out social media completely.  You should still focus on gaining organic traction. One way to do that is to let your website visitors know where they can find you on social and encourage them to follow you - like this example below from Kinky Curly Yaki.

social media

Social media is the perfect place to show off your brand personality, the faces behind your products, as well as updating followers on new product collections, flash sales, and more.

Lastly, create a hashtag that your customers can use on social media when wearing or using your products. It’s free promotion for you, creates a sense of community for your customers online, and you can repurpose some of that user generated content in your marketing.

Rely on social media influencers

If you have the budget, influencers (those who have created an audience in a distinct niche on social media) are another effective way to reach new audiences. Morphe Brushes, a popular makeup brand and Privy customer, partners with beauty influencers like Jaclyn Hill (who has almost 6 million subscribers on YouTube!) to help them boost their product sales and brand awareness.

jaclyn hill

But influencers don’t have to be Jaclyn Hill status to help make an impact. Micro influencers can bring new eyes to your products as well. Just ask the founders of Twinkled T. During a recent Shopify Masters podcast, co-founder Lana stated that they “reached out to 10 girls. One of them had as little as 30,000 followers, and our biggest had 1,000,000 followers. We gave them each their own coupon code with their own handle… What we realized was, [when] our smallest influencer posted it, she received six orders with her code. [Then the influencer with a million] posted and we waited, and we waited, and we never got a single order from that influencer.”

Micro influencers sometimes have a deeper connection with their audience, making their endorsement more effective.

Encourage customer reviews

84% of shoppers say they trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation. They no longer go in and buy the first thing they see. Today’s shoppers fully do their research and need social proof to validate their initial interest in the product before making a purchase. They are looking for positive reviews, but also negative ones. Hmm, this shirt is more of an aqua rather than a turquoise. If that’s the worst they have to say, that’s not so bad!

Moz, a leader in search engine optimization, conducted research that shows written reviews can actually boost a product page in search result rankings. Meaning more customers are able to find you organically because of others’ feedback.

how to encourage customer reviews

How do you encourage online reviews? For returning customers, serve up an onsite display encouraging them to leave a review (if you are a Privy customer, you can use order count as a targeting rule for your display). You should also encourage reviews in your email follow up. However you decide to collect reviews, they are a cost effective way to bring more traffic to your ecommerce site and encourage more shoppers to purchase.

What are your go to alternatives to traditional advertising? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted by Lauren Shepherd

Lauren is our Senior Marketing Manager. Coming all the way from Minnesota, she’s earned her spot on the east coast by working for companies like Brainshark and Teikametrics to create content and lead generation strategies that increase website traffic and build brand awareness. Lauren’s passion for small businesses and content creation is what brought her to Privy, but her enthusiasm and love of good beer and all things Justin Timberlake are what make her the perfect fit for our team.

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