How to create an eCommerce marketing strategy that delivers for CPGs

The goal of an ecommerce marketing strategy is to be seen, heard, and bought. Here's what it takes to create one that delivers for CPGs.

Presented by: 
Stephanie Rubin2023

This post has been updated and was originally published November 2021.

Breaking through the online clutter. That, in a nutshell, is what an eCommerce marketing strategy is supposed to do for you.

The goal is to be seen, heard, and bought. An eCommerce marketing strategy should create awareness for your brand and products, drive traffic to relevant retailer websites and marketplaces, and convert that traffic into purchases.

For CPGs, this is more important than ever: While the relative growth of e-commerce has slowed, but the absolute growth of e-commerce revenue has actually been accelerating. Forrester recently estimated that US digital-influenced retail sales to grow from $2.7 trillion in 2022 to $3.8 trillion in 2027.

To set themselves up for long-term success, CPGs know they must win in eGrocery – and that means getting smart about eCommerce marketing.

The challenge is, eCommerce marketing for CPG has its own rules and idiosyncrasies. Some of the strategies and tactics that work well with other products just don’t work the same way in CPG.

Take reviews. With big-ticket items such as electronics, consumers are much more likely to read every single review before they decide to buy. They aren’t going to read a hundred reviews before they buy something like breakfast cereal.

That’s not to say reviews don’t matter in CPG – they do, and increasingly so – but the dynamic is different. For certain CPG products, having lots of robust reviews simply doesn’t give you as much of a competitive edge as you might expect. It’s one of the big distinctions between CPG and the broader eCommerce market.

So, what should CPGs focus on instead?

Start with content

In fact, start with your product title. To win in eGrocery, you must be pithy and get your point across with your product title alone. It’s one of the most important levers for eCommerce marketing success. People don't spend a long time reading eGrocery content, so you need a clear and concise title that tells shoppers everything they need to know in a hundred characters.

In practice, this means really understanding your decision tree and structuring your product title copy accordingly. Brand, format, flavor, size – whatever those key purchase decision tree measures are for you, make sure you hit them in your title.

Well-written and well-structured content also flows into the next important consideration when creating an eCommerce marketing strategy for CPG: search.

I talk a lot about search, and I make no apologies for it. If you don’t win in search, it’s game over. It doesn’t matter what kind of eCommerce marketing you have, you won’t get anywhere without a solid organic and paid search strategy.

Improving your content can make a big difference in this context. Although all the retailer search algorithms are different, many of them are fed from your content. This means you can improve your organic search performance by having content that is well structured, written in consumer language, and based on what consumers are searching for online.

I’ve seen this play out first-hand. At e.fundamentals, we’ve worked with several CPG clients to rehab and optimize their content, and then tracked the results in search. Once the content was improved, they saw a dramatic uplift in organic search results.

And to be clear: focusing on organic search performance really matters. Paid search can be a powerful lever, but organic is your bread and butter. You can’t win every day if your only way to do well in search is with paid placement. It simply gets too expensive and inefficient.

Tell a consistent story across channels

Once you have robust content and search strategies in place, the next area to focus on is alignment across channels. You want all your content marketing, social media marketing, in-store media, and TV to tell a cohesive story, so they can build upon each other and drive people to your products.

All too often, CPGs will run eCommerce marketing campaigns that look and feel like they’re from a completely separate company from anything happening in-store or in traditional media.

Not having an end-to-end approach is usually to blame. If your eCommerce function isn’t yet fully integrated into the wider organization, your eCommerce marketing strategy is likely to remain somewhat piecemeal.

eCommerce success can’t just be a one- or two-people’s problem. The results need to be owned by everyone, and your eCommerce marketing strategy needs to be aligned with your wider business strategy. If you want to win in eGrocery, it’s vital to set measures and metrics that incentivize people to care about eCommerce.

Alignment across business functions also matters for other reasons. If profitability considerations have led you to decide to grow with curbside pickup, for instance, then your eCommerce marketing team should work to incentivize shoppers accordingly. You wouldn’t want them to push consumers toward other, potentially less profitable, fulfillment methods.

You also want to keep tabs on how your eCommerce marketing efforts enhance your wider online strategy. Again, not working in silos is important here – as is a smart approach to data and analytics.

We’ve seen some great results using our banner tracking service to help CPG clients gauge how well their total online strategy is working. By tracking banner performance, you can see how promotions impact search results, for example, or whether promotions drive out-of-stocks.

The key point is ensuring you are tracking in a systematic way, and over time. Don’t rely on ad hoc checks, because you could do great for one day but then lose ground. It’s easy to burn through lots of cash when running eCommerce marketing campaigns. Use data and digital shelf analytics to keep a close eye on ROI, and track whether your spend is translating into the right business outcomes.

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