The average email open rate is 18%, and the average click-through rate is just 2.6%. That means if you send out an exciting new product release or sale to 1,000 people, you’ll get just 178 opens and 26 clicks.
Email marketing statistics are plummeting due to overcrowded inboxes, overprotective spam filters, and collective inbox exhaustion.
If email is no longer getting the results you need, you want to diversify your communication channels, and you’re looking to enhance your customer experience, here are eight alternative eCommerce marketing channels for you.
The importance of multi-channel eCommerce marketing
Email marketing statistics are lackluster compared to 10 years ago, but it’s still a beneficial form of communication for purchase confirmations, cart abandonment messages, and newsletter content.
Although email marketing isn’t dead, single-channel marketing is.
Shopify’s statistics show that multi-channel marketing increases eCommerce revenue by 38%, 120%, and 190% with each additional channel.
Customers use multiple communication channels every day. They check their emails at work, go on Facebook at lunch, text their partner on a commute, or post on Reddit in the evening.
Implementing a multi-channel eCommerce marketing strategy increases your brand visibility, empowers choice for your customers, and builds relationships with them to encourage repeat purchases.
Multi-channel marketing enhances your brand in many ways, including:
- Increase visibility: The more places you reach out to your customers, the more chance you have of your message being seen and acted on.
- Provide choice: The more channels you market on, the more control you give you customers over where and when they engage with your message.
- Build relationships: By adopting multiple marketing channels, you can find the best channels for building long-term relationships with your customers.
However, the common alternatives to email marketing are growing old and rusty. Search ads can be competitive and expensive, and marketplace ads require a hefty budget.
Rather than spend an arm and a leg on ads to supplement your marketing channels, here are a few alternative options to help you stand out and generate results.
8 Alternative eCommerce marketing channels
SMS messages are an easy, but powerful way to enhance your customer messaging while breaking through the short-attention spans of modern consumers.
SMS marketing is great for eCommerce sellers, because:
- People spend an average of four hours per day on their mobile phones, so you’re more likely to capture your audience’s attention while they’re actively engaged.
- SMS messages come with their own alert system, which is why 90% of messages are opened within just three minutes of receipt.
- The SMS inbox is seen as a personal space, reserved for one-to-one conversations with family and friends, so it’s easier to establish trust and build a connection.
- Text messages are short and to the point, allowing you to communicate your CTA clearly. Texts have an average click-through rate between 5% to 10%, according to Tatango.
- Online shoppers love text messages. 75% of people say they’re happy to receive marketing offers via SMS.
Tip: If you have an international audience, consider sending texts through online messaging services, like Viber and Whatsapp.
2) Push or in-app notifications
Push notifications are messages that appear within a website or app, and can show up in a phone or browser even after someone has left your site. You’ve probably seen them before, where you’re asked whether you want to allow or deny alerts.
Push notifications are a highly effective marketing channel for eCommerce sellers because:
- They appear on the screen regardless of what your audience is doing or what website they’re on (if they’ve agreed to get notifications), attracting immediate attention.
- They can be timed to appear at relevant points throughout the day (for example, when someone is likely to be shopping online at lunch, or scrolling on their phone in the evenings).
- Your audience has to click to dismiss a push notification, meaning they’re always seen, regardless of whether a CTA is followed.
- You can use images and links to tailor push notifications to your audience and their previous activity on your webstore, which increases their effectiveness.
Tip: Be sure to get permission to send notifications from your app, to avoid annoying your users.
3) Facebook Messenger
Available through web browsers and smartphone apps, Facebook Messenger operates similarly to WhatsApp.
Facebook Messenger is a popular eCommerce marketing tool because:
- The average adult spends 64.5 minutes a day on Facebook, increasing your chances of reaching an active audience.
- People tend to browse Facebook in their downtime when they have time to read messages and click links. Facebook Messenger boasts an impressive 98% open rate and a 44% click-through rate.
- Facebook connects people with brands they love, allowing you to establish immediate familiarity and trust.
- Messages appear away from the regular feed, giving your message a higher chance of being seen and acted upon.
Tip: Use this channel wisely to avoid being blocked and suspended. Consider using this channel for important updates, like shipping notifications.
About 122 million people tune into YouTube every day, making it one of the most influential marketing channels today. Despite the emergence of other video platforms in recent years, none have as far a reach as YouTube, which is widely considered the second-largest search engine behind Google.
You should consider adding YouTube into your channel mix because:
- With a 90% user share, YouTube is the most popular online video platform in the U.S.
- YouTube is a hot spot for Gen Zers and Millennials, attracting more 18-34 year olds than any other TV network.
- More than half (62%) of U.S. YouTube users tune in daily, while 92% visit weekly.
- You can upload a variety of videos, ranging from product tutorials and creative skits, to how-to videos and webinar recordings. YouTube thus serves many purposes, such as strengthening your credibility, addressing customer FAQs, and educating people about your industry.
- You can also participate in YouTube advertising, which supports various ad formats (video, display, and in-video overlay) that you can customize by demographics, interests, or past engagement with your site.
Tip: If you don’t have enough time to create videos for your channel, tap into a creator network for sponsored videos and clips.
5) Instagram shopping
These posts let you tag products featured within your Instagram posts, story, reel, IGTV, and more. Customers can easily learn more about your products from inside the app, and when paired with Instagram Checkout, users can complete their purchases directly in Instagram. Alternatively, you could redirect shoppers to your website.
Shopping posts can be incredibly valuable because:
- Users already turn to Instagram regularly for product suggestions. In fact, 130 million users tap on an Instagram shopping post every month to learn more about the products they see.
- 50% of people have visited a site to make a purchase after seeing an item or service in an Instagram Story.
- The average user spends at least seven hours a week on Instagram, and 63% of Americans say they check their Instagram accounts daily.
- You can showcase your products in a more dynamic setting using video and/or images, plus engage buyers when purchase intent is high.
- You can organize your products into unique collections, which can then be displayed on a beautifully branded Instagram Shop.
- Instagram additionally supports photo, carousel, and video ads (among other formats) to further convince buyers to take action.
Tip: Partner with complementary brands on Instagram to arrange a story share swap, so you can share one of their product stories in exchange for them returning the favor. That way, you extend your post reach.
TikTok is a social media platform where creators can upload short videos (up to three minutes long) and share posts even with those who aren’t subscribed to the app. It’s a valuable, pervasive eCommerce marketing channel thanks to a few reasons:
- TikTok has more than 2 billion downloads worldwide and 100 million monthly active users within the U.S.
- TikTok is the second-largest mobile app in terms of consumer spend, behind Tinder.
- More than half (62%) of TikTok users are between 10 and 29 years old, and the average TikToker spends 46 minutes a day scrolling through the app.
- The app offers a unique way to target and study young consumers, who use TikTok for self-expression or even activism.
- There are tons of trends your brand can hop on, including dances, lip-syncing trends, hashtags, and skits.
- Instead of relying on accounts followed, TikTok’s “For You” page algorithm matches content to a users’ interests. As a result, it’s easier for people to discover your brand and avoid getting buried under bigger accounts.
- “TikTok made me buy it” is the latest trend, with around half of TikTokers admitting to have made a purchase after seeing it on the app.
Tip: TikTok thrives on virality. Bring your best creatives to the channel and make people laugh, think, and get inspired.
7) User-generated content (UGC)
UGC is content your buyers create featuring one or more of your products. Brands usually leverage contests, giveaways, influencer marketing, and loyalty programs to generate UGC, which, in turn, can be displayed across their websites or social media accounts to boost their credibility.
UGC is a highly coveted form of marketing because:
- Like peer reviews, UGC is viewed as honest, authentic, and relatable. A whopping 82% of consumers say that user-generated reviews are extremely valuable, and 41% say they’ll read four to seven reviews when researching products.
- Ads featuring UGC received 73% more positive comments on social media than traditional ads, according to Jukin Media.
- YouTube videos created by individuals garner 10x more views than videos produced by brands.
- Consumers spend 90% more time on a website when it contains a UGC gallery.
- UGC campaigns are often a win-win. You as the brand receive free marketing, while participants earn loyalty points, discounts, and other rewards of your choice.
Tip: Run a regular review campaign quarterly or bi-annually to refresh the reviews and testimonials you use on your website and marketing materials. Ask users to send in clips of their reviews on social media (for example, shared on TikTok or Instagram) and cross-post these reviews to your other channels, such as YouTube.
8) Augmented reality (AR)
AR is an interactive experience that lets you overlay a real-world environment with different sounds, images, and text. It’s now a popular feature on many social media channels (like SnapChat lenses) and apps (think: furniture apps that allow you to visualize furniture inside a room).
AR is quickly gaining traction in the marketing world because:
- 72% of shoppers reportedly made an unexpected purchase because of AR.
- Only 1% of retailers currently use AR, though 71% of consumers say they’d shop more often if they could use it. This means leveraging AR for your marketing is a green (and virtually competition-free) opportunity.
- AR bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences , where consumers can see, touch, and feel your products. A little less than half (40%) of consumers say they would pay more for a product they could customize using AR.
- AR has many potential uses, such as virtual try-on, 3D visualization, and augmented touring. Warby Parker is one brand embracing this new technology by allowing users to try on their frames virtually through their app.
Tip: Use AR in creative ways. You don’t have to limit yourself to allowing consumers to “try on” your products. You can provide a fun gaming experience while they shop, or create a virtual community around your products.
Best practices for multi-channel marketing
As with any marketing campaign, you shouldn’t simply jump in and hope to see results. It’s important to keep your messaging relevant, concise, and useful.
1) Personalize your messaging
84% of customers feel personalization is crucial to win their business, so it’s essential to inject tailored content into your campaigns.
- Use custom fields in your SMS messages and push notifications to insert a visitor’s name and any relevant information.
- Add personalized product recommendations with a product recommendation tool or website visitor tracking software.
- Segment your audience into marketing campaigns according to their interests, previous purchases, or behavior on your website.
2) Send engaging content
Your word count is limited on these communication channels, so relevance is even more important. Aim to capture attention and ignite emotions immediately.
- Insert your brand logo in push notifications and your Messenger profile picture, so customers immediately recognize and trust you.
- Include images of products the person bought, looked at, or might be interested in to incite emotions of want, need, or excitement.
- Employ friendly, conversational copy to make your message feel less like a mass-email campaign and more like a personal note.
3) Plan your timing
Timing is crucial for these communication channels, because they’re easily dismissed and forgotten about if they appear at the wrong time. They also become a nuisance when you send them out too frequently.
As a general rule of thumb:
- Send SMS messages when your audience is likely to be on their phones and in a position to visit your website (for example, on a daily commute or early evening).
- Push notifications perform best when your audience is at their computer (for example, during the day or at lunchtime).
- Messenger communications are more likely to be seen and acted upon when your audience has free time, such as in the evenings or on weekends.
Test different messaging times and see which works best. Just avoid overdoing it while you’re experimenting.
4) Observe the rules of engagement
Every channel has its own unique audience, formats, and algorithms. It’s important that you play to their individual quirks and deliver content their users have come to love.
- Platforms like Twitter and TikTok favor candid, short-form content, whereas YouTube favors longer, more produced content.
- Remember to be human. Even though you’re producing content on behalf of your brand, many of the abovementioned channels work best when you publish authentic content.
- Start with one or two channels so you can study the platforms inside and out. Pay attention to popular formats, tone, and messaging that could serve as inspiration for your own content.
5) Stay consistent
Your buyers’ impression of your brand is the sum of all their interactions with your company. Whether they engage with you through their mobile devices, laptops, social media, or your site, your branding should feel familiar and consistent to your buyers.
- Create and enforce a style guide, which defines elements like your brand colors, logo, slogan, and more. You should also document the tone, voice, and values of your brand so everyone on your team knows how best to represent your brand, whether using written or visual media.
- Find a platform to centrally manage your marketing channels. This will help you to plan, publish, and track your messaging more easily.
- Use your CRM to track user engagement with your brand across multiple channels. See which channels yield a direct conversion, versus the ones that assist with conversion over time.
Wrapping up — Alternative eCommerce marketing channels
Email is still useful, but it cannot stand alone. A strong brand foundation is built from multiple lines of engaging communication that delights your customers.
A multi-channel marketing strategy connects you with your eCommerce customers away from the inbox, increasing the chances of your message being seen, read, and acted upon.
These eight simple, but highly effective email alternatives are great to engage with your audience on a more personal level than ads.
Published: August 17, 2020
Updated: August 17, 2021