Inbound Marketing for Ecommerce

Inbound Marketing for Ecommerce


While some forms of marketing march up and place their room key on the bar, inbound marketing takes the subtle approach. It takes you out for a nice dinner, strikes up a thought provoking conversation, and kisses you goodnight on the cheek. The result? A long-term, valuable relationship that will eventually lead to... sales.

In this article I'm going to define inbound and outbound marketing. I'll give you the reasons that outbound marketing is on the decline, and I'll also give you 6 reasons you should consider using inbound marketing techniques for your ecommerce store.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Simply put, inbound marketing is marketing that's focused on getting found by customers. It's the antithesis of the annoying telemarketer that calls you at precisely the worst possible moment. Inbound marketing doesn't aggressively steal your attention, it earns it by providing you with interesting and useful information. Inbound marketing waits for you to discover it, then it offers something valuable in exchange for a few moments of your time. Here are some examples of inbound marketing: 

  • Blogs
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • YouTube Videos
  • Webinars / Podcasts
  • White Papers
  • Infographics

What is Outbound Marketing?

Most people consider outbound marketing to be the more traditional and less technologically savvy way to acquire customers. It's where companies focus their marketing endeavors on actively finding customers. At times, it can be difficult to target properly, and oftentimes it's expensive. Here are some examples of outbound marketing:

  • Print Ads
  • Television / Radio Commercials
  • Telemarketing
  • E-mail Blasts
  • Trade Shows

The Problem With Outbound Marketing

Over the past few years there has been a steady decline in effectiveness of outbound marketing, especially when it comes to online companies. There has been a fundamental shift in consumer tolerance for "interruptive" advertising, and some consumers are starting to revolt. For example, according to a study by HubSpot, 84% of 25-34 year olds have left a favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising. Here are some more reasons outbound marketing is becoming decreasingly relevant:
The Problem With Outbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing for Ecommerce

Inbound marketing is an effective way to attract potential customers to your online store and massage them until they turn into customers. For an ecommerce store to effectively use inbound marketing it starts with good content that's optimized for search and tempting for people to share.
By investing resources into inbound marketing, ecommerce merchants will see the following 6 benefits:


1. Become a Thought Leader

By creating and publishing thought provoking content on a regular basis, you'll quickly get your name out there as a thought leader. Shopify store Wingset has a blog that compliments their online store perfectly. They sell organic health products, and their blog is an emporium of articles dedicated to helpful information about nutrition and wellness. Thousands of people go their ecommerce store for content: DIY projects, recipes, warnings, and even some myth busters. They have become an authority in the wellness industry and people go to them for information, help, and advice. Sales always follow. 


2. Save Some Money

Have you seen the prices of print ads? Or even a display booth at a major trade show? For the most part, outbound marketing is expensive! How much does good content backed by a strong social presence cost? Start small and it won't cost much at all. Give yourself a reasonable goal like publishing one valuable blog post per week. Spend a few hours writing something that people in your industry will find interesting, then spend a few hours promoting it through your social networks. Although inbound marketing takes more effort than simply buying a newspaper ad, its costs run an impressive 61% less per lead than traditional marketing.


3. Target Self-Qualified Customers    

Do you think buying a giant roadside billboard for a month would be an effective way to promote your online store? I'll give you a hint and save you some money - it's not. The net ia too big and the vast majority of people looking at the advertisement aren't qualified. Same goes for cold-calling, buying email lists, and other forms of outbound marketing... they're all poorly targeted. With inbound marketing, you only approach people who self-qualify themselves. They show an interest in your content, so it's quite likely that they will be interested in the product you're selling.  


4. Increase Organic Search

It's no secret that Google loves fresh content. When you publish search optimized content on a regular basis that gets a bit of social media attention, your ranking will increase. Good search engine rankings are essential for a successful ecommerce store. You want to get your store on page one for as many of your terms as possible, because studies show that the second page of a Google search only receives 0.85% of the traffic. Furthermore, 61% of consumers use search engines to read about products before making a purchase. 


5. Boost Social Presence

It's been proven that prospective customers who are linked to your social media platforms show increased loyalty. Studies show that 41% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through Facebook, 42% through Twitter, and 57% through their company blog.  When you're promoting good content through your social networks, you'll naturally gain a larger social following. When it comes to your social presence, make sure all your guns are firing: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest, and all the others. 


6. Recover Abandoned Shopping Carts

Prospects sometimes abandon their shopping cart before a sale is closed. It can be for any number of reasons: high shipping prices, a long checkout process, or they simply get distracted by something else. With traditional marketing, you focus your efforts on acquiring people who have never been to your ecommerce store, or people who have already made a purchase - but that's leaving out a whole demographic of those who have almost made a purchase. With inbound marketing you can cultivate their interest over time by having an active blog, engaging social media sites, or by providing them with free resources via email marketing. You can also use a cart abandonment tool to identify those who have jumped ship and re-engage them. Shopify merchants can choose from Abandon AppElasso, or Jilt to recover lost sales.


  • Andrew Youderian |
    Andrew Youderian |
    April 20 2012, 04:34PM

    Great post, Mark!

    You really hit on one of the most crucial elements of e-commerce success: understanding that all products are really information products. Provide a lot of great content and resources that help your customer make an informed purchase decision, and you’ll drive far more sales.

    Becoming a thought leader / expert can really pay off in terms of marketing. I was recently contacted from someone at a major television network who saw an article I had authored. We’re now helping them with a project which is leading to a lot of incredible marketing opportunities, all because we spent the time to write a high-quality article in our niche.

  • Kelly Tredwell
    Kelly Tredwell
    April 25 2012, 06:54AM

    Mark – I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I found it extremely helpful and have forwarded it to some acquaintences who operate their own online stores outside Shopify. The key point here for me was the elimination of print media advertising. I had recently cancelled my quarterly full page glossy ad in a leading magazine (at AUD4000 each issue!) in order to focus more on the online marketing side of things. I can categorically say that I have made absolutely no profit from these ads whatsoever and when I did my sums last month on how much I have actually lost in the past 12 months it made me feel sick! I have a friend who has a clothing store (not online) and swears by TV commercial ads, and being a local business that suits him fine but to reach a broader marketplace online optimisation is definitely the way forward. I have spent many long nights setting up SEO in my store and the hard work has paid off. It just takes a bit of time and effort and there are so many fantastic SEO features in Shopify to help us, as store owners, achieve this. I only wish I had focused on this when I first took ownership of the business in 2010 and not signed on for a further 12 months advertising contract. Anyway, onwards and upwards – I thought your article was great and it has reassured me that I am on the right path and that directing my attention towards inbound marketing as opposed to outbound is certainly the right way to go. Good job!

  • Simon Bromley -
    Simon Bromley -
    April 01 2013, 12:14PM

    Interesting reading Mark – I’ve just been tweeted your article by Shopify.
    We’ve been using Shopify for 6 months now and I would agree with all your points, though we still have a long way to go we are slowly learning and gaining a customer base.
    I find point 6 interesting and this is an area that we are trying to improve. We use the AbandonApp but this requires the whole of the first page of the checkout to be completed. We get our report on the Shopify Dashboard and via Google Analytics about the number of visits to the Cart and yet Abandon App does not pick up any of these.
    I am starting to wonder if the whole of the checkout system within Shopify is too complex, particularly when it comes to discount codes….where else does someone virtually pay in Paypal at full price before returning to Shopify to enter a discount code?
    Thoughts anyone?

  • suhana
    April 09 2013, 09:07AM

    Today i came across this amazing new website named…i really think you guys should check it out..

  • Kevin Tung Nguyen
    Kevin Tung Nguyen
    May 19 2013, 11:40AM

    Having worked closely with major e-commerce projects in Southeast Asia (Rocket Internet, IDG Ventures, DFJ, etc) I understand the gravity of inbound marketing, specifically SEO is the key to ultimate success. Since day 1 of founding my jewelry social enterprise, the team and I have invested humongous amount of time into SEO and Social marketing. Traffic and sales has been positive since opening in early this month while we still constantly update our content for Google fresh crawls.

  • Sam |
    Sam |
    July 04 2013, 02:40PM

    Good one .. Mark ..
    I totally agree with you on this. It’s extremely important to generate great content and add value to your e-comm store and drive more sales and loyal customers/readers as today even online ads (i.e. Facebook, Adwords) have become very very expensive if you don’t do it right and conversion rate is going down everyday.
    We try to share great content on our blog on regular basis and we feel lot of our readers have converted in to customers.
    Thanks again for this great post and
    Andrew would like to read a detailed post on this from you too.

  • Alessandro
    July 08 2013, 10:00AM

    So, basically, inbound = online and outbound = offline+email spam.

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