Having a clearly defined and collaborative digital strategy is crucial to unlocking the online growth potential of a business.

As the world in which we work becomes more digital than ever before, online retail continues to flourish, currently growing a rate of 23% year on year. In this increasingly competitive online marketplace, brands must ensure they are as visible as possible to consumers in order to drive engagement and sales.

This is why getting online marketing strategy right - from setting SMART objectives, to effective brand positioning, right through to adopting a strategic multichannel approach - is so crucial.

With this in mind, let's take a closer look at how brands can optimise and future-proof their online marketing strategy in 2018.

Decide what success looks like

The first step in any successful marketing strategy is to set objectives and decide upon the desired results from a campaign. Clearly defined targets help shape the direction of the strategy and ensure that all channels are working cohesively.

When measuring success, it's important for brands to consider their current position in the market, and where they want the business to go.

Implementing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Oriented) objectives is extremely effective as it helps to provide a clear measure of success. It also allows ongoing progress to be easily monitored and regularly reviewed.

Find your target audience

Most specialist online retailers will already have a strong idea of who buys their products (and subsequently who they should be targeting). However, the most successful businesses will analyse the behaviour of consumers who visit their site regularly but - crucially - do not convert.

Brands that take time to glean this insight into their target - but as yet untapped - market can subsequently better identify the triggers that lead said consumers to engage and eventually convert into making a purchase.
Simply put, any information relating to how customers shop is critical when identifying different triggers on their purchasing journey.

Google Analytics is invaluable for this, showing the top converting demographics and segmenting them through metrics such as age or gender. It's even possible to segment site visitors between those who are new, returning, or even previously loyal customers who may need special attention to bring back into the fold.

Once successfully identified, it is far easier to determine what will motivate the key demographic to purchase. This in turn gives businesses the insights and opportunities to effectively engage with this target audience across a variety of online touchpoints, thus encouraging them to convert.

The importance of optimising conversion rates is further underlined by recent figures concerning cart abandonment, which currently sit at an eye-watering 77%.

Make effective use of all online channels

The modern consumer is more confident shopping across multiple online channels than ever before. We have only to look at the most recent Black Friday sales, where - according to research from IMRG - 39% of the £1.39bn spent online in the UK was completed on a smartphone, to see the direction the market is heading.

This trend looks set to only grow in the years to come, with a joint industry report from Google PayPal, and OCC Strategy Consulting predicting that by 2020, some 80% of all online retail would involve a smartphone at some stage in the purchase journey.

The key to taking full advantage of the multichannel market lies in executing multiple online channels - rather than just one or two - collaboratively, to maximise momentum and return on investment.

Another consideration is to ensure that tone of voice remains consistent across all marketing channels and consumer touchpoints. To accomplish this, the brand messaging employed in marketing emails, ad copy, and social media activity should all remain consistent, drawing attention to the same messages time and again. While this may feel repetitive, it's a fantastic way to ensure that key messaging is firmly cemented in the target audience's minds.

Inspire consumer loyalty

Overall, it has never been more important for businesses to ensure that their digital strategy is aligned and optimised for maximum growth.

In an online marketplace which is arguably more competitive than ever before, among the most important things a business can acquire is retained customer loyalty. Businesses who can successfully convert customers into making a purchase, and keep them coming back again and again will be well-placed to engage and retain customers.

Prioritising customer engagement and providing value at all times must be at the heart of any forward-thinking online brand's strategy if they are to drive virtual footfall, survive (and thrive) on the online high street in 2018.


By Emma Thompson, head of strategy at Visualsoft

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