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The customer acquisition tactics that drive results

Learn about the different types of customer acquisition tactics.
Two people looking at a smartphone and celebrating together.

The first C of the 4Cs – customer acquisition – is about understanding the different types of advertising tactics and how we can use them to drive the right customer to our site.

As we have stated lots of times now, all eCommerce stores use these three measures as an indicator of success:

  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Conversion rate (number of visitors who buy)
  • Average basket size (the typical order size).

The cost of getting a potential customer to our site is a big deal. Customer acquisition is not just a fun exercise of what photos we might put up on Instagram. It’s a considered choice that we need to make. Customer acquisition is about driving traffic, ie, potential shoppers to our store.

But what we need is the RIGHT sort of potential shoppers – the right ‘traffic’ to our site. Acquiring customers is about targeting the right people; even if the business has an unlimited budget, not all traffic or channels are right for your eCommerce store.

Start with thinking and understanding the following:

  1. Where does our customer persona go or ‘hang out’ online or on social media?
  2. What customer acquisition media or ‘channel’ is the best way to reach them if we know where they hang out?
  3. What customer acquisition channel can drive the most valuable traffic, ie, what performs the best?
  4. How do we get them all to work together and make the sum greater than the parts? Customer acquisition choices do not work in isolation. eCommerce customers browse and shop across devices and channels, so your acquisition campaigns need to work together.

For all eCommerce sites, the customer acquisition tactics include:

  • Search marketing – for example, Google Ads (sometimes called PPC – pay-per-click advertising)
  • SEO – search engine optimisation
  • Email marketing
  • Display advertising
  • Social media advertising – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and advertising such as Facebook Ads, Instagram or YouTube ads
  • Content marketing – blogs, videos on YouTube, TikTok videos
  • Influencers and live video / livestreaming (we will be covering this separately)
  • Partnerships – eg, affiliate programmes (we won’t be covering this topic in this ExpertTrack as it deserves its own full course!).

(Note: this Fundamentals of eCommerce ExpertTrack is not about making you an expert in Google Ads, SEO, email or any of the tactics listed here. FutureLearn has many courses on these topics that do a deep-dive into each of these. You will need to do some of these courses or ExpertTracks to become an expert. This particular ExpertTrack in the Fundamentals of eCommerce is about helping you choose the RIGHT customer acquisition tactic for your business.)

There is lots of choice – and these are just the main tactics!

How do we choose which tactics, or what mix of tactics, are best for our business? We need to identify the right choice of tactics.

But first, let’s see what they look like in action and what the capabilities of each tactic are.

Types of Customer Acquisition Tactics

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM or ‘paid search’ focuses on the targeting of keywords and the use of text advertisements.

Search ads are best when you want to capture potential shopper intent – they are showing their interest by writing those keywords into the Google Search box.

You bid on keywords – specific words and phrases included in Google search and your ad is displayed alongside search results.

Each time a user clicks on an ad, you pay a cost-per-click which varies on keyword popularity. SEM works on Google Search and on non-search websites, mobile apps, and videos such as YouTube.

SEM in action

Search Engine optimisation (SEO)

SEO is the process of optimising your content on your website so that a Google prefers to show it as one of the first results for searches for a certain keyword.

For example, if ‘seo starter guide’ are the keywords used, the first result in the Search is the ‘SEO Starter Guide’ from Google.

Like search ads, SEO captures potential shopper intent.

SEO in action

Content Marketing

Content marketing means delivering valuable content that is highly relevant to your target persona on an ongoing basis so that when customers want to buy, your content will mean they prefer it.

Examples include blog posts, YouTube informational videos, Podcasts, infographics, guides, eBooks

Content Marketing in action

Email Marketing

Newsletters. Email Marketing is cost effective and has a very high return on investment.

You have to set up a process to capture emails and ensure that you have a regular timetable of communication with your email ‘list’ or database.

See the activity later this week for more on the topic of email.

Email Marketing in action

Display Advertising

Display advertising is the visual-based ads you do on websites, blogs, watching a video on YouTube.

You can buy display advertising through platforms such as the Google Display Network. Display is great for building brand awareness – but not so good for getting clicks directly to your store – as digital campaigns can be broadcast to shoppers that are not relevant to you.

With display advertising, you can target both target customers and context. In other words, you can target specific groups of shoppers and within certain types of content.

Apple Display Advertisement in action Stitch Fix Advertisement in action

Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is different to Google AdWords. Unlike Google Advertising (also called ‘paid search’!) which helps businesses find new customers via keywords, paid social helps users find products and brands based on the things they’re interested in.

Another way to put this is that AdWords helps you find new customers, while Social Media advertising helps new customers find you.

Given that one of the bigger barriers for any new store is brand awareness, then social media advertising is one of the best for this.

Note, you can use social media to simply acquire customers through advertising AND through using your company pages on the likes of Facebook or Tik Tok to drive visitors to your site. This is called ‘organic’ reach – but this is VERY low. Facebook and Instagram are ‘pay to play’ media.

You may read or hear lots of stories about brands ‘going viral’ on TikTok, Instagram or Twitter. Whilst these are great fun to read about, in practice, they are much more random than you random OR they are paid for by companies with big marketing budgets. Either way, do NOT count on ‘going viral’

Social Media Marketing in action

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