eCommerce presents many opportunities for marketing professionals. If you want to make the most of these opportunities you must first learn eCommerce.
When I first started my career (20 years ago), I received an MSC degree in eCommerce, in an effort to learn how the industry worked.
But with today’s resources, it is far easier to learn everything about eCommerce.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best way to learn eCommerce — no college degree required.What is eCommerce?
eCommerce is the process of buying and selling physical goods through digital sales channels.
In traditional commerce, businesses make their products available in physical stores, often referred to as brick-and-mortar stores.
Customers peruse the store examining the products they are interested in and eventually purchase the items.
eCommerce functions in a similar manner. Instead of a physical store, eCommerce companies list their products on a website. This website could be their own store or it could be a third-party marketplace like Amazon.
Customers browse the online catalog, add items to their virtual shopping cart and complete the purchase by entering their billing details into the payment gateway.How to Learn eCommerce Online
These are the 10 steps to follow to learn eCommerce from scratch.
The first step to learning everything about eCommerce is to take a good eCommerce course (or several).
Courses bring all the material you need to learn a subject together into a single resource. This way, you don’t have to scour the internet reading random article after article.
A good eCommerce course is taught by someone with plenty of eCommerce experience. This ensures that what you learn can be used in real-life scenarios.
Many courses also provide a professional certification upon completion. An eCommerce certification can help prove your knowledge and skills and can boost your credibility in the industry.
An example of a solid eCommerce course is the eCommerce SEO Course by Reliablesoft Academy.
It teaches you everything you need to know about SEO for your eCommerce store. With it, you’ll learn techniques to drive consistent, high-quality traffic to your website.
If you want to work in eCommerce, you’ll need to know how to build an online store.
Companies may be moving to an omnichannel approach, but having your own store is essential to any eCommerce business.
Some of the benefits of having your own eCommerce site include:
Complete control over branding and the user experience – When you own the eCommerce site you decide the design elements and what features to add.
Higher margins per sale – When you sell products through your own site you do not need to pay any commissions or fees to a third-party marketplace.
Better analytics – With your own website, you can collect more data about your customers and web traffic. This data helps you optimize your shopping experience to yield better results.
More marketing opportunities – Your own eCommerce store gives you a better chance to rank in search engines and gain organic traffic. You can also collect email addresses and retarget previous visitors through ad campaigns.
Along with a domain name, building an eCommerce store requires web hosting and an eCommerce platform.
These two often come together depending on the solution that you choose.
Here are some of the best platforms for building eCommerce websites:
Shopify – Shopify is a popular eCommerce platform known for its ease of use and robust set of eCommerce features. The platform is a hosted solution meaning that Shopify handles all the technical aspects of managing web hosting for the site.Shopify
WooCommerce – WooCommerce is an open-source platform that runs as a plugin on the WordPress CMS. Unlike Shopify, it is a self-hosted solution. This means that the store owner is responsible for setting up and managing web hosting. The platform is less beginner-friendly than a solution like Shopify. But because it is open-source, it offers unlimited options for customizations.woocommerce
BigCommerce – BigCommerce is a hosted eCommerce platform similar to Shopify. It is often regarded as being slightly more difficult to use but offers more eCommerce features out of the box. The platform excels when it comes to SEO and selling through multiple channels.Bigcommerce
After you set up web hosting and an eCommerce platform, you’ll need to complete the following steps to get your store up and running:
Amazon is a widely popular online marketplace and a great sales channel for eCommerce businesses.
Most consumers begin their search for a product on Amazon. Companies who sell through the marketplace have an opportunity to reach a much larger audience than selling through their own site alone.
The first step to selling on Amazon is to create a seller’s account. You’ll have the option to choose between an individual account and a professional account.
The difference between the two is the fees that are charged. Individual accounts have an item fee for every product sold. Professional accounts do not have an item fee but have a monthly subscription fee.
Once you create your account, you can begin listing your products on Amazon. Most categories are open meaning you do not need the approval to sell those types of items.Selling on Amazon Statistics
Others are “restricted” and you’ll need to meet certain qualifications and get approval.
Amazon also requires all products on its marketplace to have universal product codes (UPC). If your products do not already have them, you need to get them.
You’ll also need to choose your order fulfillment method. There are two primary options:
Fulfilled by merchant (FBM) – With this fulfillment method, you store your products yourself. When a customer places an order, you are responsible for shipping them the products.
Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) – With this fulfillment method, you send your products to Amazon who then stores them (for a fee). When a customer places an order, Amazon will ship them the product.
There are several major benefits to using FBA for your fulfillment method:
Amazon Prime – FBA products are eligible for Amazon’s Prime 2-day shipping.
Better buy box opportunities – The buy box is the area of the product page with the add-to-cart and buy now buttons. When there are multiple sellers of a single product, whoever is listed as the featured seller in the “buy box” will be rewarded the sale. Products with FBA are favored over those fulfilled by merchants.
Amazon handles customer support – With FBA, Amazon will handle returns or any other issues that arise during the fulfillment process.
As an Amazon seller, you need to know how to optimize your product listings. Amazon has its own search engine and algorithm used to surface products throughout the shopping experience.
The way you use keywords on your product pages will impact how much organic traffic you can get on the marketplace.
You’ll also need to know how to run effective ad campaigns on Amazon’s ad platform. The most important types of ads to master are:
There are several high-quality Amazon courses you can use to quickly learn how the marketplace works.
The best options are:
Amazon also provides plenty of its own resources to help sellers learn their way around.4. Learn SEO and eCommerce SEO
Next, you’ll want to learn the ins and outs of SEO to be able to drive organic traffic to your store.
Organic traffic is critical to eCommerce businesses as it yields the highest ROI of any type of eCommerce marketing.
This is largely to do with the fact that you don’t have to pay for SEO, unlike digital advertising.
Once you get your pages to rank, you get a steady flow of traffic that can lead to consistent sales.
Now, as you begin to learn about SEO, you’ll need to know the differences between SEO and eCommerce SEO.
They share the same objective of ranking for keywords within search engines but require different techniques to do so.
SEO for non-commerce sites is often simpler than that of eCommerce sites. There are fewer pages to optimize and these pages are generally made up of just written content.
eCommerce pages are more complex with products, images, and shopping cart functionality.
The site architecture is also more complex when you have a massive catalog of products and categories nested within each other.
Numerous products could often rank for the same keywords. You must choose which products to focus on while ensuring the other products don’t cannibalize the page authority.
Additionally, creating unique content for all your pages can be challenging when you have a lot of products.
These are the important areas of eCommerce SEO you’ll need to master and a brief overview of what they entail:
When doing keyword research for an eCommerce website, your goal is to find the search terms you want to rank for.
Different keyword research tools will give you the number of searches a term gets and how competitive it is.
You’ll need to assess the buying intent of keywords to ensure that the traffic you receive will lead to purchases.
It is recommended to use your category pages to target head terms. You can then use your product pages to target long-tail keywords.
On-page SEOOff-Page SEO Vs On-Page SEO
This where you optimize your on-page elements including content, images, meta titles and descriptions, and internal linking.
You’ll want to include your target keywords in the product title, descriptions, and image alt text (without overdoing it).
Google takes a number of technical factors into consideration when ranking pages. This includes:
You’ll need to actively monitor these factors and conduct regular technical SEO audits.
Off-page SEO focuses primarily on getting backlinks to your website.
Every website has an authority score that Google weighs when ranking pages. The higher your score, the more likely you are to rank.
You can increase this score by getting backlinks to your site.
When another site links to your website, it sends a signal to Google that you can be trusted and that you have quality content.
Some tactics you can use to get links to your site include:
SEO is important, but you’ll also want to learn how to sell through paid advertising platforms.
Facebook is one of the best ad platforms for eCommerce businesses. There are billions of monthly users and the average advertiser earns a 400% to 450% return on their investment.Facebook Ads have a high ROI.
First, you’ll need to learn your way around Facebook Ads Manager and Business Manager. These are the tools for creating and managing your campaigns.
Some of the important things you’ll need to understand are:
Facebook has a variety of ad types including boosted post ads, video ads, lead ads, and canvas ads.
But as an eCommerce professional, the most important types of ads you’ll need to master are carousel ads and dynamic product ads.
Carousel ads allow you to show off multiple products at once. You can also use them to show multiple angles of the same product.
The ad format displays a set of images (up to 10). Customers can scroll through the images and each has its own CTA button.
Dynamic product ads are remarketing ads that target users who have interacted with your site.Facebook Dynamic Ads
For example, let’s say you have a product called Blue T-shirt.
Joe Smith views the product page for Blue T-shirt but leaves without making a purchase.
With a dynamic product ads campaign enabled, Facebook will run display ads for the product and other similar items in Joe’s newsfeed.
This is done automatically without you needing to manually target the user.
To run dynamic product ads you’ll need to have the Facebook pixel installed and a Facebook catalog uploaded to the Business Manager.
The Facebook catalog is necessary for another critical part of eCommerce marketing — Facebook Shop.
With Facebook Shop, your product catalog is displayed directly on your Facebook page.
You can customize the appearance of the shop to prioritize certain collections.
You can also enable checkout so that customers can complete a purchase directly on Facebook or Instagram.
Once you learn how to sell on Facebook, you’ll want to master running eCommerce marketing campaigns using Google Ads.
Like Facebook, Google has a massive reach and is great for driving high-quality traffic to your store.
Some of the important concepts you’ll need to understand include:
There are a variety of different campaign types. The most relevant for eCommerce are:
These ads appear at the top of Google search results. The ads include a headline, a description, and the ad extensions you have active.
You select the keywords you want to show for and the bid you want to pay for each click.
Display ads are usually image ads that appear across Google and its partners’ websites. They are effective for retargeting your site visitors.
You can use them to show products to people who have taken certain actions on your site.
ShoppingGet free traffic from Google Shopping
These ads are for individual products. They appear on the search results page for relevant keywords, either at the top or on the sidebar.
They also appear in the Shopping tab located at the top of the page. This is known as a comparison-shopping engine.
When you click on the Shopping tab you’ll see a catalog of products similar to that of an online marketplace.
The page contains a mixture of paid and organic results. Naturally, the ads are at the top.
Before you can run Google Shopping campaigns you’ll need to do two things: create a Google Merchant Center account and upload your product feed.
Merchant Center is the platform you’ll use to manage the products for your shopping campaigns.
After you add your products to Merchant Center, you link the account with your Google Ads account and create your campaign.
There are several ways to upload your product feed to Merchant Center including text files, XML files, Google Sheets, or via API.
Many eCommerce platforms also provide apps and plugins to help automatically upload your catalog as a feed.
This is often the most effective option. Besides not having to manually create a spreadsheet or text file, you don’t have to worry about updating your feed when you make changes to your products.
Google has strict requirements about approving products for shopping ads. If any of your product details do not match what is on your site, the product will be ineligible for ads.
Imagine you were running a temporary promotion that altered the price of your products on your site.
If you didn’t make the same changes in the Merchant Center feed, the prices would mismatch and the products would be ineligible.
Using a manual method like a spreadsheet would require you to make the changes in the document and resubmit the feed.
However, with an app or API, the moment you change the product on your site, an updated feed is pushed to Merchant Center.7. Build Conversion Optimization Skills
All the traffic in the world won’t matter if you can’t convert your visitors into sales. This makes conversion rate optimization (CRO) a critical part of eCommerce.
The average eCommerce conversion rate is around 1% to 2%.
If you are at the top end of this range (or higher) you can generate significantly more revenue for your business.
The first step to building CRO skills is to get familiar with your analytics platform. Solutions like Google Analytics will help you see everything that happens on your site.
With these insights, you can see where you need to make improvements in your shopping experience.
For example, let’s say you get a solid amount of people adding products to their cart and going to the checkout page—but most of these people drop off without completing the purchase. This could be a sign that there is something on the page adding friction to the checkout process
Or maybe you’re generating a lot of visitors to your product pages but nobody is adding items to their cart. This could be a sign that your prices are too high or that you don’t have enough images.
Here are some practical ways to improve conversion rates:
A great way to expand your eCommerce knowledge is to actively follow authoritative eCommerce blogs.
These blogs are run by professionals with valuable eCommerce experience. They are updated regularly so that you can stay on top of the latest eCommerce trends.
Here are some of the best reputable eCommerce blogs worth following:
Once you understand the basics of eCommerce you can apply for entry-level positions.
This will allow you to expand your knowledge and skills by working alongside experts. You’ll also gain valuable experience that will help you throughout your career.
One of the best positions for entry-level eCommerce professionals is an eCommerce specialist.
eCommerce specialists create and implement a company’s eCommerce marketing strategy.
The role requires a mixture of technical, analytical, communication, and critical thinking skills.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of an eCommerce specialist include:
Like SEO, email marketing can produce an incredibly high ROI when done effectively. When you get someone on your email list, you can market to them directly — all without any cost.
Email campaigns play a big role in nurturing customers. Most buyers aren’t ready to buy on their first visit.
But with an email campaign, you can continually show them the value of your products until they are ready to buy.
Some of the important parts of email marketing you should understand include:
There are no limits to the types of email campaigns you can create. The most common ones are:
There has never been a better time to learn eCommerce. The industry continues to grow, creating many opportunities for digital marketers.
With today’s resources, you can learn everything about eCommerce online.
The following steps will help you learn eCommerce from scratch:
Enroll in a good eCommerce course – Online courses compile everything you need to know in a single resource. This frees you from wondering what you should study next. Plus, courses provide marketing certifications that can benefit your career.
Learn how to build an eCommerce store – eCommerce stores are important to selling online as they allow you to control the user experience. You’ll want to know how to use solutions like Shopify and WooCommerce to build and manage a store.
Learn how selling on Amazon works – Amazon is the largest eCommerce marketplace and a great place to reach customers. You should know how fulfillment works, how to optimize product listing, and how to run Amazon ads.
Learn SEO and eCommerce SEO – SEO helps you bring organic visitors to your website. You should know the differences between SEO and eCommerce SEO and how to optimize your store for high rankings.
Learn how to sell on Facebook – Facebook provides eCommerce sellers an easy way to reach a large number of customers. You should know how to run carousel and dynamic product ad campaigns. You’ll also want to know how to set up a Facebook product catalog and Facebook Shop.
Learn how to sell Products using Google Ads – The Google advertising platform can bring high-quality traffic to eCommerce stores. You should know how to run search, dynamic, and shopping campaigns. You’ll also want to know how to submit product feeds to Google Merchant Center.
Build conversion optimization skills – Conversion rate optimization helps businesses earn more money. You should know how to use your analytics platforms to find areas for improvement.
Follow reputable eCommerce blogs – Good eCommerce blogs can help you stay up to date with the latest eCommerce trends.
Get an entry-level eCommerce specialist job – Entry-level eCommerce positions are a great way to build your skills while learning from experts.
Learn how to use email marketing to boost sales – Email marketing is a great marketing channel as you don’t have to pay for ads. You should know how to structure campaigns and analyze their performance.