E-Commerce - Will inbound work for me?

Nikita Smits by Nikita Smits   19 Jan


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“Will inbound marketing work for me?” is what just about every e-commerce business asks when we first review a marketing plan. The simple answer is yes. Inbound marketing for e-commerce boils down to the same four stages as defined by HubSpot; Attract, Convert, Close and Delight.

inbound marketing e-commerce methodology


As an e-commerce business you can even make significant improvements by focussing on those two last stages of the buyer journey. According to the Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent. In this blog post, I’ll look at how you can really leverage retention and community to make gains in your close and delight stages of the buyer journey.

Building on your brand

Before we jump into the topic in details, we have to look at your brand. See this as the foundation to get right in order to win on retention.

When building a brand and it’s community you have to go beyond ‘renting attention’ through advertising. Establish your brand story and answer a number of fundamental questions:

  1. What is your company’s personality?
  2. What are the most important attributes of your company?
  3. What values do you hold?
  4. What do you aspire to be?

Once you do this, you can build a marketing machine where you align every aspect of your communication to this identity, whether you are re-engaging a customer or whether you answer a question on social media.  Keep in mind that good brands are grounded in authenticity.


Brand community and user generated content

Your community

When you establish your brand’s identity and it resonates with your customers you can build a community. You’ll be amazed about
how many customers will create content with your products. One of the strongest examples I’ve ever come across is BlackMilk clothing, an australian clothes brand.

The owner started sewing leggings as a hobby in 2009 and attempted to sell some leggings on markets and local shops. His efforts were unsuccessful but he kept receiving orders via his blog. BlackMilk creates leggings, tops and dresses with bright prints. Customers call themselves Sharkies and the amount of Facebook groups, instagram posts and offline meetings are ever growing.

This army of customers has from the early days on created amazing content showing off their products - It’s a like crossfit, you can’t have a friend who is into it without having tried it yourself. I may or may not own a pair of leggings after striking up a friendship with a devoted customer.

Working within the close and delight stages of your buyer journey, you can quickly see how inbound and all its tools allow you to achieve significant growth.


Considering the improvement in profit when you invest in customer retention, remarketing becomes one of the most effective tactics to improve the profitability or lifetime value of your customers. And, guess what, it works with inbound!  

Define who you are marketing to.

You have a lot of data available about your customers. Building lists starts with defining your selection criteria.


Ecommerce inbound marketing email An example from & Other Stories. I might convert on sales emails but I’ll always walk away with full price items. As a fashionable high-street retailer they do a great job filtering trends and offering items out of their current collection featuring these trends. The content is visually appealing. They open with a model wearing the look, describe the trend and showcase various products.
  1. Consistent shoppers: These are your loyal customers, they visit your website consistently and they make regular purchases. They might show a clear pattern of replacement items and you’ll be able to gather product recommendations based on their past purchases.
  2. Value shoppers: These shoppers return at sale time and they love discounts or bargains. They will likely engage with coupons or discount codes.
  3. Premium shoppersLook at the 10% of customers who have the highest total spend in your store. These shoppers are likely your biggest fans and therefore a potentially powerful marketing channel and it is worth investing in these customers. Unlike your value shoppers they might not respond to sale communication but they will engage with VIP content and offers.
  4. One-Time shoppers: These shoppers will not likely revisit your store by themselves. They’ll purchase an item every now and then when they need something or when they are treating themselves. You might find them by looking for customers who’ve selected the option to gift-wrap an item.

Website and order data

Mine your website and your order system for data. Find shoppers who return regularly or who fit a specific spending pattern. Ideally your marketing database and e-commerce store are connected and you are able to share purchase information so it is easy to create lists based on behaviour or product selection. 

If a shopper has browsed a category several times over the past week chances are they are looking to make a purchase. This information should be used to score these shoppers and add them to cross-sell nurturing lists on those products.

Additionally, if you are looking for information on your shoppers, ask! Always consider the effort a website visitor has to go through and what they will get in return. Forms with questions can be very simple or go more in depth. Just make sure that if you ask your customer to share detailed information, you follow through and offer them a personalised experience. 


Make sure to integrate your marketing database with your e-commerce solution so you can deliver an attribution report after your campaign ends. Continuously monitor if your workflows are converting your customers of if you can personalise them more. Leverage website and purchase behaviour to optimise your offers.

It’s delightion

“Delightion” is a term often used by HubSpot when talking about being customer focused and really driven to deliver great experiences through inbound. In e-commerce it’s all about delighting customer to a point of sheer “delightion” so that they become part of your community, refer you and return to you. Take on the ideas above in your e-commerce business, and start seeing results.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

Nikita Smits

Written by Nikita Smits

Marketing strategist and GDPR specialist. Nikita was one of the founding members of BusinessBrew but is currently working as a digital marketing specialist at a Copenhagen startup.