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Why Your E-Commerce Marketing Campaign Failed

Ronald Dod
Ronald Dod

Check out these common reasons why many e-commerce marketing efforts don't deliver.

E-commerce marketing campaigns live somewhere between art and science. They blend together creative elements such as images, color schemes, creative copy, and similarly imaginative elements with hard numbers, behavioral analysis, and other definitive measurements.

Because digital marketing is both creative and analytic, it can be challenging for many to grasp. As a result, most marketing campaigns fail.

While there are certain elements that can cause failure in e-commerce marketing efforts – lack of visibility, improper targeting, poor messaging and the like – often there are larger, more systemic issues underlying the utter lack of positive results.

However, the most significant root problem is a lack of awareness about the issues that plague an e-commerce marketing effort. If there are deeper issues than messaging and targeting, but business owners attribute the failure to the symptoms instead of the cause, no amount of adjustments to e-commerce marketing strategies will boost sales.

In an effort to help marketers dig deep and take an honest and objective look behind the curtain of many e-commerce digital marketing failures, today, we will explore the five most common causes of campaign collapse.

1. Premature campaign termination

There are scores of sellers out there who think that with all the tools available to marketers, that developing a successful campaign is easy. Just target the right folks on Facebook, slap an appealing image on an advert and, voila, sales will start pouring into the store.

This is far from the reality of cultivating a campaign that converts. Because many merchants have an unrealistic notion of what goes into building a successful campaign and the results that the effort can generate, if they do not immediately begin seeing the desired results, they will prematurely terminate the campaign before it has a chance to gain traction.

This kind of short-term thinking often results in failed e-commerce marketing campaigns as merchants feel that sinking more time and money into the effort would be unwise.

However, the fact of the matter is that marketing campaigns take time to succeed. Most times, advertisers and promoters don't have the exact formula for positive results dialed-in from the launch, meaning that they will need to test and tweak things to understand what works, what doesn't and what simply requires enhancements.

Therefore, the best way to approach an e-commerce marketing push is to set SMART campaign goals before the launch. This can help ensure that a campaign has the time required to hit its objectives, and success can be measured in a definitive manner.

2. Bad merchandising

Equally as important as the campaign itself is the merchandising which is deployed. According to Shopify, merchandising is defined as the process of promoting and selling products, presenting said products in a visually positive light in an attempt to promote purchases. 

The fact of the matter is that retailers must find a balance in speaking about the benefits received by their products, what sets those items apart from similar merchandise and an accurate portrayal of the product that does not deceive potential buyers.

The bottom line here is that merchants must not overpromise and underdeliver. No matter if the marketing campaign is a smashing success, if consumers end up disappointed in their purchase, the word will quickly spread and the blowback will be phenomenally negative.

While marketers do not always have control over the quality of a product, they do have control over how the item is portrayed to consumers. Therefore, it is critical that campaigns do not oversell a product's abilities or make promises that cannot be fulfilled.

That said, it is important to paint an item in the most favorable light possible. Don't sell a product short out of fear as this could have equally detrimental campaign impacts.

3. Not enough experimentation

This point is intimately tied with the first section on premature campaign termination.

When merchants don't create a proper campaign budget, this often results in an aversion to experimentation. In reality, experimentation is a marketing necessity as merchants must go through a bit of a process of trial and error in targeting the right consumers, honing in on the right messaging and testing out similar campaign components to see what works best. This is at the heart of what it means to A/B test advertising efforts. Without the wiggle room to experiment and test out different elements, a campaign is destined to walk a well-worn path and generate mediocre results, at best.

Additionally, when marketers are only given a small experimental budget and it doesn't immediately produce prosperous results, retailers can end up prematurely writing the experiment off as a failure instead of progress. 

Experimentation means that failures are already written into the design. Sometimes, marketers (and businesses more broadly) must fail in order to find out what works.

For instance, if a retailer is trying to increase traffic to their website, it may be necessary to experiment with PPC advertising, only to examine the data and find that content production is actually a more fruitful path to follow.

The bottom line here is that merchants must build in a generous budget for experimentation if they are to optimize their campaign and generate a meaningful ROI.

4. A closed-minded perspective

Sometimes, the failure of a marketing campaign all comes down to mindset. Too often, retailers will come up with an idea that they are adamant will work, but reality proves quite the opposite. Nonetheless, they insist on continuing to move forward with the concept.

When it comes to building a successful marketing campaign, egos must be checked at the door. Moreover, it is critical to gain input from all parties involved, including vendors, employees, customers and the like.

Moreover, in the digital age of marketing, data has become the guiding light for all campaigns. A data-driven approach is a necessity in today's marketing ecosystem. Therefore, it is imperative to identify the most important marketing metrics for a business's campaign aims and overall objectives.

The point here is that flexibility is key to developing a winning marketing campaign. While an idea might sound fantastic on paper, it may not work so well in practice. Therefore, considering the input of various other campaign players and objectively analyzing campaign data should come before an individual's pride or insistence.

Only marketers who listen, experiment and willingly try new approaches can compete in the aggressive e-commerce marketing ecosystem.

5. Unwillingness to push into new territory

Finally, the last reason why so many e-commerce marketing campaigns fail is an unwillingness to challenge the status quo.

This shortcoming manifests in two distinct ways. First, e-commerce marketers neglect to innovate. Instead of trying new tactics and ideas (which comes back to the point about experimentation), they trend the well-worn path beaten by their rivals.

The fact of the matter is that playing things safe and only following in the footsteps of others means that merchants will always be playing second fiddle to other brands. In the end, those companies will likely take up enough market share to shutter their competition.

Therefore, it is critical that merchants experiment with new tactics, strategies and approaches to e-commerce marketing, and attempt to set themselves apart from all others in their niche.

The second way that this misstep materializes is a failure to challenge vendors and team members to be the absolute best the industry has to offer. Plainly put, average teams run average campaigns that produce average results. Instead, marketers should be trying to push the envelope of what they think their team can accomplish, thereby aiming for excellence each and every time.

In the end, one of the most important lessons that e-commerce marketers can learn is to not dwell on their failures, but learn from them. No promoter or business succeeds 100% of the time. Failures are the perfect opportunity to establish what went wrong and alter future campaigns not to make the same mistakes.

However, merchants need not fail unnecessarily, either. Take these five lessons to heart and improve the chances that your next e-commerce marketing campaign will succeed.

Image Credit: Sushiman / Getty Images
Ronald Dod
Ronald Dod Member
I am the chief marketing officer and co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end e-commerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. My passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.