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Updated Nov 16, 2023

Why Your E-Commerce Marketing Campaign Failed

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

Ronald Dod, Community Member
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E-commerce marketing campaigns balance art and science, combining creative elements like visuals and copy with data analytics. This blend of creativity and data can be complex — and if not planned properly, can lead to failure.

Quick fixes and new strategies won’t lead to increased sales unless you look deeply at your marketing efforts and analyze the root causes of past failures. Here are five common reasons behind the downfall of e-commerce digital marketing campaigns. 

Why e-commerce marketing campaigns fail

1. Premature campaign termination

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

This idea 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 these efforts can generate, they terminate the campaign prematurely if they do not immediately see the desired results. That doesn’t give their campaign a chance to gain traction. 

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

However, the truth 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, which means they will need to test and tweak different elements to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what simply requires enhancements.

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 that its success can be measured.

TipBottom line
Establishing SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely — goals can help an e-commerce campaign succeed.

2. Bad merchandising

The merchandising you deploy is just as important as the campaign itself. Merchandising is the process of promoting and selling products, presenting them in a visually positive light to encourage purchases.

Retailers must find a balance in describing what sets their products apart from the competition and detailing its benefits without veering into deception or inaccuracy, which will drive buyers away.

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

When merchants don’t create a proper campaign budget, they may feel averse to experimentation. But experimentation is a marketing necessity because it takes trial and error to target the right consumers, home in on the right message, and test out similar campaign components to see which ones work 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 only have a small experimental budget and their campaign 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) must fail in order to find out what works.

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

Build in a generous budget for experimentation for your marketing campaigns to optimize their campaign and generate a meaningful ROI.

4. A close-minded perspective

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

When you’re trying to build a successful marketing campaign, check your ego at the door. It is critical to gain input from all parties involved, including vendors, employees and customers.

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. It’s imperative to identify the most significant marketing metrics for a business’s campaign aims and overall objectives.

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. Place the input of various other campaign players and objective campaign data analysis before individual 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 same well-worn path their rivals do.

But playing things safe and only following in the footsteps of others means that you’ll 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 to experiment with new tactics, strategies and approaches to e-commerce marketing, and attempt to set yourself apart from all others in your niche.

The second way 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 try to push the envelope of what they think their team can accomplish and aim for excellence each and every time. [Read more about how to choose a digital marketing strategy.]

How to create a successful e-commerce marketing campaign

Businesses have multiple options when choosing an e-commerce marketing campaign. Recent successful ventures have focused on data-driven campaigns promoted via social media. These initiatives support a concentrated effort that directs consumers toward an intended action, and can also shed light on a brand’s personality and identity. 

The goal is to convert viewers into loyal consumers and supporters. After you launch a marketing campaign, it’s crucial not to leave it stagnant — continue to nurture it and make ongoing adjustments. The following steps can help ensure success:

  • Conduct research. Spend time getting to know your target audience. Understanding current market trends will help you better reach and engage your intended group. 
  • Establish your campaign goal and metrics for success. Develop clear, measurable goals by listing what KPIs will be used to measure progress. This step will define your campaign’s end goal. 
  • Design appealing, relevant content. Share content that can easily be digested. A successful campaign should offer a hook, such as a discount, free trial or exclusive offer.
  • Launch your campaign. The work doesn’t stop when a campaign goes public. Be willing to make changes and respond to feedback proactively. 
  • Analyze the results. Data is your friend, and the information you take away from a campaign can help make the next one even more successful. As time goes on, continue to nurture leads produced from each campaign. 
FYIDid you know
Lead generation can be used on campaigns and marketing initiatives. Adding a call to action (CTA) on social account posts or drip emails can help generate more leads and insightful data.

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 percent of the time. Failures are the perfect opportunity to establish what went wrong and alter future campaigns to avoid the same mistakes.

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

Ronald Dod contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Ronald Dod, Community 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.
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