19 of the Best Marketing Channels For Growing Your Ecommerce Brand
February 9, 2023
The right marketing channel for your brand helps land you in front of the right audience. Your selection can mean the difference between getting ignored or going viral, so it’s vital that you choose your marketing channels wisely.
For example, some brands do better on social media, while others excel through search engines.
Handmade resin pieces could perform well on Instagram, but professional and B2B services might benefit more from SEO to find their target audience.
In this article, we’ll break down various marketing channels you can use to scale your brand and how to choose the best one to maximize your reach.
Read on to learn about:
- What marketing channels are
- Different marketing channels to test
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) to track
- How to choose your marketing channels
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What are marketing channels?
A marketing channel is a medium you use to communicate with your audience to convince them to become your customer.
It provides a platform where you nurture relationships, share content, and promote your brand.
Types of marketing channels
Marketing channels can be broken down into four broad categories: digital, traditional, organic, and paid.
These are your online marketing channels. Think about all the ways you discover brands on your mobile phone and desktop computer.
Some examples of digital marketing channels include search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media, and email newsletters.
They’re great for the targeted delivery of written, visual, and audio content. A great digital marketing strategy is vital for any ecommerce brand.
Traditional marketing channels are offline and sometimes feature physical components such as paper flyers, mailers for physical mailboxes, or print magazines.
These channels can take the form of television (TV), radio, direct mail, and billboards. They target diverse and local audiences and serve as alternatives when digital channels become crowded.
Larger brands often utilize these types of channels in addition to digital marketing.
Organic marketing channels are free to use and can overlap with the digital category.
They focus on drawing in fresh leads naturally as well as strengthening your existing consumer base.
Some popular examples are SEO, social media (when not using paid ads), and email.
These channels only cost money to operate when hiring professionals to handle tasks such as web development, content creation, and graphic design.
Paid marketing channels are pay-to-play, meaning they cost money only when visitors interact with them. As such, these channels require financial resources.
For example, social media ads and pay-per-click ads all cost money to run and succeed with.
They’re great for honing in on a specific audience: For instance, you could partner with popular personalities for sponsored influencer marketing, then boost their content on social media.
For brands just getting started, paid marketing is a great shortcut to achieving an online presence quickly before the organic traffic can accumulate.
19 Effective marketing channels to test for your brand
To help you better understand marketing channels, we’ve compiled some examples and their corresponding key performance indicators (KPIs).
But before we delve any further, let’s tackle the most common metrics first. Later, we’ll highlight more specific KPIs that are vital to each channel.
- Leads generated: The number of people who’ve entered your marketing funnel (e.g., did they click on a call-to-action or subscribe to your newsletter?)
- Conversions: Accounts for leads who’ve taken actions that lead to profitable results (for instance, they scheduled a meeting with your sales team or made a purchase)
- Return on investment (ROI) and return on ad spend (ROAS): The overall profitability of your marketing efforts
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC): How much you spend on average to acquire one customer
- Clicks and click-through rate (CTR): The number of people who clicked on your marketing content (indicating how effectively it captured interest)
- Bounce rate: Percentage of people who leave your website after viewing one webpage or the portion of individuals who never receive your marketing emails.
- Engagement: Shows how well your marketing resonates and can be measured through likes, comments, and shares on social media (for in-person and offline channels, it’s indicated by audience participation and increased consumer activity across online platforms)
With these basics covered, we can now move on to the specific marketing channels examples.
1. Content marketing
Content marketing entails creating and distributing original content to your audience through mediums like your website, blog posts, landing pages, and more.
Along with meticulously written copy, content marketing channels incorporate useful and timely visuals like infographics, informational videos, and audio.
You can drive traffic to your content assets through channels like SEO, paid ads, social media, and email marketing.
On the IKEA Ideas page, the Swedish home furnishings and goods brand shows how their products solve homeowners’ typical challenges.
- Traffic: The number of visitors who found your content through your website, socials, and ads
- Total page views: The number of times someone visits a webpage, regardless of whether they have seen it before or not
- Unique page views: The number of times someone visited a webpage for the first time. Unlike the metric above, this one does not double count visits from the same user
- Average time on page: The average amount of time visitors spend on your content
2. Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO involves optimizing your web content to rank high in Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs).
SEO positions you in front of your target audience as well as a portion of Google’s users (who’ve visited the search engine 86.4 billion times in the last month).
Ecommerce brands can optimize their stores for search with tips specific to their particular ecommerce platform (such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or Adobe Commerce).
Dell, for instance, optimized their best practices for laptop care page, and as a result, it ranks first on Google’s SERP for the “laptop care tips” query (at the time of this writing).
- Pages per visit: Average number of pages a visitor views each session
- Time on site: Average time a visitor spends on your website each session
- Page load speed: How fast your webpage loads after clicking—affects SEO and conversions (those that load in one second have three times higher conversion rates than those that load in five, and five times higher than those that load in 10)
3. Video marketing
Videos are highly engaging forms of content that can introduce your brand, educate audiences, and nurture relationships with them.
They’re shareable on platforms like:
- Your website
- Social media
Effective formats vary as well: Short-form videos excel on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram, for instance, while longer ones fare better on YouTube and Vimeo.
Lego maximizes their YouTube channel by pumping out content that engages children and adults alike, as well as running seasonal campaigns on it.
- View count: How many times your video was watched
- Watch time: The total amount of time viewers spent watching your content
- Play rate: The number of people who clicked play (extremely useful for videos embedded on your webpages)
4. Email marketing
Email newsletters deliver content curated according to subscriber preference and email notifications about new launches or sales.
Due to their more focused nature and powerful segmentation options, they’re an effective method for nurturing customer relationships, upselling and cross-selling, and generating loyal shoppers.
In the example above, Heyday uses their newsletter to share a “sick day” skincare routine that consists of different products you can order from their website (with corresponding CTAs).
This is an excellent play for bringing in purchases that wouldn’t have otherwise happened and showing existing customers alternative uses and ways to think about your products.
- Delivery rate: Percentage of people who received your newsletter
- Open rate: Percentage of people who opened your newsletter
- Click-to-open rate: Percentage of subscribers who clicked a link after opening your newsletter
- Unsubscribe rate: Percentage of people who withdrew from your mailing list
5. SMS marketing
This channel features direct text messages sent to new or existing customers and is an efficient way to inform them of sales and shipment updates.
Zippia found that American smartphone users check their phones every 10 minutes or almost 100 times per day.
With such a pervasive presence into consumers’ everyday lives and routines, getting messages directly to mobile phones is one surefire way to catch attention.
Tip: SMS marketing’s direct and personal method incentivizes customers to sign up. However, it should only be used for especially interesting or important messages to avoid being blocked or marked as spam.
This text from Briogeo Hair Care, for instance, showcases a friendly and caring expert reaching out to help a customer look their best.
- Interaction rate: The number of customers who took action—like opening, replying, sharing, or clicking on a link—after receiving your message
- Reply rate: Measures how engaging your messages are by compelling recipients to respond
- Unsubscribe rate: Percentage of people who opted out of your SMS campaign
6. Event marketing
Events can be online or offline, like trade shows, fairs, and product launches.
These types let you present products in person so you can see what works, gather real-time feedback, and understand your audience.
They’re also a rich opportunity to network.
When Magnum opened a pop-up store in New York City in 2016, they let customers have fun by decorating their ice creams, taking photos with backdrops, and sharing them on social media, gaining both online and offline exposure.
- Registrations: Indicates how many attendees were interested and whether you were close to your desired number
- Check-ins: The number of people who showed up
- Survey results: Collected before, during, and after your event, this data reveals why people showed up, what did and didn’t work, and how attendees felt about the event
7. Webinar marketing
These feature live online presentations or meet-ups where attendees can learn about your brand’s products and services.
They’re effective for establishing relationships with audiences, educating them about your industry, and generating leads.
In some cases, you can record webinars in advance to give your audience on-demand access.
HubSpot’s free webinars provide audiences with in-depth looks at the marketing space and also position the brand as an industry authority.
- Registrations vs. actual attendees: Shows how efficient your efforts to acquire participants were
- Replay views: Number of registrants who watched the webinar later
- View duration: Gauges how interesting the content and speakers were
8. Podcast marketing
Podcasts are a great platform to demonstrate your expertise on particular subjects and establish yourself as a major player in your industry.
Those hosted by recognizable personalities in niches similar to yours can even serve as advertising opportunities or simply to engage your audience.
Blue Apron’s Why We Eat What We Eat podcast discusses the psychology behind food trends and other food-related questions.
It’s highly engaging because food is a topic everyone can relate to.
- Downloads: Indicates your podcast’s growth and popularity
- Unique listeners: How many devices downloaded or streamed an episode
- Average listening time: How much of your podcast people listen to
- Ratings and reviews: The overall listener response (serves as a source of first-hand feedback)
- Listener location: Where your audience comes from (helps you better tailor your content)
9. Partnership marketing
In this type of marketing, you collaborate with another brand so their audience becomes aware of your brand. Partnership marketing is ideal between two businesses with similar audiences.
For example, you might collaborate to create an infographic or whitepaper involving both of your brands.
Then, you’d publish under a joint distribution strategy, sharing the content piece (hosted on either your or their website—but not both to avoid duplicate content) across your newsletters, social media channels, and more.
You might even decide to partner on a new product, such as Uniqlo collaborating with hit TV series SPY x FAMILY on their graphic t-shirt series.
Another example of partner marketing comes from building a product or experience together. Uber and Spotify’s Your Ride, Your Music partner campaign in 2014 let riders become the DJ of their trip.
Though both brands had different products to spotlight, they were able to meet a similar goal of providing better experiences and growing user interest.
Tip: Look for a partner that is brand-adjacent, and avoid working with anyone that might turn into a direct competitor. For example, a t-shirt company can collaborate with a shoe brand but should avoid working with a sweater retailer that also sells shirts.
- Customer lifetime value (CLV): The total value a customer brings throughout their relationships with your brand
- Partner engagement: Reveals how motivated and invested in your brand your partner is through how actively they participate in campaigns and attend meetings
10. Social media marketing
This marketing channel simply involves you posting content and engaging with audiences on social platforms such as:
The effectiveness of your content depends on your chosen platform, but it positions you in front of the right people and helps you build a community of advocates.
Short-form videos thrive on TikTok, for instance, while high-quality images do well on Instagram, so it’s important to match the content to the right platform.
Starbucks launched their 2015 Christmas campaign called the #RedCupContest, where customers took photos of their Christmas-themed cups.
The company then chose five winners to receive $500 gift cards. The campaign drove their holiday sales and generated tens of thousands of posts.
- Reach: The number of people who saw your content—measured for the whole campaign and/or per individual post
- Impressions: How many times people saw your content
- Audience growth rate: Reveals how your efforts improved your social media following
- Response rate: The percentage of comments and messages you responded to (reveals how well you handled the customer experience)
11. Influencer marketing
As the name implies, influencer marketing entails working with a well-known influencer, creator, or personality in your niche to promote your brand.
Your target audience trusts them, and it exposes you to the personality’s following—a portion of whom may not know you.
Beauty brand A.P. CHEM shared an endorsement from Adam Livermore, who’s well-known in the industry.
He demonstrated how the brand’s moisturizer worked and praised it based on personal experience.
Most KPIs for influencer marketing are similar to those of social media marketing, but there are some unique ones to monitor:
- Follower count and estimated reach: The scope of an individual’s influence (helps you select one for your campaign)
- Branded content frequency: How much sponsored content an influencer shares; too much can create a reputation for being a paid advertiser, which hurts your credibility
- Influencer engagement rate (IER): The number of followers an influencer had when they shared your branded content compared to the number of engagements
12. Referral or word-of-mouth marketing
Recommendations or referrals from customers is another way of growing your business.
This involves incentivizing existing customers who point new shoppers your way, like offering a gift card or a discount.
Mattress brand Casper developed a referral program that rewards both the customer and their referee.
It offers people the chance to earn a $75 Amazon gift card while their friend can redeem a 25% discount.
- Participant conversion rate: The number of unique visitors who turned into participants
- Participant share rate: The average number of unique shares each participant sent out
- Invitation CTR: The percentage of people who clicked on a participant’s invitation
- Invitation conversion rate: The percentage of people who accepted invites, then became participants
- Referral revenue: The number of sales you earned from referrals
13. Community marketing
Nurturing relationships with your target audience by offering value first is another excellent marketing approach.
One excellent marketing channel to do this is through communities such as on Slack, in social media groups, or on your own app or customer portals.
Because you provide content that helps your community succeed, you can boost brand awareness and create brand advocates as a result.
When you build communities, you can also leverage the benefit of having your own community assist, engage with, and sell to others in the space.
You might find some of your best testimonials are shared from one buyer in your community to another, and you can even peek into how they recommend using your product.
Communities give you insight into the lifestyles of your target audience, what they love (and dislike) about your products, how eager they are to share their experiences with others, and much more.
Nike’s Run Club lets runners connect with friends and others in their neighborhood or anywhere around the world through their app.
They can tackle challenges and enjoy experiences together, then share them with family, friends, or other members.
- Category conversations: The increase (if any) in conversations about a specific product category after campaign execution
- Brand mentions: The number of times your brand was mentioned in conversations once the campaign began
- User-generated content (UGC): The amount of original content about your brand that community members posted
- Brand associations: The number of conversations that were in any way related to your brand
14. Affiliate marketing
This involves having partners or affiliates who your audience trusts market your brand, products, and services through their website or blogs and placing links to specific pages.
They then earn commissions when readers click through the links and make a purchase.
Amazon Associates is the ecommerce giant’s affiliate program where affiliates can sign up to recommend products and earn commissions from them.
This has helped Amazon grow, with 53% of the company’s sales coming from affiliate marketing.
- Sales per affiliate: The number of sales from individual affiliates (however, what products sell can vary for each one)
- Total revenue per affiliate: A better indicator of each affiliate’s overall performance
- Cost per affiliate sale: Amount spent to secure each sale
- Percentage of active affiliates: The portion of your total affiliates who work to generate leads or sales
15. Pay-per-click (PPC)/Paid ads
PPC advertising is a simple form of paid acquisition marketing where you incur an expense every time someone clicks on your ad.
It’s common on search engines like Google, where PPC ads appear on top of the SERP, increasing visibility for specific search queries.
Paid social ads also function similarly, helping you schedule and post targeted ads that appear on your target audience’s feed. Some forms use a PPC model as well.
Copper Cow Coffee leverages paid social ads on Facebook and Instagram, where viewers are presented with a short video that highlights the brand’s key selling points.
Top brands then send this traffic to landing pages with messaging that matches the intent of the ad.
- Cost-per-click (CPC): The amount you spent for each click
- Impression shares: Your ad’s percentage of total potential impressions; say your keyword was searched 10K times, but the ad was displayed 6K times—this indicates a 60% impression share
- Average position: Your ad’s rank compared to others on SERPs
- Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): The amount you paid Google after your ad achieved 1K impressions, which can be cheaper than paying for clicks
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Television is a traditional medium that presents your brand to a broader audience.
Depending on the channel or network, it can also reach specific locales. You can market through commercials, home shopping, or product placements in shows.
Cricket Wireless, a prepaid service provider, showcased testimonials from loyal customers through a TV advertisement.
They even included a voice-acted company mascot.
- Reach: The number of people in your target audience who were exposed to your ad
- Gross rating points (GRP): How frequently audiences were exposed to your ad over a period of time
Note: Proper measurement for TV may require the assistance of a specialized company like Nielsen.
This is another traditional channel that, depending on the station, can expose you to either various audiences or more targeted demographics.
Radio can feature you on live interviews or simply be used as an advertising platform.
Juna Sleep Systems, a Sioux Falls City-based mattress producer, took advantage of radio to deliver an advertisement aimed at the city’s residents.
- Reach: The number of listeners exposed to your radio ad
- Sales: An increase in leads upon radio ad launch, outside of the expected trajectory
- Website visits: An increase in website visitors, particularly to your homepage or from direct traffic (if your ad mentions your URL)
18. Conversational marketing
This entails engaging existing and potential customers in real-time conversations through your website’s live chat, chatbots, social media, or messaging apps.
The aim is to enhance people’s experiences with your brand, whether it be through your website or whatever platform your audiences use to communicate with you.
Kit and subscription box brand Cocktail Courier uses Twitter to converse regularly with customers and other users.
In the above screenshot, they joined a conversation that guided someone interested in the brand’s recipes toward their website.
- Lead or customer response rate: The ratio between your outbound and inbound communications (high response rates indicate good performance)
- Average order value (AOV): How much each customer spent per order through your store
- CLV: The improvement (if any) in customer loyalty and retention
19. Print and billboards
Like the previous traditional channels, print and billboards are effective means of connecting with local, yet diverse, audiences.
Brochures are great if you have physical stores since you can offer them in person. Meanwhile, billboards are superb for getting your brand name in front of more eyes.
The yogurt brand Chobani, for instance, rented billboards for a branding campaign that shared Twitter testimonials across 11 states and 60 locations.
- Reach: The number of people in your chosen locale exposed to your physical advertisements
Which marketing channel is right for you?
Now that you know the many marketing channels available, the next step is choosing the right one for your brand.
This will vary depending on multiple factors. For instance:
- 89% of B2B marketers actually use LinkedIn for lead generation
- 98% of fashion brands lean on Instagram to generate exposure
- Home appliances, cars, and hard-to-find products should use PPC advertising
Review the following key considerations to make the best decision for your company.
Before selecting a channel, establish what you want to achieve.
You need clear, well-thought-out goals to measure the success of your efforts. They serve as foundations for your marketing strategy, allowing you to determine the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your objective.
- If you want to engage with younger demographics and strengthen relationships with existing customers, social media is a great choice.
- If you want to present your brand to a broader range of audiences, television can boost awareness.
Your budget is the lifeblood of your marketing efforts.
It dictates how much you can do, so set a realistic limit that still leaves room for creativity. However, the amount you can spend depends on the channel you’ve chosen:
- For influencer marketing, endorsements from those with large followings will cost more. Micro-influencers, meanwhile, are less expensive and reach more specific niches.
- PPC advertising expenses directly relate to how many people interact with your ad.
- Content marketing and SEO require your own website, copywriters, and content managers, among other roles, which means spending on digital assets and workforce.
- Maintaining a consistent and engaging marketing presence on social media and being responsive to your audience also necessitate dedicated staff.
What’s most important is that you achieve a solid return on your investment. So, be responsible with your spending and aim to maximize it.
Knowing when and where best to engage with your audience is critical to your marketing success.
You want to present your marketing efforts at the most opportune moments on any given platform.
For example, younger audiences like Gen Zers spend a lot of time on social platforms, including Instagram and TikTok. Many love to consume content on YouTube as well.
However, if you target professionals like managers and executives, Linkedin should be your go-to choice.
Learning what works for your direct competitors is another great way to identify the right marketing channels for your brand.
Find out where they’re most active to give you a general direction; looking at their most active spots will point you toward channels that are more likely to benefit your business.
The right channels determine your marketing success
The number of viable marketing channels is vast, and it can be difficult to determine which ones will play to your strengths.
To cap off this article, here are some key takeaways that’ll simplify your decision-making:
- Have clear and measurable goals
- Know your audience and their platforms
- Identify what works for your competitors
- Start detailing your budget from there
Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your target audience and what works best for them, you will be able to build a marketing engine that drives traffic and conversions.
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Rachel is a remote marketing manager with a background in building scalable content engines. She creates content that wins customers for B2B ecommerce companies like MyFBAPrep, Shogun, and more. In the past, she has scaled organic acquisition efforts for companies like Deliverr and Skubana.