E-commerce Marketing: Little-to-no-budget Ideas to Promote Your Online Store

Illustration by Hellocron on dribbble

In today’s increasingly competitive e-commerce landscape, it is harder to stand out and establish an online presence.

The cost of paid advertising is going up each year. However, it is reaching fewer consumers.

Brands large and small have decreased their budgets on digital ad spending yet have reported no changes in sales.

Small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses that don’t have much budget to spend on paid digital advertising should consider other free marketing ideas for small businesses.

Therefore, we have compiled a short but sweet list of the best free marketing ideas to promote your e-commerce store.

Whether you have recently set up your e-commerce business or thinking about starting one, getting the word out there to create brand awareness is the number one thing to start with.

As a small or new business owner, marketing budgets are likely to be tight; therefore, let’s explore some great ways to increase awareness, increase conversions, and attract new customers.

Excellent free marketing ideas to boost your online sales

If you are a business selling products or services, even if you don’t have the budget for paid digital marketing campaigns, you can instead offer freebies, that is, if your margins allow it.

It creates both product awareness and brand awareness and can increase word-of-mouth marketing.

1. Make your social media content shoppable

Social commerce has been gaining popularity among small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses in the past couple of years.

An excellent and low-cost way to increase your online shop sales is through creating speed and convenience for customers.

What is more, social media shopping is a rapidly growing trend, and most platforms are now capitalizing on combining product research, browsing, and shopping all in one place.

If you are on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed images with clickable links directly on the content — that’s shoppable content.

Shoppable content is where customers can click on the images and land directly on the product page of that very same item, where they can purchase it without having to find it separately.

Doing so can marginally boost sales and is completely free.

For example, sports clothing brand Alo Moves has made all of its content shoppable to offer convenience and speed to its customers and increase sales.

2. Encourage user-generated content (UGC) for free marketing

When making a purchasing decision, 90% of consumers have held more value in what other customers say over marketing campaigns, found a study by TurnTo Networks.

Therefore, promoting a brand through user-generated content is gaining popularity, and it is an excellent low-cost or free marketing idea for startups.

For example, eyewear company Warby Parker leveraged user-generated content in their #warbyhometryon campaign.

An online store selling glasses sends several pairs to customers to try on at home.

They encouraged people to post an Instagram post with the #warbyhometryon hashtag — the result was thousands of new followers and new user content.

3. Set up social media accounts across all platforms as a free marketing tool

People across all demographics are now on social media, and in 2022, these platforms as a marketing tool shouldn’t be ignored by any online business.

Social media can be an excellent free marketing tool that can work wonders on those sales numbers.

For example, small accessory brand XXL Scrunchie from Canada set up their business accounts across all platforms and reported great organic results after launching her TikTok account.

On XXL Scrunchie TikTok’s business account, she takes a different approach to content by posting real-life videos of the production process and “in the making” clips.

As a small business owner, she also has her vlog on YouTube.

She is active across all other social media platforms, including Instagram that she leverages as a free marketing tool.

Not only does it increase brand awareness, but it also creates trust.

Read more: 4 Effective Methods to Create Product Videos for e-Commerce

4. Develop a loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs are another great way to promote and grow your e-commerce business sales.

Customer loyalty programs reward existing customers for their repeat purchases.

As many as 84% of consumers have said they are more likely to buy again from a brand or business that offers a loyalty program.

Customers would receive and collect points after each purchase, after which they are rewarded with a freebie; this encourages consumers to keep coming back.

What is more, loyalty programs can come in many forms depending on the product or service that the business is offering.

For instance, they can come in the form of a discount, collecting points in exchange for a free item or gift, exclusive access, or other perks like free shipping or express delivery.

It strengthens the customer relationship and increases customer advocacy, in turn increasing free by-word-of-mouth marketing.

For example, the Nike Plus loyalty program offers its members benefits like exclusive product offers, expert advice, unique experiences, same-day delivery, and extended shopping hours in selected stores.

These things come at a cost; however, they don’t necessarily come out directly from the marketing budget.

5. Set up a referral program (through email, SMS promotions)

Referral programs as a marketing tool are often overlooked, but they can get you great sales results.

For example, in the form of a refer-a-friend get a discount promotion.

This way, you encourage other customers to promote your business to their friends and family.

These programs could also offer free shipping, express delivery, or a discount in exchange for a referral, often distributed through SMS and email marketing.

Word of mouth marketing should be on the top for free small business marketing ideas.

Take Booking.com for an example. They send refer-a-friend bonuses at the end of each booking confirmation email.

So easy to do and implement, but can offer real value to you in increasing sales and acquiring new customers.

6. Showcase customer reviews and testimonials

It is increasingly difficult to earn and maintain customer trust in today’s competitive online marketplace.

What is more, in contrast to brick and mortar retail, consumers at home ordering online are unable to see or touch the products physically.

Therefore, to increase your e-commerce sales through a better and more accurate product description, it is hugely worthwhile to add customer reviews or testimonials to your e-commerce store.

For example, how a clothing retailer Shein has showcased their customer reviews at the bottom of each product page, encouraging customers to include pictures of them wearing the items.

Increase awareness and boost e-commerce sales

As you can see, having a low or non-existent marketing budget doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t promote your e-commerce store.

There are several excellent and cheap ways.

If you’re low on budget, paid ads aren’t the only source you will need to spend on.

To keep budgets down, you could also combine the two.

Through these brilliant use cases of low-budget or free marketing ideas, you can generate awareness, increase sales, and reach new customers without breaking the bank.

What is more, you can always mix and match or try what works and what doesn’t. Make sure to analyze who you are targeting and know who your audience is.

With the right product and service, you’ll soon have an audience and see an increase in sales. With the rise in sales and the marketing budget, you can reinvest in campaigns and strategies you wish to pursue to generate even more returns.

AUTHOR BIO: Kadi is a Content Writer for the HelpCenter app. She has got extensive knowledge and background in the e-commerce industry gained from working for fashion & retail e-commerce companies. She loves finding ways to help customers grow and enjoys contributing with helpful content and thought leadership articles.




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