Chapter 1
Laying the Foundations for Ecommerce Success

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Chapter summary

Underpinning every marketing success is a solid marketing plan. In order to create experiences that generate desired behaviours amongst your users, it’s essential to first understand who those users are and what they want. Put simply, you know to know who you’re talking to before you can expect to talk to them effectively.

In this chapter, we’ll explore how you can lay the foundations for your ecommerce success with a solid understanding of your target audience.

Know your audience

The first step to success in any online business endeavour is to fully understand your audience. Getting this right means you are able to deliver an online experience that suits their needs, ultimately resulting in positive user engagement and a high conversion rate.

Knowing your audience may seem a simple task at first; you want to attract anyone who wants to buy your product(s), right?

But exactly who are these people, and why would they choose your product over your competitor’s?

A sensible place to start answering this question is to look at historical sales data, if you have it. Review the characteristic trends across your data to identify audience segments such as:

  • Age range
  • Language
  • Location
  • Device choices (mobile)
  • Related interests (affinity categories)

Tools like Google Analytics are goldmines for such audience analysis data. If your site is already up and running – and you’re using a tool like Google Analytics to capture information about your visitors – you can learn a great deal about the people who visit your store.

Google Analytics audience report

The ‘Audience’ report in Analytics is a great place to start when getting to know your audience.

Here, you’ll find insights into the demographics of your audience, including location, gender and age, which is inferred from logged-in data or browser settings of users. You can see which devices your audience use to access your site, such as whether they’re coming to you on a mobile phone, tablet or desktop. You can even find out more about the interests of your audience; try the ‘affinity categories‘ report for a really interesting look at what interests your audience based on other websites they visit outside of yours.

Audience affinity table

Google Analytics Audience Affinity Report

Note here how Google Analytics provides ecommerce data in-line with audience insights; as well as reviewing what is most common among your audience, consider which audience traits produce the highest revenue. For example, if you find mobile users are fewer but more valuable, this will inform your strategy when the question of mobile optimisation comes up.

Top tip: Impression offers analytics services to help you get more actionable insight from your data

Audience personas

You can also use audience insights to create user personas. These are fictional representations of your audience segments that make it easier for you to understand and communicate complex audience needs. For example, you might create a persona named Carol who represents a part of your audience, and in marketing or strategy meetings, you’ll ask “is this right for Carol?”, encompassing all those complex needs into one easy to understand figure.

We spoke at Brighton SEO on the topic of audience personas. View the full video here.

Brand vs non brand

A common segmentation used in ecommerce analysis is comparing the visitors who know your brand and those who don’t.

Returning visitors to your website will most likely land on the homepage, as they know your brand name and, as such, type your URL directly. These people already know what your range of products looks like, the way to use your site, and they’re either looking to purchase a very specific item or they want to know what’s new on your site and will typically look for a ‘new arrivals’ or similar section.

No audience data?

If you don’t have historical sales data, you can still identify trends amongst your target audience.

Look for industry-relevant research or, better still, speak to any existing customers. What you’re trying to identify here are trends that might inform the structure or design of your site. It’s also beneficial to get an idea of the language your audience uses, so you can choose the most appropriate terminology to describe each product and category.

Understanding your marketplace

The next step in laying the foundations for ecommerce success is to analyse and understand your marketplace. That means getting to know your competitors – both those you already know, and those who compete with you in the search results.

Again, there are various tools out there to help you to gather this data. The best place to start is with your own team’s knowledge; who do you recognise as competitors? Also, try searching for your products on Google, Bing etc – who outranks you, who is advertising on the search results pages?

Armed with a list of competitors, you can start digging further into what those competitors are doing and how this can inform your strategy.

Competitor landscape data

STAT Competitor Share of Voice Report

Market research tools

There are various tools which can uncover further detail about your competitors, particularly from a digital marketing perspective, such as:

SEMRush –

This tool is free to use to a point, though you’ll need to pay if you want more data. Simply input your competitor’s website address to see data including:

  • Estimated traffic levels
  • Organic search terms and ranking positions
  • Paid advertising
  • Backlinks

You can set the tool to compare domain vs domain, to see directly how you compare.


This is another tool that’s free to a point, but a paid version is required for more detailed insight. Input any website address to see the full list of websites linking to that site – i.e. backlinks (which are an important factor in search engine optimisation).

AHREFs also provides insight into most linked – and therefore most promoted – pages on the site, which can provide insight into the products your competitors are trying most to push.


STAT is a paid-for enterprise tool used for keyword rank tracking & SERP analytics. As a competitor analysis tool, it’s one of the best ways to see who’s growing in terms of share of voice in the search results, and who’s struggling, too.

The ‘competitor landscape’ report will show you how yours and your competitors’ reach have changed over time.

Your marketing channels

The third step in laying the foundations for success is to review how your channels are currently performing for you.

Of course, this relies on you having traffic to your site already. This is an iterative process of reviewing your ROI on a channel-by-channel basis, which should be conducted throughout the lifetime of your business at regular intervals.

By marrying the historical data you collect with the marketing activities you perform, you can start to understand the relationship between your efforts and your ecommerce performance for each channel.

Again, Google Analytics is a really useful tool for this, showing not only which channels are sending traffic to your website, but which are generating the highest revenue levels, too.

Google Analytics Acquisition Report

Google Analytics Acquisition Report

Note here how Referral has delivered a comparatively small number of visits, but has a 5.01% conversion rate – far higher than the site average of 0.91%.

If we were analysing channels based on traffic alone, we might reconsider our email marketing efforts, but by taking revenue into account, we can see it’s an important channel that contributes to our overall performance.

Furthermore, the behaviour and ecommerce metrics are so superior to other channels, it would be prudent to understand why this channel performs so well – how it meets user expectations in a way other channels aren’t, how it drives conversions so effectively – and using this information to optimise other channels where appropriate.

There are various methods to attribute revenue to a channel and various ways to interpret this data – we’ll cover these aspects later in the guide.