Effective Online Store Development Strategy: How to Build and Launch a Business

September 26, 2023

Effective Online Store Development Strategy: How to Build and Launch a Business #1

When discussing the success of an e-commerce project, people often focus on its competitive advantages, unique products, or customer-centric approach. However, the marketing strategy for the online store, a key driver of success, needs to be considered. Yet, it holds the potential to significantly influence the final outcome of the project promotion, offering a beacon of hope and optimism for entrepreneurs.

In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of developing a marketing strategy for your online store, providing you with a roadmap to success.

Marketing strategy: impact on online store lifetime

For gradual and successful development, a business must have goals and deadlines for achieving them. Therefore, you need to understand what tools will help you achieve your goals on time.

A marketing strategy records all stages of work on the promotion of an online store and helps to evaluate success in the form of:

  • increasing brand awareness;
  • attracting traffic;
  • converting users into paying customers;
  • building customer loyalty;
  • retention of customers for the most extended possible period.

Typically, when developing a marketing strategy, the main tasks should look like this:

  • select the main vectors of development;
  • understand the strengths and weaknesses of the business;
  • collect all the information necessary for a successful start of promotion;
  • develop a work schedule;
  • create an approximate budget for the short and medium term.

Understanding the difference between a marketing strategy and a plan is crucial, so here is a short guide.  

Strategy Plan
A vision of the promotion that lists the channels and general mechanics of working with them (social media, website, email newsletters, etc.).

A set of practical actions, tactics, and tools to achieve the goals described in the strategy. For example, a content plan for a blog, collecting keywords to run ads, etc.



Also, an online store's marketing strategy helps balance using important digital promotion channels.

The ultimate research above shows that the primary sources of brand data for customers are the following channels:

  • search engines (31%)
  • TV advertising (30.4%);
  • recommendations from friends (27.2%);
  • advertising in social networks (26.8%);
  • company websites (24.6%).

The strategy for promoting an online store should consider this data and adjust for the store's specifics. For example, you may realize that TV advertising does not fit your promotion budget.

You can manage your social media pages and run ads on them right now, so this is precisely what should be spelled out in the medium-term strategy. TV advertising can be designated as a channel that can be added later, if necessary and if resources are available.

Creating a development strategy: first and subsequent steps

For a strategy to be effective, work on it should begin with a comprehensive study of your own business. It is better to do it with a team. When each specialist is responsible for a block related to their expertise, you can get a truly detailed "portrait" of the business and a development strategy for each area.

The information obtained will then become the basis for the development strategy and work plans.

The first step in developing a strategy is analyzing the market, competitors, and target audience. Next, consider your own positioning to stand out to potential customers.

Knowledge of a customer journey map and analytics tools will also be useful. Read more about this below.

The market: what do you need to know about it?

Intuition is important in business, but it is better to make decisions based not only on it but also on numbers, facts, and research.

Research can be done independently, purchased from specialized companies (for example, Kantar), or contracted out.

The main tasks of market research include:

  • understanding the market content;
  • collecting information about strong players;
  • obtaining data on trends.

With this data, you can initially assess the potential of a new online store and its perspective.

Competitors: who are they, what do they do, and why do you need to know?

This stage is critical because, having studied your market players well, it will become easier to understand your strengths and weaknesses. In addition, analyzing competitors will show what experience you should learn from them and how to improve your positioning.

Here is an example of competitor analysis.


Competitor “A”

Competitor “B”


Products for children from 1 to 3 years old

Products for children from 0 to 14 years old

Pricing segment

Above average



  • traffic and its sources, number of visitors and their time on the site;
  • lead magnet;
  • language versions;
  • SEO optimization;
  • whether there are products in Google Shopping;
  • availability of a hotline and support chat;
  • delivery and payment options on the website.



Social networks:

  • which ones are being used;
  • types of content;
  • number of subscribers and their activity;
  • the presence of advertising.



Additional benefits for customers:

  • pickup;
  • offline store;
  • courier delivery;
  • bonuses, discounts, or other loyalty program options.




  • availability of reviews on Google My Business and other platforms;
  • recommendations from bloggers and opinion leaders;
  • official work (e.g., individual entrepreneur).





Target audience: who will buy from you and why?

To sell successfully, you need to understand the actual needs of your potential customers and have a clear idea of who these people are.

To determine the target audience (TA), you can use a simple 5W method, also known as the Sherrington methodology.

The essence of it is that you need to find answers to five questions:

  • Who is your buyer?
  • Why are they buying? What need do they want to fulfill?
  • When will the purchase be made?
  • Where will it be made?
  • What exactly will the person buy?

Answering these questions will help you formulate your offer for those who need it.

To make your offer even more convincing, you need a customer avatar (also called an ideal customer portrait, ICP) - a verbal description of the person you will sell to. Usually, the following data is used to create it:

  • Demographic characteristics. That is, age, gender, and marital status.
  • Geographical data. Information about where a person lives, works, and often visits.
  • Social information. Data on position, income, education, and professional jargon.
  • Interests. Hobbies, goals, dreams.
  • Problems. What a person wants to get rid of, what tasks to solve, what fears and doubts to overcome.
  • Factors that influence the purchase decision include information about how ready a person is to buy, what stops them, and where they get important information in making a decision.

Based on the data, you can get approximately the following customer portraits:

  1. Ivan is 24 years old and the content manager of an online store selling appliances from Europe. He lives in Kyiv, and has no children, but is dating a girl and renting an apartment. He likes to shoot videos and take photos. He wants to start earning money by filming. 

He fears that if he invests in equipment, his earnings will not cover his basic needs at first: rent, food, and gifts. He is intensively studying the options of buying equipment in installments and considering what he needs to start working on and what he can buy later or rent on an ad hoc basis. She reads specialized websites and forums for content makers.

  1. Alina, 30, is an export consultant and mother of two sons aged six and seven. She lives in Lviv, is married, and has her own place. She wants to scale her work but cannot due to time constraints. She is seeking options to minimize her involvement in routine tasks: grocery shopping and cooking, cleaning, and organizing developmental classes and school for children. She participates in groups for mothers and reads Kyiv bloggers on social media.

It is clear that Alina is not interested in offers to buy lenses in installments, and Ivan will not be interested in a discount on ready-to-eat meals if he orders three or more per month.

Surveys and in-depth interviews are two of the most effective methods of target audience research. They allow you to better understand your potential customers.

For example, the study shows that the audience aged 18 to 44 is attracted to the following content:

  • social media (58.6%)
  • videos (15.2%)
  • letters (9.4%);
  • podcasts (7.2%);
  • blogs (5.4%).

These people prefer the following channels for marketing communications:

  • social media (46.6%);
  • email (32.6%);
  • sms (7%).

This information can be accepted as working. However, after talking to people who are part of your target audience, you can find out that most of them are annoyed by ads on social media, for example. However, personalized email newsletters encourage them to buy or at least visit an online store's website.

That is, by knowing your target audience and having its portraits, you can:

  • correctly formulate your offers;
  • choose the best channels for working with a particular target audience;
  • more efficiently set up interaction in general and advertising in particular.

For example, you'll know it's appropriate to target social media ads about appliances on credit to the target audience that looks like Ivan but not Alina. Advertising on bloggers can influence those who are similar to Alina.

To sum up, understanding the target audience allows an online store to:

  • Meet and exceed customer expectations;
  • turn a one-time customer into a regular and loyal one, ideally making them a brand ambassador.

Custom positioning: how and why to work with it?

Data on potential customers' pains and needs can and should create a positioning. It will help you build a trusting relationship with your target audience and stand out from the competition.

Positioning is the image of a company or product in the minds of its target audience.

For example, if we are talking about technology, you can emphasize that most products are available, you can see them, and try them in action. And if we are talking about children's products, it is logical to talk about courier delivery because it is not always convenient for parents with small children to go somewhere to try on a product.

Customer Journey Map: why do you need to know how a customer makes a purchase decision?

This tool helps visualize how a person moves towards the first purchase in your online store and becomes a regular customer.

With such a map, you can see how to simplify and shorten the customer journey by eliminating unnecessary or difficult steps and adding elements that increase conversion.

For example, a customer might hear an advertisement for your online store on the radio and remember the name and essence of the offer but not the phone number. In this situation, the standard action is to enter the store's name in the search. If you don't have a website that Google will display in response to the query, the customer will have to make much more effort to buy something from you — not that they will want to do so.

Analytics tools that help to build a strategy based on exemplary indicators

You should consider analytics tools from the beginning of your online store development strategy. For example, Similarweb will help you understand your competitors' traffic.

It's also a good idea to look into the following analytics products:

  • Google Analytics will give you a complete picture of your site's traffic.
  • Google Tag Manager shows a detailed picture of user behavior on the site.
  • Facebook Pixel is not exactly analytics but rather a tool for collecting data about website users, which will help you customize social media advertising.
  • NetpeakSpider is a service that shows errors in optimization that may cause search engines to "dislike" your site.

Using these and similar tools, you can see a holistic picture of the results of promoting your online store and quickly respond to changes in the level of traffic from a particular channel or the behavior of site users.

Indicators that an online store should definitely analyze:

Website trafficTraffic sources

Conversion to order


Abandoned carts


Average check

Number of orders







Promotion channels: which ones should you use?

Below are channels that successful online stores, such as ASOS, Dollar Shave Club, and others, often use. Depending on your product's specifics, target audience, and budget, you can use only some or all of them.

SEO optimization: how to take your place in search engine results?

SEO is a set of measures to ensure that a website meets the requirements of search engines as much as possible.

Optimization begins with collecting the semantic core, i.e., the search queries that users use to search for a product on the Internet. These keywords are then used:

  • in the names and descriptions of product categories in the online store;
  • in product cards;
  • in blog posts (if you have one);
  • in the meta tags of the entire website;
  • in links on the pages of the site and external resources;
  • in advertising.

Even though SEO takes a lot of time and requires financial investments, this promotion channel is very important in the long run.

Advertising works only as long as there is money in the advertising account. However a well-optimized page can bring interested customers for a long time without additional investments.

Email marketing: what are the benefits of emails?

Email marketing is the sending of marketing offers via email.

According to statistics, 1 dollar invested in email marketing brings 36 dollars in profit. At the same time, about 50% of respondents to the Salecycle survey buy products offered to them in emails at least once a month.

To make your email marketing work better, ask for a minimum of data during the subscription process and use tools such as:

  • contact collection forms on different pages of your online store (in particular, pop-ups)
  • discounts, bonuses, and gifts in exchange for an email address;
  • automatic emails responding to a particular event (for example, a reminder of an abandoned cart or a promotional code for the first purchase).

Personalization also increases the effectiveness of email marketing for online stores. For example, on the website of the lingerie store MeUndies, new customers see an offer to get a 20% discount on their first order in exchange for their email.

Authorized customers and those who have already left their email addresses are not shown this offer.

And for those who have signed up for personalized offers, there are favorable shopping conditions: discounts from 30 to 50%.

Effective Online Store Development Strategy: How to Build and Launch a Business #2

SMM: social networks and their benefits for your business

SMM is social media marketing. This tool allows you to turn brand pages into a channel of interaction with potential customers and sales.

For example, 47% of marketers surveyed in the study say that their brand sells directly on social media applications.

Users aged 18 to 54 are most likely to learn about new products on social media. In the 18-24 year old group, 52% of respondents prefer this channel. 45% of users aged 25-34 also perceive information on social media well.

Among those over 55, social networks are less popular as a source of information about new products, with 24% of users interested in them.

At the same time, many social media users are not ready to buy a product on social media for the following reasons:

  • 54% of users will be put off by the unclear status of the page (i.e., whether it is an official brand representative office);
  • 48% are not sure they can return the product;
  • 44% doubt the quality of the product presented on social media.

Other reasons for not making purchases on social media include users not being ready to share their card numbers, uninformative product descriptions, and problems with inadequate delivery terms.

After studying the reasons why people don't buy on social media, you can make sure that your page is almost perfect from this point of view. That is, it should definitely contain the following information:

  • that you work officially;
  • whether you have an exchange or refund policy and under what conditions;
  • official confirmation of the quality of goods sold.

Marketplaces: platforms that will help you reach more potential customers

This trading format suits niche online stores that want to show their products to as many users as possible. For example, the popular Ukrainian marketplace Rozetka is visited more than 36 million times monthly.

Some of these people likely need your product.

Among the most popular marketplaces in Ukraine are the following:

  • Epicenter Marketplace;
  •; Bigl;
  • Zakupka;
  • Allo.

To understand which marketplace is right for you, you should study each one's policy and personally communicate with managers about the terms of placement. Rozetka, for example, does not publicly disclose the amount of commission for selling goods but rather forms it individually.

Paid advertising as a way to quickly tell potential customers about your business

One of the main advantages of this promotion channel for online stores is the launch speed. For example, targeted advertising on social media can lead to a store's profile and successfully sell even without a website.

And search advertising on Google can be easily launched on a landing page, which is much easier and faster to create than a full-fledged website.

You can sell through advertising and make a profit, which you can then invest in the development and scaling of your online store.

To make paid advertising work, you need to prepare for its launch:

  1. Create a high-quality landing page. A website or a landing page should contain product photos, descriptions, prices, payment, and delivery methods.
  2. Develop a pricing policy. People may seek cheaper offers if your price is much higher than the market average. Therefore, the price should be either average for the market or reasonably high.
  3. Collect the right semantics and/or target audience. That is, show ads only for your target queries and/or only to those people who may be interested in your offer.

You can develop different promotion channels in parallel. As a result, in a fairly short period of time, you will understand what works for your online store and what does not.  Accordingly, you can reallocate the promotion budget: abandon the channels that do not produce results and scale up those that bring profit.

Mistakes to avoid when creating an online store strategy

The most common mistakes include the following:

  1. Using tactics instead of strategy. That is, having a list of tasks and not understanding why each one is performed can solve routine issues for a long time. In the long run, this leads to disappointment, burnout, and team dissatisfaction.
  2. Refusal to describe goals and objectives. What exists only in someone's mind is usually difficult to implement. Clearly described goals and objectives allow the team to understand how close they are to achieving results and what else needs to be done.
  3. Developing a strategy without focusing on customer data will not allow you to create an effective plan. The key to success is understanding your target audience's needs, problems, and limitations.
  4. The hope is that positions at the top of search results can be taken quickly. This is possible only if your online store is a rare specialization with few competitors. In other cases, you will have to fight hard for a "place in the sun" for a long time.
  5. Unwillingness to invest in a thorough website design. If you make it, it should be convenient for the customer to use it. This is especially important when you have a large assortment of complex products. In this case, you cannot do without a well-thought-out structure, filters, and high-quality product cards.
  6. Refusal to test. Even if customers regularly click on the "Add to Cart" button, it's worth testing whether they'll do it more often if you make the button bigger or change its color. In fact, in the field of online sales, you need to test almost everything, which is how you can achieve maximum results.
  7. Use only a few promotion methods that have shown results. For example, you've tried contextual advertising and realized that it doesn't generate very good sales compared to marketplaces. It's logical to put this tool aside for a while, but later you can return to it and try again without investing too much.
  8. Refusal to analyze intermediate results. Yes, the traffic data of a new website for one day cannot be the reason for deciding that it is not effective. However, if there are no targeted requests from the site after six months of promotion, this is a reason to reconsider the optimization approach.
  9. Ignorance of market trends. Today, almost all successful online stores are adapted for smartphones. And those who started optimizing their sites when mobile traffic was not yet the main traffic for online stores were the winners. In other words, you need to keep an eye on trends, as it takes a lot of time and money to adapt to some of them.

Examples of brands with successful marketing strategies for online stores

Below are a few examples of how effective online store development strategies work. Of course, we will not describe the entire strategy, but only the unique points worthy of attention.

Dollar Shave Club

In 2012, the subscription-based online store for men's razors became a real revolution. It all started with a popular video in which the company's founder explained in a fun, informal, and understandable way what problems his project solves.

Among the key success factors, the brand highlights the following points in its promotion strategy

  • preserving the brand's unique voice in all communication channels;
  • participation of actors in advertising who look like ordinary people with their virtues and shortcomings;
  • a well-optimized and informative blog that attracts traffic 
  • an interesting podcast where the duration of the episode is the average shaving time;
  • a quiz on the website that helps customers collect the perfect set of products for them and buy them.
Effective Online Store Development Strategy: How to Build and Launch a Business #3


To conquer the market, the creators of these hair care products took an unconventional approach from the very beginning. They decided to provide their line to hairdressers and get feedback from them.

The masters were really impressed with the effective product and began to recommend it in person and online. 

To build on the success of this approach, they created a closed website for hairdressers where they could receive exclusive information and share experiences. Then the company went on TikTok with a viral video and gained many likes.

The company considers its approach to content creation to be the main factor of its success online. It is primarily aimed at educating the audience and obtaining social proof of product quality (all the same social networks and reviews on them).

The website and blog have dies showing the number of views on social networks and reviews.


The main principle of the company's work is to constantly monitor trends and adapt to them.

This e-commerce brand encourages active customer participation in content creation in every possible way.

For example, the company believes that Instagram is crucial. Currently, almost 15 million users are subscribed to the brand's page.

The page was once developed using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe. As part of this campaign, the brand asked its customers to post photos with ASOS products. In just seven months of 2016, more than 124,000 images were posted. The campaign runs on autopilot, increasing the brand's value and customer base.

Besides, ASOS loves dynamic content. For example, people can choose their size using an interactive assistant. This means that the number of failed purchases and disappointed customers remains low.

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An online store development strategy gives your business the following advantages:

  • It allows you to maintain focus and consistency, which is especially important in the face of new trends. Sometimes, not enough time has passed for a tool to prove itself.
  • It allows you to better manage your resources, as actions and their priorities are fixed – for example, budgets for website creation and promotion, couriers' salaries, and managers' salaries are marked.
  • It guarantees transparency of work. If everyone has access to the strategy, the team understands what is being done and why. Also, everyone understands whether certain actions have an effect.
  • It allows you to evaluate the result by measurable indicators. Since the strategy sets out the tasks and analytics tools, the results can be evaluated in numbers. This minimizes the influence of emotions, guesswork, and unfounded assumptions. In other words, further decisions will be made in a balanced and reasoned manner.