E-commerce growth has slowed to around 12% and 2023 is the year that Shopify businesses need to get creative with how they market their stores. Each dollar spent needs to show maximum impact.
Fear not, there are many ways to make this happen — from customer referrals and user-generated content marketing, to SEO and email marketing.
We’ve compiled the experiences — both learnings and successes — of several Shopify store founders, serial entrepreneurs, and OpenStore’s employees that are responsible for marketing the largest number of Shopify stores in the world. Here’s how they do it.
Diversify your promotion efforts
"A multi-channel marketing strategy is mission-critical for our Shopify brands. It enables holistic marketing communications across all aspects of a customer’s purchase journey," explains growth expert Seijin Jung, who has headed up marketing at AngelList, Udemy, and now at OpenStore.
By using a mix of channels like paid social, paid search, email, SMS, and iOS push notifications, consistent and timely marketing communications can be delivered to customers as they pass through the marketing funnel.
This guide details over 60 tried and true methods to promote your Shopify store, with links to additional resources to get you started.
Promote your Shopify store for free
Many marketers recommend small businesses to start with paid advertising (20+ tips on this later), but if you don’t have a sizable budget to invest, here are 40+ free ways to market your store.
Marketing automation is almost synonymous with email marketing because of its set-it-and-forget nature. It lets you build a customer list that is platform-agnostic and, unlike many other channels, totally under your control.
There are paid tools like Klaviyo that we recommend, but email can be a free marketing channel that can organically grow along with your other promotional efforts.
- Reduce your dependency on the algorithms of Facebook, Instagram, Google, TikTok, Twitter/X, and Pinterest. Developing a strong email marketing strategy can build lasting customer relationships, lead to a higher ROI than other marketing channels, and reduce uncertainties as social media platforms change their policies and algorithms. Invest in valuable content, mobile optimization, thorough research, and data-driven improvements to create robust email marketing campaigns that drive consistent growth for your Shopify store.
- Populate your email list via your Shopify store. Start by creating quality content to attract traffic. Encourage customers to sign up for your mailing list during the checkout process with email capture modals or pop-ups. Consider adding a sign-up form in the footer or elsewhere onsite to capture more subscribers.
- Automate your email campaigns. Run a welcome series for new subscribers, a first-time customer series to request reviews, and order update series to inform buyers about their order status. The cart abandonment series to encourage customers to complete their purchases is common, but OpenStore’s top tip is the browse abandonment series to encourage window-shoppers to buy.
- Segment subscribers based on their purchases and engagement to improve effectiveness of your email marketing efforts. Segment customers by their value, such as ‘VIP’, ‘at-risk’, or ‘high AOV’. For abandoned cart emails to loyal customers, consider a personalized subject line and preview text (e.g., "Sandra! Get your 🎧 by Friday if you order before 10:00 PM 🎶") to grab the recipient's attention.
Over 70% of purchases on Shopify are from mobile devices, so a mobile-friendly experience is a must. It’s a great way to ensure that your store’s main marketing channel — your website — is in its best shape.
- Increase your store's ROI on mobile by moving to a Shopify 2.0 theme. Most of the latest themes help customers browse your category pages and discover products via more effective landing pages.
- Develop a mobile app to improve customer retention marketing and to offer exclusive discounts. This provides customers with a dedicated platform to stay connected to your brand. Watch a video where OpenStore’s co-founder and CEO Keith Rabois elaborates on its effectiveness, or read how OpenStore develops free iOS apps for stores in the OpenStore Drive program.
- Use thoughtful SMS marketing campaigns to stand out against big competitors. Take it from Seijin Jung, OpenStore’s head of marketing: "For many of the Shopify brands we own at OpenStore, we found that a thoughtful SMS marketing campaign can deliver up to 10x higher conversion rates than typical emails. SMS marketing can have open rates of up to 98%, and 54% of consumers prefer SMS marketing.” In terms of tools to use, Klaviyo stands out for its SMS and deep email integration, allowing for nuanced control, maximizing engagement and lifetime value (LTV).
- Ensure that your emails are mobile-friendly. Over 40% of consumers check their email using an app, so use responsive templates and write non-verbose, skimmable copy. Optimize subject lines and preheaders to grab readers' attention. Make your emails finger-friendly by utilizing white space and highlighting CTAs.
It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind. An often overlooked part of promoting your store, customer experience can be a key driving force behind growth.
- Zero in on your audience and create customer personas. “This will supercharge all of your existing marketing efforts. If you know the demographics, interests, and needs of your customers, then you'll do a much better job of appealing to them," OpenStore’s head of marketing clarifies.
- Interview past buyers to create customer personas, or analyze their behavior on your Shopify store’s analytics platform. Seijin adds: “Personas should also be adjusted over time as you learn more about your audience, so that your marketing consistently remains as personalized as possible.” Ensure messaging is consistent too — it helps to come up with a brand story in response to each customer persona.
- Add a live chat support option like the founder of Shopify store EXO Drones did — it can help you prioritize answering product questions from customers in a timely manner.
- Maintain quality and responsiveness by handling customer service in-house. Take it from a Shopify store founder who built his brand on a key pillar: providing excellent support. He managed all customer service personally, maintaining a high 4.9/5.0 rating on Facebook. Growing your customer experience team internally also allows you to address product issues faster. As you scale, you can look to offset costs and cover more timezones with vendors or contractors.
- Always handle customer complaints in a friendly tone and prioritize resolving the issue. Start with a place of empathy and stay dedicated to solving the problem. Prioritize complaints according to urgency. Address product issues immediately, and for shipping issues, take down the carrier claim number before proceeding.
- Leverage self-serve support. It’s perfect for moments when your live chat is unavailable. How? Consider setting up a knowledge center and FAQ section — this will also help your SEO efforts.
- Adjust your pricing as part of holistic product marketing research. Explore providing quality on par with ‘overpriced’ competitor products — get inspired by reading about how this Shopify store founder cornered the drone market. Always conduct market research to understand the needs and wants of your audience and position an offering off the back of that. When managing a Shopify store, OpenStore uses A/B testing on pricing to drive revenue by 20% almost immediately.
Leverage user-generated content (UGC)
In some cases, generating UGC may require you to give away a free product to a content creator, but there are many ways to make it cost-effective, or even free:
- Encourage your brand’s customers to share content about your products. Ask for reviews, testimonials, or tutorials, but don’t be overly specific — let them be creative in their own way.
- Offer incentives, like free products or discount codes, to encourage UGC. The founder of a motorcycle lifestyle brand organically grew his Shopify store’s Instagram following to 22k without using paid influencer marketing. Instead, he sent free items to bikers he liked, who would send back UGC to repurpose. To keep it free, you may also consider giving away excess stock that isn’t selling anyway, as long as it’s not due to quality control issues.
- Use user-generated content in your Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, or TikTok videos. It is more effective in building trust than branded content. Shopify stores like Wearva use UGC from micro-influencers for their marketing efforts, including viral TikTok posts and high-ROAS Facebook ads.
- Display UGC from social media on your website. OpenStore uses FourSixty, a tool that turns Instagram feeds into website elements. Including UGC on your website provides social proof and greases the checkout process.
Avoid these common mistakes to save costs and time when using influencers to promote your products:
- When starting with influencer marketing: begin with micro-influencers and gradually approach creators with larger and larger followings as your brand grows. If 2-3 posts in a row fail to perform, move on and find another content creator.
- Don’t outsource influencer marketing to agencies if you’re on a budget. Instead, evaluate your company’s strengths and weaknesses and use your strong in-house workflows to use influencer content in ads and on-site.
- Don’t obsess with details, growth is about testing. There is no specific formula for creating viral TikTok content. Work with different creators to produce a variety of content, not a single content style, and try to optimize posts for Friday evenings.
While technically this can have costs associated with it, it’s still money that you’re not having to spend on advertising:
- Run a referral program that rewards your customers for spreading the word. Offer them discounts or rewards: it’s generally a low-cost marketing strategy. Use automation tools like Yotpo, Smile, and Loyalty Lion to track referrals and maintain engagement.
- Implement a loyalty program to reward repeat customers. Encourage them to make additional purchases and build a long-term relationship with your Shopify brand.
- Focus on building a brand that your most loyal customers genuinely love. Embrace customer feedback to increase retention and repeat purchases.
If you’re a creator or have access to one — one of the best ways to turn images, videos or copy into a cost-efficient way to promote your Shopify store’s products is through content marketing.
- Understand that content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) are tightly linked and that to ultimately drive conversions you need a solid understanding of your target customer persona.
- Set up a blog on your Shopify store and publish content regularly about your product category and industry. Include both top-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel topics. This can engage your audience to stay on your site, showcase your expertise, and improve your website's SEO.
- Write detailed product descriptions and use high-quality product images. Not only does this help customers make informed decisions and reduce the chances of returns, it provides a solid foundation to build on your SEO efforts.
- Create video tutorials or product demonstrations to showcase your products' features and benefits. Embed them in blog articles, product pages, as well as your social media channels, YouTube or wherever your target customer persona hangs out.
- Research common keywords in your e-commerce product category to understand what people are searching for. What are the problems they’re looking to solve? Which ones are you best positioned to resolve? Use tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush or Google’s keyword planner and pay attention to the monthly search volume and search intent of each keyword group. Keyword research will serve as the foundation of your SEO strategy.
- Optimize your Shopify store for search engines by using relevant keywords in page titles, headings, meta descriptions, and in the anchor text of the internal links to other pages on your site.
While organic search engine traffic is technically free, getting up and running requires time: both with the 3-6 months of delay until you can demonstrate authority and other metrics to a search engine, and the time investment in optimizing the content and your Shopify website itself. However, SEO can be a great long term investment and consulting with a specialist is recommended.
- Improve your product URLs and category URLs to align with relevant and popular queries on search engines. If you’re changing your URLs, make sure to set up permanent redirects for any URLs you change so that people who have bookmarked them and search engines like Google and Bing don’t return a 404 “not found” page.
- Follow recommendations to improve your Shopify store’s speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This will not only benefit SEO, but also your conversion rate optimization efforts from every marketing channel. A faster site is guaranteed to perform better.
- Improve your rankings in Google Images by adding keywords to your images. The founder of a motorcycle lifestyle brand found that by naturally adding relevant keywords to the image alt attribute in Shopify significantly improved rankings in image searches.
- Include UGC that is hosted externally onto your site. For example, pull in a feed of product reviews onto your product pages, or embed videos from YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. Google and other search engines value a variety of relevant content. Follow OpenStore’s example when managing Shopify stores: use customer reviews to generate new copy — consider using AI tools to create content off the back of UGC at scale, but also follow Google’s guidelines.
A journey to success is always more rewarding when shared. Discover how strategic collaborations can accelerate your Shopify store's growth, at absolutely no cost.
- Build a community around your brand that people can join in without purchasing your product(s). For example, participate in Facebook groups in your industry or where your target audience hangs out. Engage with potential customers by sharing valuable content, answering questions, and offering support. Don’t spam sales content. It will take you time to build up a community, so be patient and let it evolve naturally. Try different and especially new platforms where you can get a foothold.
- Partner with complementary businesses for cross-promotion. Expand your reach and tap into new audiences. Consider collaborating with your content marketing efforts: blogging or otherwise. Cross-promotion can drive brand awareness and growth.
- Do a social media takeover of a nonprofit, NGO, or an otherwise social-minded organization which your target customer persona is interested in. This can help you reach new audiences, increasing brand awareness.
- Host webinars or live events to showcase your products. Use the opportunity to answer customer questions, and build trust with your audience. Drive attendance on social media and through email marketing campaigns.
Promos & shipping
Tune your strategies to the seasons, maximize conversions, and inspire customer loyalty, all without spending a dime.
- Plan for seasonal and promotional periods well in advance. OpenStore’s recommendation is to start aligning your cross-channel messaging months before your promo period so that you can already start gathering performance insights. Where are you seeing the most site visits, and how is that converting? Where are people dropping off?
- Use the checkout process to upsell and cross-sell to encourage customers to purchase related products which will enhance their experience with the main product that they are purchasing. Even when doing his personal shopping, a Shopify founder explains how he benefited from this as a customer.
- Offer fast shipping options to increase customer satisfaction. One founder recalls switching from ePacket to DHL Express for shipping to reduce customer wait times from 4-6 weeks to 4-6 days. This resulted in a 20% increase in returning buyers, without needing the more expensive FedEx and UPS options. However, this depends on the industry, so we’ve prepared a guide on shipping speeds and carriers.
- Offer free shipping for Shopify orders over a specific amount to incentivize conversions and larger purchases. Test this strategy on select products before you roll it out store-wide.
- Don’t rush to introduce free returns unless you get frequent requests from loyal customers and you notice it increasing cart abandonment.
Best ways to advertise your Shopify store
We’re saving the best for last. While the above tactics are part of OpenStore’s repertoire, online ads are definitely still very effective and cannot be overlooked.
Starting off with social media advertising
The digital megaphone of your brand, ads can help you reach thousands of targeted customers. Here’s how to set things up right to create meaningful connections with your audience.
- Run targeted ads on Instagram or wherever your target customer persona hangs out. Budget: start with a couple hundred dollars. Test, ship, and iterate ad creative quickly — take it from two serial Shopify founders that grow stores routinely.
- Spend only 15-20 minutes every day tinkering with your Facebook/Instagram ads. The founder of Shopify store Necklow shared how to optimize your ads quickly. He also makes sure to always extract learnings from poorly performing campaigns.
- Segment your Meta ad audience based on your customer personas. This allows for targeted messaging — for example, skincare ads for young girls versus older women, or home furniture ads for new homeowners with a specific age, location, and income.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself and stick to optimizing against only a few KPIs in your social media advertising such as cost per acquisition, cost per click, and hook rate.
- Retarget people who have already shown interest in your business. Use Meta’s tooling to build out a ‘custom audience’ from your spreadsheet of existing customers (email addresses), or based on your website traffic (tracked with the Meta Pixel). When running these ads with a sizeable budget, OpenStore recommends large attribution lookback windows for best performance.
- Find new potential customers similar to your best, existing customers. Use the custom audience from the tip above as a source to generate ‘lookalike audiences’ in Meta’s tools. If you have a large budget, OpenStore also recommends leveraging ‘broad audiences’. Go one step further and combine these broad audiences with lookalikes to really push Meta’s algorithms in finding new customer segments.
Avoid common advertising mistakes
Taking a calculated approach to your ad spend can spell the difference between an effective campaign and a costly lesson.
- Create a custom landing page for every ad: your goal is to minimize confusion and provide a seamless experience. The landing page copy should align with the ad. Showcase reasons why customers should choose your product over competitors — use social proof, images or videos.
- Always define a value proposition for each campaign. Highlight value props in each ad and map it to customer pain points.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin across multiple ad channels. Master one platform, establish a steady, positive return on ad spend (ROAS); and then add on the next logical channel.
- Advertise with intention by having ads for specific stages of the marketing funnel. For example, when addressing the top of your funnel, build brand awareness in your vertical with creative, out-of-the-box ideas that pique curiosity. Above all, aim to be helpful and useful, then collect followers or email addresses. For customers closer to the bottom of your funnel, run Meta carousel ads to help buyers quickly browse through your products and place an order.
- Don’t only run ads for brand awareness and clicks. They will drain your budget with little to show for them, so focus on performance marketing and optimize for conversions.
- Optimize ads for different screen sizes. Look in your analytics to see what devices your visitors use and optimize your ads and landing pages for these screen sizes. Easiest way: make sure that your Shopify theme is responsive.
Advanced ad tips
Paid social can be tricky to get right and it’s best to consult an expert if you want to maximize growth, but here are some ways that many e-commerce store owners have embraced the challenge.
- Avoid ad fatigue and be creative, fresh, and meaningful. Identify target buyers' core issues and highlight them in your ads. Test a wide variety of ad creative for your Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok ads. The co-founders of Shopify store Yogaste remind us that, “All we know is that we know nothing. You have to separate the data-driven process from your ego.” When managing a store with OpenStore Drive or after acquiring a Shopify store, OpenStore's in-house creative team refreshes ads up to once a week to avoid ad fatigue and improve click-through rates.
- Leverage the popularity of in-feed videos. Highlight product features, show your product in action, narrate a compelling story, and feature your customers. Keep video ads short with high-quality visuals and clean audio — use AI tools like Opus Clip to ship faster.
- Don’t rely solely on Meta’s ad manager to track performance. Use Google Analytics or Shopify’s platform to cross-check your wins and where there’s friction in getting conversions. Ensure that Shopify and Meta are connected, and that conversion tracking is set up in Shopify, Meta, and GA4.
- Get reliable ad data in a world after the iOS 14.5 update. Start by using Meta’s Conversions API to establish a direct connection between your marketing data and Facebook/Instagram. Use a 1-day or 7-day attribution model for enhanced conversion modeling, and prioritize macro metrics like ROAS, CPA, and customer LTV for assessing performance.
- Use Meta Advantage+ catalog ads for reaching new audiences. Automatically match potential customers to your product catalog with up-to-date pricing and availability. (You can also use them to retarget users who have previously interacted with your brand.)
Best way to market a Shopify store
Pick and choose the marketing tactics above to create a well-rounded, multi-channel promotion strategy for e-commerce. Each channel serves a distinct purpose, so understand and articulate it across each stage of your consumer journey.
For example, consider the success story of Jack Archer, OpenStore's fast-growing, popular men's fashion brand:
"Since we implemented a holistic multi-channel campaign in 2022, our brand saw its sales more than double in 6 months. This was enabled by our strategic implementation of paid social and search campaigns to drive new customer acquisition as well as new email, SMS, and mobile push campaigns to augment customer retention."
By leveraging the potential of various channels, such as Facebook remarketing campaigns, email, and SMS offers, store owners can maximize growth.
Invest your time
The best ways to promote your store will often be time-consuming and, at times, overwhelming. As a business owner, you may find it challenging to keep up with the day-to-day tasks while also focusing on growth.
If you're tired of managing your store and want to reclaim your time, consider OpenStore Drive: a managed service that turns your Shopify store into passive income.