Conventional Inbound Marketing vs. Inbound for eCommerce

Alex Sobal
Posted by Alex Sobal on February 11, 2016


By now in 2016, just about every business—both big and small—is expected to have a company website. Today, 81% of consumers start their buying process online, and, according to HubShout, 83% of consumers also expect businesses to have websites that are mobile-friendly. Whether you’re a local contractor or an international supplier of custom-fabricated bike parts, the Internet is the first place your customers are going to find out more about your business, and it’s imperative that you have a website ready for them.  

That being said, while every company should have a website today, not every company should be optimizing their website the same way, or use the same inbound marketing strategies to attract potential customers. Ecommerce companies, for example, have their point of sale on their website, and often have much shorter purchasing cycles than, let’s say, a B2B service provider. In order to maximize their success online, ecommerce sites need to take these differences into account, and offer content and promotions that resonate with their “buy now” audience, as opposed to other industries with notoriously longer buying cycles.

In fact, here are some of the main differences between traditional inbound marketing and inbound marketing for ecommerce:

Traditional Inbound (Learn More, Buy Later)

With a traditional inbound strategy, companies optimize their website for conversions and SEO, while simultaneously creating content that attracts visitors and convinces them to convert on their offers, subscribe to their blog, or request more information. Upon collecting their contact information when a visitor does one of those things, companies can then nurture those leads with more marketing material (e.g., eBooks, case studies, etc.) that convinces them to move closer to a sale, before eventually closing. There typically isn’t a “buy now” option on the website, as deals tend to be different from one customer to another, and companies will negotiate with each other off-site before finalizing the sale. It’s very much a process moving prospects through the sales funnel, and it can broken down into the 4 phases below:


Back in 2012, Relevance wrote about the 2 main inbound marketing strategies for ecommerce companies:

Product-Driven Inbound (Buy Now)

Ecommerce sites that would use strategy revolve around selling products that are spontaneous purchases or have low consideration buying cycles (e.g., clothing, home goods, toys, etc.), and most major retail sites like or fall under this category. Rather than publishing top-of-the-funnel content to attract customers to their website, these companies’ strategies are focused on bottom-of-the-funnel promotions (e.g., coupons, discounts, deals, etc.), as customers are ready to visit their website, find the product they’re looking for, and checkout in a matter of minutes. If any content is created, it’s product focused, such as product videos, images, and other information—anything that will convince the customer to buy the product on their site.


Hybrid Inbound (Learn More, Buy When Ready)

Despite offering visitors the opportunity to buy your product with just a few clicks of a button, if your products require a high degree of consideration and research before purchasing (e.g., electronics, tools, high-end sporting goods, etc.), more traditional inbound tactics can be used. In addition to product images, videos, and information on the site, companies can utilize things like blog articles, whitepapers, and product research to convince readers to buy, while nurturing them throughout the buying process. A good example of this could be, where customers can find in-depth information and research about their many biking products, or visit their Trek Travel blog to read more about the cycling culture and get helpful biking tips.


Moving Leads Through the Sales Funnel vs. Convincing Buyers at the Bottom 

One of the biggest differences between traditional inbound marketing and ecommerce inbound marketing is that ecommerce inbound marketing typically only focuses on one part of the sales funnel: the bottom. As an ecommerce site, they know their visitors are ready to buy at an moment, and because of this, ecommerce companies will focus on using coupons, discounts, and other offers that convince a prospect to make the final purchase. However, when it comes to companies using traditional inbound marketing, these companies offer products and services that require more consideration, and therefore require nurturing that pulls them through the sales funnel towards a final sale. In our blog post, “ToFu, MoFu & BoFu: Serving Up The Right Content for Lead Nurturing,” you can see which types of content work best at each stage for traditional marketing strategies. 

Lead Nurturing vs. Remarketing

Because most traditional inbound marketing companies offer products and services that are a “one-time buy”, their lead nurturing strategy revolves around convincing those leads to make that one, big purchase (e.g., hiring a consulting service). On the other hand, with ecommerce sites often selling more commoditized products, their lead nurturing strategies revolve around remarketing and convincing leads to come back and buy more. It’s the reason why you get so many emails like “Don’t Miss This Week’s Deals!” after buying something from a website.

User Experience vs. Customer Service

While there’s no denying that ecommerce sites need to have a well-designed, easy-to-use website that’s optimized for conversions, what’s arguably much more important is the customer service they provide before, after, and during the sale. No matter how convenient a site is to use, bad customer service will ruin a chance at repeat business, so it’s important to keep it a top priority. Traditional inbound marketing sites have to focus on user experience, because in order to convince a visitor to convert without making any contact with them, it’ll all depend on your website content and user experience. And while it’s also important for any company using traditional inbound marketing to have good customer service as well, customer service teams for ecommerce companies are much more active with handling complaints and solving issues; making them a key component to any ecommerce site’s success.

For companies that are looking to get started with inbound marketing, it’s crucial that you identify which strategy will work best with your brand and resonate the most with your audience. Download our free eBook below to learn more about how to get started with a traditional inbound marketing strategy.

Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing

Topics: Inbound Marketing

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