Journal

How to Implement an eCommerce Product Launch Strategy

4 Nov
2022
How to Implement an eCommerce Product Launch Strategy

When Apple launches a new product—it hits differently. 

The big announcement. A buildup of hype. Thousands of customers queued outside stores and online checkouts. Then there's the post-purchase phase—happy customers flood social media with pictures of new products and instant reviews. Those who missed out get FOMO and jump online to get their hands on the latest iPhone.  

Apple product launches are instantly recognizable. But how does a product launch like this happen?

It's a process. The best eCommerce product launches have target market research, PR campaigns, and personalized content marketing strategies. These launches understand what customers want and cut through the noise so they notice a new product. 

This article will walk through every step of creating a successful eCommerce product launch—from audience research to post-launch revenue tips.

Three steps to a flawless eCommerce product launch

eCommerce product launches happen in three stages: preparation, launch, and post-launch breakdowns. 

Each stage is broken down into several different areas to create marketing plans, launch ideas and decide on analytics and post-purchase care. 

Let's take a look at the first stage 👇

Step 1:  Pre-Product Launch 

Research into the target market and audience 

Only launch a product once you know who you're selling it to and, more importantly, if they want it. 

Conduct market research to see what your target audience is looking for in a new product. It may be something they're actively seeking or a product they don't even know they need. Start by zooming in on your target audience's needs and putting yourself in their shoes: 

  • Need. Does your product solve a pain point? Are they aware they need your product?
  • Features. How will you describe the product's features, so the customer knows it'll solve their problem?
  • Cost. Does the price tag match the value?

Get familiar with your product and what value it'll bring to your target market. This will give you an understanding of what your customers need and make it easy to build a marketing strategy that speaks to them. 

Conduct competitor analysis to see what you're up against

Competition is fierce, especially in eCommerce—40% of online retailers in North America and Europe say the market is very tough. 

You need to know what your competitors are doing to launch a product successfully. Differentiating your product by price, style, features, or need can help it get noticed by customers and keep your store competitive against rivals. 

Start by looking at their:

  • Social media game. What channels are customers paying attention to? Are they using social media regularly? Do they run competitions online or give out prizes to entice customers?
  • Pricing strategies. Do they have a similar product to the one you're launching? How much are they charging? Is shipping included? Are they offering other perks?
  • Loyal customer offers. How are they looking after their VIPs? Are they offering early discounts or other loyalty perks to return customers?
  • Sales tactics. Do they reach out to customers who have abandoned their carts? Are they utilizing cross-sell and upsell methods at the checkout? 

Look for any holes in their marketing and sales strategy to see how you can make your product stand out. 

It's also wise to consider which of their products are doing well—and which aren't. See if they have a similar product to the one you're launching. If it's constantly on sale or being touted across social media and email campaigns, there's a chance it's bombing with customers, and you should think twice about your launch. 

//[inject:ad-demo]

Build a go-to-market game plan

Time to start thinking about how you will get customers from their first touch to the checkout. 

Plot each possible customer touchpoint and how you will use it to market and sell your product with a go-to-market strategy (GTM). This should include touch-points like:

  • Any social media channels customers use to engage with your brand 
  • Your website and SEO plans
  • Email/SMS lists for marketing campaigns
  • Influencers to drive brand recognition
  • VIP incentives and loyalty reward programs to drive traffic

Each touchpoint should tie to a goal of increasing awareness around your new product and getting people to the checkout. 

Your launch budget, goal, and target audience will determine which touch-points get the most attention. If your customers live on TikTok and respond to email marketing campaigns, focusing your attention on these channels instead of spending big on SEO and influencers will drive more sales. 

Develop a launch timeline for your new product

Next, prepare (realistic) deadlines and budgets for your launch that cover marketing, feature releases, and final sign-offs. 

Most product launches will follow a waterfall approach where one stage needs to be completed before the next can start. For example, before launching a marketing campaign, features and pricing will need to be decided so your design team can create assets to use on social media. 

Creating a timeline for the launch will help keep everything on track. It should include the following:

  • Product release date. A concrete product release date and when it'll be available to buy. This will be the "endpoint" of your launch timeline, and all marketing activities should be scheduled leading up to that time
  • Stages. Such as pre-launch parties, social media campaign kick-offs, email marketing campaigns, and A/B testing on landing pages/websites
  • Marketing. How will you market your new product? What campaigns will you run across selected channels? Plan accordingly and stagger campaigns so you don't flood your customer's inboxes and social media feeds at the same time
  • Steps to launch. Who needs to approve what? Plan when departments and stakeholders will be consulted on campaigns and which ones will be launched first. 
  • Final sign-offs. There will be a lot of work, from creating ideas to signing off on the final product launch strategy. Create concrete deadlines for certain assets and campaigns to be signed off by specific departments (like marketing, social media, and design) so the final launch stays on track. 

Plenty of tools can create transparent timelines to plan your launch. Asana and Trello have free templates you can use to plot deadlines and progress to help keep your team on the same page. 

A simple product launch template from Asana

Create PR and marketing material to spread awareness

Send out press releases—internally and externally—to drum up interest around your product. 

Internal press releases help get your team on the same page with product messaging, features, and target market. It should clearly outline what the product does, what problems it solves for your customers, and any specifics they need to know about the upcoming product launch. 

External press releases aim to spread awareness about the upcoming product launch and get customers interested. It should include details of the product launch date, key features that will excite customers, costs, and where it'll be available to buy.

Here's how Nécessaire teased the release of a new product to their email list.  

Minimal information and a launch date give the audience FOMO, which leads to the email's CTA—signing up for the waitlist. When they do, Nécessaire can send them promotional emails in the lead-up to the product launch to build excitement. 

Ensure content is SEO-friendly so customers can find you

The final phase of pre-launch planning is making sure customers can find you. 

Search Engine OptimizationOptimization (SEO) is one of the best investments you can make to ensure customers can find your product using Google or Bing. This involves inserting keywords into your website and landing pages, so a search engine will see you're selling what the customer is looking for when a search engine crawls it. 

If assets like blog posts and eBooks are being used for your launch, you'll also need to optimize these. For example, if a company releases a new pair of running shoes for winter, they may publish a blog post called "5 Best Running Shoes For Winter in 2022." This post can then be optimized using:

  • URL: /blog/best-winter-running-shoes
  • Meta description: Looking for the best winter running shoes? We tested a lot of them—here are our top 5. 
  • Target keywords: best winter running shoes
  • Secondary keywords: winter running shoes, shoes for running on snow, joggers for winter, running shoes for cold climate, snow running shoes, best waterproof running shoes

Other than on-page SEO, make sure any call-to-actions (CTAs) link to specific product pages and images have alt-text included to help customers with visual impairments. 

Step 2: During Product Launch

Your pre-launch plan is in place. It's time to hype your product and focus on brand awareness. 

Collaborate with influencers to spread the word

Marketers are expected to spend roughly $16 billion on influencer marketing this year—and for a good reason. 

Influencers are a growing niche for helping launch products and can light a (serious) fire under any social media marketing campaign. 

First, think about what type of influencer you want to work with on your launch. 

While celebrity influencers (1m+ followers) may seem like a good choice, be wary of the engagement rate they have with followers. Recent data suggests nano-influencers (5,000 followers or less) have engagement rates of around 5%, but it decreases the more followers an account has. 

Then, think about your target market. While 28% of Gen Z is influenced by people on social media, this figure drops to 16% for Gen X and just 9% for Baby Boomers.  

Once you find the right influence, decide how they will be compensated for working on your product launch:

  • Paid. Some influencers use their channels as full-time jobs and will charge a standard rate to showcase your products. This rate will include a set number of posts/reels in exchange for a fee. 
  • Freebies. Other influencers (usually nano and micro-influencers) may promote your products for free merch.
  • Long-term ambassadors. Finally, some influencers will work with your brand long-term in exchange for a mix of products and fees. These engagements are a good way to form a trustworthy relationship with the influencer's audience instead of relying on a one-off post.

An example of the latter is celebrity influencers Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker. The pair teamed up with Daring Foods to promote the new vegan brand to American audiences using their Instagram accounts. 

Image source

The deal lasted two weeks and included four posts across Barker and Kardashian's Instagram channels. The campaign garnered millions of impressions and likes, along with thousands of impressions.  

Leverage social media so your product gets in front of customers

Social media channels are a perfect way for your customers to window shop. 

It's also the perfect place to show off a new product and create hype around its release. Tactics like competitions and giveaways can help organically spread the word about a new product and encourage customers to pre-order it. 

Integrating social media into your product launch can:

  • Generate interest with "tag a friend" and "like" contests
  • Grow your social following and build brand awareness
  • Create excitement around launch day using countdowns

Again, the channel you center your campaign around will depend on your target audience. If you’re trying to reach a younger demographic during your launch, channels like TikTok will help your product get seen. 62% of TikTok's audience are aged between 10 to 29 (typical Gen Z) and are influenced by products and people they see on social media. 

When French skincare brand Klorane launched its new Stick Mask, TikTok was the main social media channel used to engage its audience. The brand worked with 13 creators to post videos of the new product and then offered its audience gift codes to encourage them to buy. 

The campaign was a huge boost for Klorane's new product. It generated a 5% boost in purchase intent and an ad recall of over 30% once it wrapped up. 

Reward loyal customers so they stick around

Build brand loyalty and excitement by offering existing customers exclusive discounts or pre-launch access to your product.

An eCommerce store's bread and butter are its VIP customers. Repeat buyers spend 67% more in their overall lifetime value (LTV) than new customers, and 56% of loyal customers are willing to spend more with a brand they trust over another store selling the product cheaper. 

Product launches are a perfect time to reward these customers for sticking around. Give your VIPs exclusive coupons or access to a product before it's released to the general public to say thanks. 

Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is a masterclass in rewarding customers for being loyal—it has around 25 million members

But the secret to the store's loyalty program is its flexibility and point system. Members can earn points by recommending a friend or leaving reviews, which drives new traffic and customers. 

When a new product is launched, members can redeem points to purchase items and limited edition products. The loyalty program is a continuous circle that drives sales and makes up roughly 80% of Sephora's total annual sales

Step 3: Post-Product Launch 

Don't celebrate just yet. 

Looking after your customers post-launch is just as important as any other part of the campaign. It's also a crucial time to drive traffic and create more revenue once the initial hype of the launch has died down. 

Here's how 👇

Personalize emails to drive new (and old) customers

Send relevant emails to new and old customers at the right time once the dust from the launch has settled. 

Email marketing is a great way to nurture customers who may be on the fence about buying your new product and need a little more convincing before heading to the checkout. These campaigns may be a simple coupon to grab their attention or a hyper-personalized email if their past purchases are similar to your new product. 

Check out this example from (yep, you guessed it) Apple. When the brand released AirPods Pro in 2019, it was a new and improved version of the first-generation product launched three years earlier. Emails were sent to customers who purchased the product the first time around, along with loyal Apple users: 

Image source

It's a simple yet striking campaign that lets the product do the talking. The email's prime real estate highlights the product's best features, like noise cancellation and battery life. For more information, the customer needs to click on a CTA that takes them straight to the product page and—hopefully—to the checkout. 

This is a great example of following up post-launch and letting the product do the heavy lifting. 

Pro-tip: Post-launch email campaigns can be put on autopilot with the right tools. Sendlane can send automated, personalized campaigns to customers post-launch based on previous purchases and buying behavior. If a customer has visited your website or landing page to look at your new product but didn't make it to the checkout, Sendlane can target them based on their activity and give them a truly personalized experience. Just create a simple automation—Sendlane will do the rest. 

//[inject:ad-ebook-funnels]

Focus on a remarketing strategy to claw back sales

Finally, remarket your product to customers by targeting them through email and social media channels. 

Each time a customer interacts with your brand, there's a chance to grab data. This may be cookies dropped onto their computer when they looked at your product or handed over their email address to unlock a promo code. 

Use this data to your advantage by following up with a paid ad or personalized email campaign. 

Here's how Beauty Pie reminds recent website visitors not to forget about their introductory offer: 

We love this retargeted ad because it has a clear message: try our products for free. If your product launch metrics are lagging, enticing customers with a no-risk (or low-risk) offer is a great way to get them back to your site.  

Successful product launches take time—the payoff is worth it

eCommerce Product launches don't happen overnight—especially those that get results. 

The most crucial part of any eCommerce product launch is the planning phase. Take time to figure out your target audience, your marketing message, and the channels you'll invest in to build hype around your product. 

Develop strict timelines to keep your launch on track and use the right influencers and reward programs to create interest in your product. Don't stop once the launch is over—keep targeting loyal customers and remarketing over social media and email to keep your product fresh in their minds. 

Remember, your next product launch doesn't have to be like Apple—it just needs to drive customers to your checkout. 

Want to leverage email & SMS to maximize the results of your next product launch? Handle your customer outreach using Sendlane. Sign up for a free trial here! 

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