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What is Digital Marketing? Definition + 11 Strategies for 2023

Ecommerce success is driven by many factors beyond the first step of launching an online store. To get your business out there, you need to market your brand and website to drive traffic, which should ultimately lead to more sales.

This is where digital marketing comes into play. Effective digital marketing will create a buzz around your company and products, earn trust from your audience, and push people to your online store to eventually make a purchase—and return in the future for more.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is the act of promoting a brand, product, and/or service through paid and organic online campaigns, and encompasses pretty much any online promotion of your ecommerce business.

More than three-quarters of businesses actively use marketing campaigns to promote their brands. The most common marketing goals for those businesses include increased brand awareness, sales, engagement, leads, and revenue—all of which can be achieved with a digital marketing strategy.

Digital marketing for B2B

B2B digital marketing is the act of promoting your products or services to other businesses or organizations. The most common digital marketing strategies for B2B brands are email marketing and social media marketing, but many are looking to branch out in 2023, with 71% planning to invest in influencer marketing and 91% of B2B brands using YouTube to invest further this year.

Digital marketing B2C

B2C digital marketing promotes a product or service to a consumer rather than another business. Ecommerce brands usually fall into this camp, using tactics like social media marketing, paid advertising, and SEO (search engine optimization) to capture the attention of shoppers who are researching products.

Why is digital marketing important?

Today’s competition means it’s impossible to stand out without using multiple strategies to attract and nurture potential shoppers. Digital marketing can be the catalyst for getting your products in front of the right people, but that’s not the only benefit. Digital marketing can also help you:

  • Focus your marketing efforts. It can be tempting to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. But a successful digital marketing strategy requires an understanding of your audience so you can serve them the right content on the right platforms at the right time.
  • Compete with bigger businesses. Organic strategies like social media marketing and SEO can help you stand out against big-name brands that have millions of dollars to invest in advertising.
  • Optimize your marketing investment. Tracking and analyzing the results of your digital marketing strategy will help you identify where you’re having the most success. You can use this information to optimize your efforts, decrease the cost of new customer acquisition, and make sure you’re putting your money where it matters.
  • Measure your progress. A thought-out digital marketing strategy will give you key insights into how well your campaigns are performing. Make sure you set goals and track your KPIs to determine how well your efforts are paying off.
  • Improve your conversion rate. More conversions mean more revenue. Digital marketing not only attracts shoppers, but educates them on why they should buy from you and ultimately guides them toward a sale.

11 strategies of digital marketing

A well-rounded digital marketing strategy encompasses multiple channels. Generally speaking, most brands use a combination of social media, email, and SEO, among others. The specific channels that work for your brand largely depend on your target audience, your budget, and your business goals.

Here are 11 popular and effective digital marketing channels to promote your online business.

1. Social media marketing

Social media marketing allows you to engage with existing customers and build relationships with new ones. Social media is a collective term for the major platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as niche sites like Houzz and Twitch. Some of the main social media marketing platforms to check out include:

You can create organic social posts on each of these networks. Organic social posts are updates you post to your brand’s page(s) without any paid promotion. It’s typically best to go with a mix of engaging and promotional content with organic posts, skewing more toward engaging content. Too many self-promotional posts may lead to unfollows.

Perfume brand Dossier posts relatable memes on its Instagram profile to connect with its followers and demonstrate its personality.

2. Messaging marketing

Messaging marketing lets you reach shoppers in their text message or Facebook Messenger inbox. It’s particularly effective for building deeper relationships with existing customers and providing perks to your best shoppers. But be careful—your customers’ inboxes are sacred, so treat them with care. Only share necessary updates, relevant offers, or content that’s really valuable.


Toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap sends replenishment reminders to its customers via text message so they never run out of loo roll. This is a great way to encourage ongoing purchases and stay front of mind.

Instant messaging marketing, Who Gives a Crap text message, replenishment reminder, text message marketing

3. Email marketing

Email is a prominent digital communication tool for businesses. And according to research, email usage is on the rise. About 4.37 billion people use email, which is predicted to rise to 4.73 by 2026. However, there’s increasing dissatisfaction with branded emails—which means there’s more opportunity for the brands that do it well.

You can use email to send a mix of promotional and non-sales content—newsletters with helpful content about how to use your products, exclusive discounts for your email list, early announcements, and access to special sales and affiliate programs. Spirit of the Herbs shared an exclusive discount code with its subscribers in an attempt to boost sales.

Spirit of the Herbs email marketing example, email marketing tips, 20% off email reminder.

Use email marketing software to build customer profiles and segment your subscriber list so you can create personalized email campaigns. With Shopify Email, you can create email marketing campaigns and send them to your customer base through Shopify itself. Emails are fully customizable and support direct linking to your products to increase click-throughs and conversions.

4. SEM and SEO

Search engine marketing (SEM) and SEO marketing aim to increase your website’s visibility through online search engines. SEM refers to paid tactics, while SEO refers to non-paid efforts.

To fire up your SEM, you can run pay-per-click (PPC) display ads and Google Shopping Ads through the Google Ads dashboard, targeting specific keywords for queries in your chosen locations. Your budget may vary depending on your goals and keyword competition, but there’s always an option for every budget.

LOVEBYT, which sells cruelty- and chemical-free toothpaste, uses SEM in its digital marketing strategy. It has bid on the keyword “organic toothpaste” so it appears at the top of search pages for queries with those words. Shoppers who type that keyword into Google will see the brand’s ad as their top result—and, with the top three results claiming 54.5% of all clicks, there’s a good chance consumers will click through.

Google advertising example from LOVEBYT, SEM marketing, keyword marketing

5. Native advertising

Native advertising refers to a type of paid advertising in which the ad matches the look and feel of its host platform. This form of digital marketing might be a social media post, a sponsored post on a website, or a recommendations widget.

The idea isn’t to trick people into thinking the ad is an organic piece of content. Instead, the purpose is to maintain a frictionless user experience.

Here, the content recommends products that help keep food fresh longer, which complement the article. Product recommendations are a common form of native advertising.

Native advertising in a blog post, recommendations for products as part of a how-to

6. Pay per click

Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising model where you pay for every click on your ad. It’s also known as the cost-per-click (CPC) model and is most prominent on Google, Facebook, and Instagram.

Much like SEM, you set your budget and create the ad visuals. However, while SEM shows your ad to people who have searched for a specific keyword, PPC ads are shown to consumers who match your target audience.

There are multiple ad types to choose from, and features that let you guide shoppers to the promoted product page or allow them to buy directly through the social media platform.

Shoe brand Fizzy Goblet uses a short video ad to encourage shoppers to learn more about its products.

Example of an Instagram video ad from Fizzy Goblet, features a video of the brand’s shoes and a call-to-action that invites users to learn more

7. Content marketing

Content marketing is when businesses create and/or curate content, usually via a blog. In fact, more than half of marketers use blogs in their digital marketing strategy. Content is effective for building relationships with new and existing customers, generating awareness about your brand and products, boosting SEO, and establishing authority in your chosen niche.

CBD and hemp oil brand Cerena has a blog called Cuentos (Stories) on its website. Here, it publishes industry updates and tips on how people can use its products in their lives.

Screenshot of Cerena’s blog, example of content marketing in ecommerce

8. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing allows consumers and influencers to earn a commission for marketing and selling a company’s products. This is most commonly seen in tandem with influencer marketing, where the influencer gets a cut every time someone buys a product through their unique link. This form of digital marketing is a great way to get in front of new audiences and encourage your best customers to promote your products.

In this example, when a shopper clicks through from this roundup post to the Amazon product page and makes a purchase, the affiliate will get a slice of commission.

Example of affiliate marketing, affiliate link in a blog post, Amazon affiliate link

9. Marketing automation

Marketing automation is when you use technology in your digital marketing strategy to trigger automated actions from your marketing platforms. Marketing automation could be limited to a single platform in your tech stack or involve a combination of tools via integrations. The Shopify App Store, for example, has lots of marketing automation apps you can add to your ecommerce site.

Screenshot of some of Shopify’s marketing automation tools, Shopify app library

You can also create marketing automation campaigns directly from your Shopify dashboard. One example of marketing automation most ecommerce brands can leverage is post-purchase automation.

Depending on your product and the purchase, you can use post-purchase communication as a way to nurture customer relationships and cross-sell other products through personalized recommendations. Then, you can check the results and optimize the campaign through the marketing analytics in your Shopify dashboard.

10. Remarketing

Remarketing, or behavioral retargeting, is when you market to people who have already interacted with your brand in some way. You can set up retargeted marketing campaigns that are informed and targeted based on your audience’s previous behavior.

Maybe you launched a collection of artist-designed mugs for your home goods business? A few months after the first project, you then collaborated with a different artist on a new mug design. You can remarket to the people who purchased your first artist-designed mug, knowing they already have an interest in this type of product.

Madewell serves Facebook ads to customers who have already visited the website and shown an interest in specific products.

Screenshot of Madewell’s remarketing campaign on Facebook, Facebook ad example

11. Sponsored content

Sponsored content is similar to native advertising in that a brand pays for an ad that resembles a platform’s editorial content. Often this form of digital marketing is an article or blog post, but it can also refer to sponsored social media posts.

This piece on Buzzfeed is sponsored by toy brand Hot Wheels.

Screenshot of a sponsored post on Buzzfeed by toy brand Hot Wheels, example of sponsored content in ecommerce

Digital marketing examples

Dove: digital marketing campaign

Cosmetic brand Dove is renowned for its emotive digital marketing strategy that ties seamlessly with its brand values.

Over the years, Dove has incorporated user-generated content, hashtag campaigns, and social videos to raise awareness of body issues and promote its products.

Example of Dove’s advertising campaigns, Dove’s digital marketing strategy, Real Beauty campaign

Samsonite: SEM

Global luggage brand Samsonite used SEM practices to bring its advertising online. It started by getting a deeper understanding of what its end users were looking for so they could target the right keywords and promote the right message in search results.

Example of Samsonite’s search engine ads, SEM marketing, Google Shopping ads for luggage

Apple #ShotOniPhone social campaign

Apple encouraged its customers to share pictures taken on their iPhones in response to the backlash against the phone’s camera capabilities. The winning photos were displayed on billboards around the world.

Screenshot of an image on Apple’s Instagram page that’s part of the #ShotoniPhone campaign

Kickstart your digital marketing

Shopify has built-in marketing tools you can use to get started with your digital marketing campaigns. There are tools for audience targeting, email marketing, SEO, paid social ads, and more. Plus, you can improve your marketing efforts with actionable insights that reduce guesswork and make campaigns better over time. With Shopify, you can use one platform to find and sell to the right shoppers, wherever they are.

Additional research by Alexandra Sheehan

Digital marketing FAQ

What are the types of digital marketing?

1. Social media marketing
2. Instant messaging marketing
3. Email marketing
4. SEM and SEO
5. Native advertising
6. Pay per click
7. Content marketing
8. Affiliate marketing
9. Marketing automation
10. Remarketing
11. Sponsored content

What is meant by digital marketing?

Digital marketing is a strategy used by brands to get their products in front of customers via online platforms. It includes common tactics like email marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing.

What is an example of digital marketing?

Email marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing are all examples of digital marketing. They help brands connect with customers and promote their products via online platforms, like email, social media channels, and blogs.

How can I use digital marketing?

To get started with a digital marketing strategy, you need to have a good understanding of your audience and the digital channels they use. Take inspiration from similar brands to determine which strategies might work best for you.

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