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Digital Marketing on a small budget: 6 tips

The margins involved in retail means that you're always looking at costs. When you're a small business in particular, every penny counts. But you obviously need to get your brand out there to build awareness. Effective digital marketing on a small budget is possible. Below is an overview of how to ensure each segment of your plan is working to your advantage, and how businesses can manage their digital marketing on a small budget.

Social media: the core of digital marketing on a small budget

Social media channels are a great way to build awareness free of charge. But they take commitment and a bit of planning to maintain effectively. Automation can work wonders here (see companies like Commun.it), but be careful. We've come across businesses that simply automate social broadcasting that doesn't engage. One e-commerce site posts a link every few minutes to a particular product from their catalogue, and that's it. This kind of behaviour is the online equivalent of door-drop junk mail.

If you're a B2C e-commerce business you'll need facebook, twitter, Instagram (increasingly) and maybe Pinterest pages. Using tools like Hootsuite can really help you manage the messages you broadcast and the ones you need to respond to in one place.

And again, remember that social is social and not broadcast only. Time and time again busy e-commerce businesses simply forget to respond to questions asked of them on social channels. There are a lot of automated tools out there to help you respond when people follow you on Twitter etc. but none are better than an authentic response.

Tip: Try to automate the publishing and sharing of content using tools like Ifttt.com, Commun.it or Roundteam.co. Then allocate time to engage individuals in your audience on a one to one basis and have conversations! Use social dashboard software like Hootsuite to manage these conversations across social channels in one place. using Here's quite a good article on being socially intelligent about social media and how to approach it.


Email: cheap and powerful

Customer retention is so critical as it's cheaper than acquisition and retail competition is getting fiercer. So selling to your existing customers in the right way that fits your retail business model should be a priority and email is a great way to do this on the cheap. So if you’re a furniture retailer, this means building a relationship and advocates, who can in turn recommend you to their networks. If you’re a health and beauty retailer this means encouraging replenishment and cross-selling into other ranges. If you’re a clothing retailer this means about maximising Customer Seasonal Value (i.e. the revenue you can win from each customer per new seasonal collection).

TIP: So if you’re not doing it already connect your email database with your purchaser database. The soft opt-in rule means you can re-market to anyone who’s bought from you previously. So maximise the volume of people you can talk to and be relevant at the same time.
TIP: Use social channels to grow your email database, BUT give people a reason to sign up. This means you’ve really got to think about how social media and email fit together. Sending the same offers out via email and social channels gives zero incentive for someone to sign up to your email list.


Breathe new life into your Content Marketing

Content can be very generic, and this where many businesses can fall at the first hurdle. While it’s important to portray a brand’s ethos and message, it’s just as important to come across as human. Telling authentic stories about your business would be natural if you were talking to someone face-to-face at a social event.

Businesses that are starting out or are operating on a smaller scale vs. corporate competition should instil this approach. It gives them the edge when it comes to building relationships with customers.

TIP: Tell the story of your business, your team, successes and what it has taken to get your business where it is today. Don't just focus on pushing out generic product-feature messages. Here's a nice example from pop-up We Built This City.

Take advantage of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a fabulous tool for seeing where a business’s web traffic comes from, but in order to garner the correct data, businesses need to ensure that Google Analytics is set up correctly.

Businesses should be ensuring that the right kind of filters are in place and that any events are being tracked. This can seem like a hindrance to some, but if the correct settings are not implemented, a business could be basing its digital marketing on misleading information.

If you’re looking to instil Google Analytics as part of your marketing strategy, but are unsure of how to proceed, then why not drop us a line.

TIP: Use Google Analytics in conjunction with Google Tag Manager to ensure you have maximum scope for understanding both page views and interactions with elements such as call-to-action buttons, play buttons on embedded youtube videos etc.


Think about doing some local Marketing

The Internet is a truly wondrous place, but selling online doesn't mean that you can't use local marketing to your advantage. From consumer exhibitions to pop-up shops, there are different ways an online brand can take themselves offline and in doing so generate story-telling content and local press exposure.

Another way to leverage local marketing is through targeting activity by geographical segment. For example isolating customers who have a greater than expected average order value who live in a certain area. Such customers show a propensity to be more profitable and therefore have the ability to influence their own peer groups if you reward them and encourage them to spread the word about your brand.

TIP: identify geographical areas where you have an opportunity to exploit a local area marketing opportunity.


Collaborate with your peers

Building partnerships with non-competing retail businesses can be powerful. Taking advantage of opportunities like this gives both businesses the chance to offer customers some joint promotions, which you can share over email or social channels. It also allows both businesses to advertise to a different audience of customers. Ideally one partner should introduce the other partner to a segment of customers, who look similar to the customers of the partner being introduced. That way you ensure relevancy.

We recently noticed Quella teaming up with Ted Baker to collaborate on a new line of high-end fixed-gear bikes. This is takes partnership up a level by giving a smaller brand the opportunity to leverage an established brand's equity and awareness to its advantage and commercialising this through a higher-margin product. It's a higher-risk, higher-reward strategy and one which we hope works really well for both parties.


In summary there are some great tools out there that are low cost which can really help your digital marketing on a small budget. Make sure you use them to the maximum of their ability and don't fall into any traps around unneccessary features that inflate the price you pay to access them.