What is Guerrilla Marketing and How can It Work for Ecommerce?

There are many ways to optimize your site and focus on delivering the most impeccable customer experience, all of which are incredibly important for a successful ecommerce business. However, when it comes to the tricks of the trade for growing your online shop; it all comes down to marketing. And in a world of advertisement saturation, there is increasingly a need to become more and more creative and innovative with marketing approaches, which has spurred the development of what is now being called Guerilla Marketing.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla Marketing is essentially “shock and awe” low-cost and high-impact unconventional marketing and advertisement methods to promote a business, brand, or product. Unlike traditional marketing tactics from conventional media streams, guerrilla marketing seeks to surprise, impress, and most of all engage the market-base. It seeks to make a brand attractive to consumers while also building a brand image that differentiates itself from the rest of the market competition.

Tiers of a Successful Guerrilla Marketing Campaign

Ultimately, in order for your marketing venture to be successful and garner engagement or inspire participation, along with making a statement, it needs to include these three elements:

  1. It must be easy to do or participate in
  2. It must be highly social
  3. It must be fun or entertaining for the participants

One guerrilla marketing campaign that is an excellent example of all of these elements in the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. It was incredibly easy to do, it required a bucket and ice water, which were pretty readily available to everyone. It was incredibly social, as participants were called out by each other on Facebook, and it was incredibly entertaining, as participants got excited about calling out a friend to undertake the challenge and enjoyed pouring a the ice bucket over that friend’s head. This campaign went viral very quickly and to date there is hardly a person out there, unless they live under a rock, who doesn’t know what ALS or the Ice Bucket Challenge is.

Social Engagement

Social engagement is the key to any successful guerrilla marketing campaign, both through physical interaction as well as online views, likes, and shares through social media platforms. Social networks and mediums like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, among others, increasingly server as advertising platforms, especially for ecommerce businesses. This is evident with the many advertisements now showing up in the Facebook newsfeed and before every YouTube video. Unfortunately, very few of us actually pay attention to this type of social media marketing, unless something really intriguing captures our attention. However, what we do pay attention to are the funny or touching viral videos and adds that our friends within our social networks “like” and share on their timelines.

Often we can be intrigued by some sort of advertisement for a brand or product simply because one of our friends within our social networks have “liked” a brand’s webpage or product, which in turn shows up on our social media newsfeed. This “like” bears the weight of an endorsement for the product or brand from a known and trusted source, instead of from some large and impersonal advertisement agency. We are therefore more likely to trust it and interact with the brand than as the result of a sterile and impersonal visual add that pops up on in the newsfeed.

Enhancing Brand Image

But how do you get people to “like” and engage with your brand? It’s all in how you present yourself. You’ve created a fantastic logo and ecommerce website that is beautiful, easy to navigate, and your company name is catchy. Moreover, you’ve fully optimized your website and chosen an intriguing domain name, one that suits your company, fits within your budget and should rank high in the SERPs. So now what? How do you continue to build your brand from there? The answer is not in merely how well you present your carefully crafted brand image to your customer-base, but is how you ensure that this customer-base engages with this brand image and the connection that they make with it. To put it another way, it’s all about how people feel about your brand and what can capture their attention and interest. The only way to make people feel anything is to interact with them on a personal level.

I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t easy to do when you are an ecommerce company with an international market-base. But remember, the tool that allows your business to succeed and connects you to this base to begin with – the internet – is the same tool that will also bring your marketing endeavors to this same market-base. Building a buzz around your brand can begin in one location and spread like wildfire over the world via the internet, which we know as “going viral.”

One of the most successful methods to “go viral” is to get people engaged with your brand through video and sharing on social media. With the rapid development of digital communication platforms, especially in the new media sector, the possibility for guerrilla marketing strategies have significantly increased. This doesn’t require a full-budget and professional film team, however, but can be simply filming an original and local guerrilla marketing campaign and posting it on the company website and promoting it on social media channels. A good example of this is ecommerce platform giant Bigcommerce.

The Bold Campaign by Bigcommerce

Bigcommerce performed a pretty risky marketing campaign back in September 2014 when attending the Shop.org retail conference. Wanting to stand out from among the crowd, they launched their #BetterBackend campaign to promote their ecommerce software backend technology. They had yogis adorned in the brand’s logo and wearing yoga pants that had the #BetterBackend slogan printed on the seat hold yoga poses before the entrance of the conference. They also handed out peaches, dressed in tiny underwear, with their brand logo and slogan also on them. This was all risky and presented the potential to offend, but it was a calculated risk and it worked! Some of the best guerrilla marketing campaigns walk that thin line between risk and reward.

Throughout the course of the conference, their #BetterBackend hashtag was the eighth most mentioned hashtag out of the entire conference. With this hashtag, the company experienced a 94% increase in their social engagement, and the small video that was filmed of the marketing campaign has received thousands of views. Moreover, Bigcommerce collected 142 business cards, received 35 demo requests, and gained over 2,000 unique visits to their website within 5 days of the conference demonstration. Although their marketing stunt was a local one, it was at an event with international industry contacts and their social media reach pushed it into an international marketing campaign with significant reach.

This is simple enough for any ecommerce company to do. First, you need to have a creative and engaging idea, and then you push that idea as far as it will possibly go for you through your e-marketplace and social reach. With so many ecommerce startups out there competing in a saturated marketplace, you will have to stand out from the rest in order to succeed anyway. So, why not put some thought and creativity into your branding and marketing approach. You will find that a really innovative guerrilla marketing campaign will more than pay off for the time, energy, and resources invested in it.

Feature image curtsey of Axel Herrmann

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Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.