E-commerce is taking over the shopping market, and websites are increasingly forcing their brick-and-mortar counterparts to adapt or close down. It's true, 2017 has seen a shopping revolution, and more physical retail stores have shut down this year than ever before. E-commerce is booming, and currently shows 23 percent growth year-over-year. This growth isn't surprising, considering 51 percent of Americans admit that they prefer to shop online.

But as the e-commerce market becomes more crowded, online business owners face a new challenge: how to stand out on the web and bring customers inside their digital doors.

They key is Facebook. Whether you "like" the social media outlet or not, Facebook dominates its competition with over two billion active users. While there are plenty of customers on Facebook, they won't come running to your e-commerce site easily. They're bombarded with ads all day long, so to catch their attention, you'll need to go above and beyond your competition. Here's how.

1. Understand your audience.

Before you post a word on Facebook, you should know exactly what audience you want to go after, how they use Facebook, and who your top competitors are online. Knowing your audience will also help you better target promoted posts and paid advertisements.  

Most important, knowing your audience will help you understand the type of content they want to see. It'll also give you insight into how their interests might change over time. It's crucial that you keep up with the latest content trends that your audience is responding to.

Jagrit Pratap Singh, founder of the popular website HipToro, has built Facebook pages that have accumulated over six million likes. "Several successful brand pages tend to fizzle out over the long run as they keep churning out the same content for years, while connected audiences have moved on to newer interests," said Singh.

Are they interested in facts presented in infographics or memes that they can share with their friends? This information is critical to the success of your e-commerce site on Facebook.

2. Post consistently.

Once you know what to post and whom you're posting to, you have to start putting content out there. Armen David, founder and CEO of Starmen, runs an agency that's produced award-winning marketing work for top brands such as HBO, Gatorade, and DirecTV. He says a Facebook page is a natural extension of your brand. "While your company's branding provides its skin and bones, its social media presence offers a glimpse into its heart and soul," says David. You wouldn't want a customer to come to your website and see nothing you have to offer. The same rules should apply to Facebook, so don't adopt a one-and-done approach to posting.

How often should you post? "Frequency and content type depend largely on the market in question," David advises. "However, regardless of how often and what you're posting, all materials should be and remain consistent with the rest of a brand's communication and marketing."

Another tip: Boost your posts to gain extra exposure. Producing high-quality content takes time, so you want to make sure your target audience sees it. Facebook's algorithm makes it tough, so you might want to consider boosting your posts. "For a better performance within your follower base, you can boost these posts to your target audience," says Singh. "This could lead to your Facebook page going viral within your audience group."

3. Don't just post, engage.

Facebook is a crowded space these days, so it's not enough to just post content and move on--you have to engage with your users as much as possible. According to Singh, engagement really is key to brining in customers. "It will have them talking about you, sharing your content, and keeping your brand top of mind," he says.

How can you engage effectively? Usually it means commenting and responding to customer issues and questions promptly. "Facebook offers an opportunity to build true connections with consumers," David adds. "By keeping their fingers on the pulse, brands can leverage ongoing consumer conversations to better meet the needs of their target audience."  

Another way to engage with customers is by leveraging partnerships with online influencers. Bloggers and other internet celebrities often bring millions of followers who are severely loyal to them. A mention on an influencer's page could bring thousands of likes to your business. David agrees: "Leveraging partnerships and ambassadorships with other companies and humans in the market is a wonderful way to not only establish rapport with an expanded audience, but also to further articulate a brand's ethos and values," he says.

Building a solid community of customers on Facebook takes time, but these three tips are an excellent place to start. Take the time to listen to your customers and give them good content, and your e-commerce site will see a big return on investment.

Published on: Dec 13, 2017