E-commerce is a big market… over $5 billion in consumer sales every year.
And it’s growing quickly, thanks in part to the global pandemic. In the first year of the pandemic, the global share of e-commerce in the retail sector grew from 14% to 17%.
That’s a 21% global increase in one year.
The U.S. saw similar results. E-commerce market penetration saw the equivalent of 10 years’ growth in just three months.
The pandemic drove businesses online. With physical stores forced to shut down, the only option was to set up an online store.
And now that businesses have moved online, they won’t be going back. They’ve invested too much money in making the transition to e-commerce.
It’s not just businesses who are benefiting from the move to e-commerce. Digital copywriters are in bigger demand than ever.
Digital marketers are desperate for digital copywriters… web writers who understand content marketing. They need copywriters who understand how to guide prospects toward making a sale.
The term “e-commerce” is familiar to most of us by now. But what exactly is it?
E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods, services, and information over an electronic network, primarily the internet.
Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, the Apple App Store… They’re all household names. They’re also four massive players in the e-commerce market. Amazon alone is valued at over $1.75 trillion.
At the other end of the scale are small businesses and consumers. The small online boutique store where we buy our coffee beans, the online marketplace where we sell secondhand goods to each other.
Then there are the millions of small and medium-sized businesses. The furniture retail chain, the office supplies company, the clothing outlet.
Nearly all e-commerce transactions fall into four broad sectors:
It’s important to understand the differences between them. Each sector provides different opportunities for digital copywriters.
B2B e-commerce is the electronic exchange of information, goods, and services between businesses. It’s a $1 trillion + market in the U.S. alone.
Information might include
Businesses compile this information, then sell it to other businesses.
Goods and services are the
… and so on that businesses provide to other businesses.
This market can exist only if the copy exists to facilitate sales.
B2C e-commerce is the retail trade we are familiar with. Businesses sell goods, services, and information directly to consumers.
Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay are examples of B2C e-commerce platforms.
No doubt, the sale of goods is the dominant sector here… all those “things” we buy online. But consumers also buy services and information.
A service could be a subscription to software, for example. Information would be an electronic directory of motels, which a consumer buys online.
C2C e-commerce is the exchange of goods and services between consumers. Facebook Marketplace is an example of this. Consumers place their goods for sale, and other consumers buy them.
Another big player in the C2C e-commerce market is eBay. It first entered this market just as e-commerce was gathering steam and became the go-to channel for consumers. It also allows consumers to conduct auctions for their goods, a popular option.
C2B e-commerce is where consumers sell their goods to businesses.
Marketing departments are always searching for new content to use in advertising. Consumers provide this content through C2B. It tends to be more spontaneous and more natural than, , staged professional photo shoots, for example.
The most obvious example here when people sell or allow paid use of their images, music, or videos.
How does it work? Websites like Shutterstock are the “middleman.” They pay contributors a minuscule amount each time one of their creations is downloaded. Then they charge businesses a significantly higher amount to buy the content.
Two other types of e-commerce transactions exist. They are
These are transactions between a business or consumer, and a government body. They’re a tiny part of the e-commerce world, but worth being aware of.
It’s unlikely you’ll encounter these as a digital copywriter, unless you take on web writing work for a government department.
M-commerce refers to e-commerce conducted on mobile devices…
Why do mobile devices have their own special designation? Because m-commerce is taking over the e-commerce industry. Almost 75% of e-commerce transactions are now conducted on mobile devices.
Over two-thirds of the global population own mobiles. And millennials prefer to use mobiles over desktop devices.
So it makes good business sense to optimize e-commerce sites for mobile devices. Otherwise, businesses potentially miss out on three-quarters of the e-commerce market. Digital copywriters who work in this space (and sooner or later you’ll find yourself doing just that!) make sure the copy’s easy to consume on a mobile device.
Social commerce is where a business sets up a store on a social media channel. This is especially popular with small businesses. It has a minimal cost barrier and a small learning curve when compared with creating an e-commerce website.
There’s definitely a case for setting up a social commerce store… but only to complement an existing e-commerce website.
And there’s a huge difference between a social commerce store and an e-commerce website. The business owns the e-commerce website. But the social media channel owns the social commerce site.
So the business is entirely at the mercy of the social media channel’s algorithm.
This can be disastrous if a business relies solely on social commerce for their online store. In early 2021, Facebook wiped the accounts of tens of thousands of businesses in Australia. Many businesses lost their entire source of income overnight.
So if a client wants you to set up their social e-commerce site and they don’t have an existing e-commerce website… you’d be wise to point out the dangers.
And then there’s the issue of data security. Would you trust the likes of Facebook not to use clients’ data for their own benefit?
E-commerce and content marketing are inseparable. A business cannot have an effective e-commerce site without content marketing.
Why not? Consider these insights:
Content marketing is an integral part of e-commerce.
Content marketing is a form of selling without the hype. It is focused more toward helping the consumer than on the classic sales model of selling at the consumer.
Go here to better understand the principles behind content marketing.
The only way to bridge these gaps is with content marketing. Businesses are changing the way they do marketing. They’re moving away from traditional advertising. Instead, they’re providing solutions to users’ problems.
Content marketing builds trust, empathy, and loyalty between consumer and business. Done right, it leads a consumer toward a sale without being pushy.
The rapid growth in e-commerce is driving a corresponding demand for digital copywriters who understand content marketing. Each depends on the other. Quite simply, marketers need more trained web writers.
Content marketing alone is a massive opportunity for trained digital copywriters. And we haven’t even mentioned the opportunities available specifically in e-commerce yet. Before we do, there’s another major change happening now. It opens up even more opportunities for web writers…
The other game changer has been Apple’s move to block online advertising and tracking cookies on their platforms. Google will have an even bigger impact when they no longer allow tracking cookies on their Chrome browser.
Right now, Facebook is the biggest social media advertising platform. But with Apple and Google cutting off their sources of tracking data, Facebook advertising is less effective.
Marketers will no longer be able to pay for Facebook advertising (third-party data) and reach their target audience. So content marketing becomes even more important.
Instead, marketers will need to collect zero-party data. Zero-party data collection involves users interacting directly with a business. They give you their name and email address in exchange for something of value, such as…
This means companies will need to build their own email lists of prospects and buyers, then send readers content and copy. This could be in the form of e-newsletters, email campaigns, promotions, and competitions.
Marketers need trained digital copywriters to write all these forms of content and copy. They need trained digital copywriters to drive users toward their e-commerce websites.
In other words, they need writers who understand content marketing and how it fits with e-commerce.
A good user experience or UX is critical in e-commerce. Nearly 70% of consumers abandon shopping carts before completing the transaction.
Why? There’s a list of reasons, and they’re all about poor UX:
UX streamlines this process. It is about placing the user first, before the business. UX is all about
UX is another huge opportunity for digital copywriters in e-commerce. UX is explained in detail here.
We’ve seen how content marketing and UX are critical to a successful e-commerce site. E-commerce needs well-planned content marketing and UX strategies to maximize its success.
But what opportunities are available to digital copywriters within e-commerce itself?
Visit any e-commerce website, and you’ll discover some common elements. And marketers need trained digital copywriters to write the copy, every step of the way. From the Home page to the shopping cart… and beyond.
Let’s go through the pages you might be asked to write.
The Home page is an e-commerce company’s shop front. Users have to know exactly where they are and where to go next.
You can earn $1,500–$3,000 to create or update a Home page.
Products are usually listed by category. Amazon famously manages to sort over 12 million products into just 27 categories. You can learn a lot about e-commerce copywriting best practices by studying what Amazon does.
A Category page shows every product in that category. You can usually refine your search using filters such as cost, product type, brand name, and so on.
You can easily charge between $250 and $1,000 per Category page, depending on the size.
A Product page (or product description) provides detailed information about one specific product. It might include
This copy needs to be written… for every product.
Imagine if you started writing product descriptions for a business that listed on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. They could have tens of thousands of products. At around $250 per product description, that’s a healthy income.
Arguably the most important part of any Product page is the “Add to Cart” button…
If a business has developed its own Shopping Cart page, the page may need to be simplified. You need to remove any points of resistance, any unnecessary steps. A review of a Shopping Cart page will earn you in the range of $400–$800.
Most businesses stop at the Shopping Cart. They have the sale; now it’s time to move on to the next prospect.
However, smart businesses understand the value of existing customers. It’s far cheaper to keep existing customers (five times cheaper, in fact) than to nurture new ones.
Once a customer has made a purchase, smart businesses send them an automated email sequence. This could be one email, thanking them for the purchase. Or it could be a series.
A series could consist of
All these emails are low-key and conversational. There’s no hype or high-pressure sales. You write these like you’re writing to a friend. You can easily charge $250–$500 per email.
You might already be involved in social media as an account manager or content creator. Add social commerce to your skill set. You’ll be writing product pages, like you would with e-commerce. However, it’ll be within the limitations of the social media channel’s template.
Regardless, you can charge $200–$250 per product description.
Now’s a good time to pause for a moment and reflect on the scale of the e-commerce market. First, consider the e-commerce opportunities we just described above. Then layer content marketing and UX writing over the top. You have myriad options.
You have so many choices, it’s difficult to know where to begin!
So, if you want to focus specifically on e-commerce, how do you get started?
The first step? Learn the skills you need to be a digital copywriter. AWAI offers a detailed course run by digital marketing expert Nick Usborne. It’s called Digital Copywriting Apprentice. This intensive 12-week course teaches you all the skills you need to succeed as a digital copywriter… including how to get clients.
Once you have the skills, you’re ready to find clients. Fortunately, identifying target clients is relatively easy.
The easiest way to find e-commerce clients is to go to where they sell.
To show you what we mean, let’s pick a really narrow niche. Imagine your niche is e-commerce for the horse products industry.
Simply choose a product in your niche and search for “buy Product X.”
If someone’s selling them online, they’ll appear… like the horse saddles shown above.
Then click on each of the ads, as if you’re ready to buy. You’ll see something like this.
You’ve just found a potential client in your niche.
Another way is to go to the large players in the market. Amazon is an obvious choice here. Use the same process. Type “horse saddle” into the search box.
Now, remember we said earlier how the seller enters the product descriptions on large sites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy? Well, you could be writing those product descriptions for those sellers.
But first, you need to find the sellers. You can find them by clicking on the search results.
Not surprisingly, the likes of Amazon aren’t too keen for us to leave their site and click through to sellers’ websites. So, finding what you need takes a few steps.
The text we’ve circled says, “Visit the Weaver Leather store.” But when you click on the link, it takes you to Weaver Leather’s store within Amazon.
That’s actually a good sign… You just found a whole bunch of e-commerce copy written by Weaver Leather. So they potentially have a need for your services.
But we still haven’t discovered Weaver Leather’s website. Go back to Google and search for “Weaver Leather.” And there it is!
Once here, look for a few things. First, do they have an online shop on their website? If so, there are more potential opportunities for you.
Second, this business looks more like a wholesaler. So they’ll have a network of dealers or resellers. Look for a link like “Where to Buy,” “Find a Seller,” or “Dealers.”
Weaver Leather has a link called Dealers. However, in this case it’s a dealer login portal.
So, go back to Google and see who else stocks Weaver Leather products. We find Ride the Brand, Kingston, Pro Horse, and many more. Go to their websites and see if they have online stores… More opportunities for you.
See how your list can grow so quickly? You started with a vague Google search for one random product in your niche. Less than 10 minutes later, you have 10 or more prospects.
Now that you have a list of prospects, it’s time to contact them… the low-stress way.
Take another look at Weaver Leather’s Home page, above. See the Contact item in the navigation bar? This is what opens when we click on it.
The email address circled in red is what you’re looking for. This is the easiest, least stressful way to contact clients… and it works.
Someone with Weaver Leather regularly monitors this email address. Think of them as a gatekeeper. They read each email, then forward it to the relevant person in their company. Usually, it’s a decision-maker.
In your case, it will usually be the marketing manager.
All you need to do is send a simple email to get the ball rolling. Something like this:
Hi, I’m a trained digital copywriter. I write e-commerce copy for [your niche, which is related to their business type].
I noticed you have an Amazon store and sell a wide range of products online. Product descriptions are something I can help you with.
Who is the best person in your company to speak to about this?
That’s it. No need to search online for the right decision-maker to contact, then spend time trying to find their contact details.
The info@ email address is a powerful way to get clients. It’s simple and effective.
Now, let’s look at how an e-commerce project might play out.
What happens after a client gets back to you and says “Yes”?
Imagine they want you to write two Product pages as a trial. This is a likely scenario, as it’s low risk to them… If you don’t deliver as expected, they’ve lost only around $500. But if you’re good, then they’ve found a new e-commerce writer, which is a huge win for them.
Smart marketers will take this risk… and they’re the ones you want to work for.
Your number one priority? Exceed their expectations. Give them more than they expect.
For example, you could optimize the copy for SEO, even though they didn’t specify it… include keywords in the headline, product description, and specifications.
When you send the completed project (on or before time — see below), mention you’ve optimized the copy for SEO. No need to gloat, though… Just mention it as a passing thought: “By the way, I optimized the copy for SEO.”
Then ask for more work: “What else do you need help with?”
And make sure you meet and preferably exceed their deadline. If they want it by Thursday, send it on Tuesday.
Deadlines are absolutely crucial. What’s the fastest way to lose a client? Miss a deadline.
Never miss a deadline. Ever.
We all have unavoidable emergencies. If something does genuinely prevent you from completing the project on time, contact your client well before the deadline. Give them time to rearrange their schedule.
Once the first project’s done, keep in touch. Get feedback. Were they happy with your work?
If possible, talk to them on the phone rather than using email. It’s very easy to lose context or for misunderstandings to occur via email. But when you speak to someone, you get instant feedback from the tone of their voice.
If it’s a one-and-done-type project, keep in touch every few months. Send them an email so they don’t forget who you are. Ask if there’s anything they need help with.
You may have learned a new skill since you were last in touch.
Tell them about it… “I’m now writing a weekly e-newsletter for a [business type] company. Let me know if you need help with your newsletter and promotional emails.”
Another approach is to look at the bigger picture…
Imagine e-commerce as the center of a giant whirlpool. As you move away from the vortex, huge volumes of content and copy are being sucked toward the vortex.
As an e-commerce copywriter, look beyond the vortex. There’s a whole ocean of content and copy out there, waiting to be written. The opportunities are pretty much endless.
That’s why it’s important to ask your client what else they need help with. And go a step further. Analyze their content, looking for content gaps.
Imagine you discover your client has no information on how to use their products. Offer to fill those gaps. “I noticed you don’t have any articles on how to use Products X, Y, and Z. I have an idea for a series of five blog posts to cover this gap. I look forward to discussing this further.”
Or they might have a social commerce store to complement their e-commerce website. But you notice it’s outdated. Offer to update it.
Take a look at their shopping cart from a user’s perspective (UX). How can you improve it? Make suggestions, offer to improve it.
Many marketers will already be aware of content gaps and areas where their UX could be stronger. But they don’t have time or resources to address them. When you provide a ready-to-go packaged solution, they’ll likely jump at it.
As we’ve seen, e-commerce is a massive industry that keeps getting bigger every year.
Base your writing business around e-commerce. Then grow and develop as the opportunities continue to grow. We tend to think of e-commerce as the point where a customer reaches for their wallet and makes a purchase.
But as we’ve seen, that’s just one step in a much larger series of steps.
No doubt you can make a healthy living specializing as an e-commerce copywriter. A single company can have tens of thousands of products… every one of which needs persuasive copy written.
And if you expand your horizons from there, you’ll open yourself to a whole new world of well-paying copywriting projects.