Going Viral: What Is Viral Marketing in Ecommerce?

what is viral marketing in ecommerce

Viral marketing has been a buzzword in ecommerce for many years, but what exactly does it mean? The concept of a virus is not pleasant, but the metaphor has persisted for so long because it’s the best analogy for an idea that catches on and spreads at an exponential rate.

We’ve all seen ridiculous or hilarious viral videos that spread to millions of people overnight. Such phenomena occur because people feel the need to share interesting things with each other through social media and other forms of online communication.

what is viral marketing in ecommerce

What is viral marketing in ecommerce?

In short, viral marketing is a strategy that relies on word-of-mouth to carry a marketing message to a rapidly-growing number of people. When people share a message with others and the recipients share with more people, it can cause a chain reaction which leads to an exponential growth of communication.

The question then becomes: Is it possible to deliberately create a message that will go viral, or is it just a freak, unpredictable phenomenon? There is no guarantee that millions of people will see your message overnight, but with clever strategy, you can leverage the power of viral marketing to promote your business.

The essential ingredients

In order for a marketing message to go viral it needs two essential ingredients:

  1. Capture attention
  2. Target a large existing communication network that transmits information rapidly

In order for people to share a message or idea, it has to be interesting enough to compel them to do so. However, without an inexpensive and rapid form of communication, the process will take too long. That’s why viral campaigns usually leverage social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Another method of spreading messages exponentially is through ecommerce email marketing.

Some people have hundreds or thousands of connections through their social network profiles. If each person shares a message with all their friends, the message could quickly be shared by millions.

Strategies that help your marketing messages go viral

1. Keep the message short and simple

Your audience is not likely to share a long document or lengthy video. Create a short message that grabs attention, then when they go to your website they can learn more about your business.

2. Use visual content

In almost every case, the things that go viral have some visual content that grabs people’s attention. Even if your message primarily consists of words, try to fit some eye-catching images or video along with it.

3. Evoke an emotional response

The key to sparking interest is to trigger an emotional response. Humor is often a great way to grab attention. We’ve all seen lots of silly and hilarious viral videos and how effectively they drive sales. A prime example is the humorous YouTube videos that helped Dollar Shave Club grow exponentially into a billion dollar business.

It’s also effective to play on the sentimentality or concerns for issues that people care about. An example of this occurred in the case of a dog that was scheduled to be put to sleep. By an amazing twist of fate, a picture was taken of another dog protectively hugging the doomed dog on the day he was scheduled to die. The viral circulation of this image ended up saving the dog’s life.

Amazing circumstances and hilarious ideas are not easy to come by, but with some time and effort, a great idea can be found. It’s these ideas that drive viral marketing campaigns.

4. Offer something of value

Many successful viral marketing programs offer free products or services to grab attention. It has been proven that the word “free” is one of the most attention grabbing words in the English language. This may not bring in immediate revenue, but the point is to gain exposure and create a positive buzz about your brand.

5. Plan your campaign

Some viral messages seem to be accidental or spontaneous, but in most cases, viral marketing campaigns are well planned. In order to get the maximum benefit you should consider your target audience. What’s funny or interesting to one demographic may be offensive or boring to another.

When launching your campaign, you need to have the right timing. Consider when your target market is online, and which communication channels they are going to be using. Also, don’t try to create a viral response by bombarding the social networks. If the message is composed properly and has viral potential, it’s better to let it grow on its own.


Truly unique and attention-grabbing ideas are not easy to come by, but the ideas outlined here should give you a sense of what viral marketing is all about. What are some other ideas that you think can help marketing campaigns go viral? Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.

If you would like more information about this subject, or to discover how ecommerce email marketing can take your business to the next level, contact us today.

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