Running an ecommerce business is challenging. It’s easy to get swamped with all of the decisions that have to be made, mistakes along the way, and unforeseen disasters. However, it’s important to remember the bright side of running your own ecommerce business!
We wanted to share some ecommerce success stories because we all need a little encouragement from time to time. Even if you’re not yet decided on the type of ecommerce business that will work best for you, you want it to be a roaring ecommerce success. So here are five ecommerce success stories to inspire you and help lead you in the right direction for the coming year.
Austin-based Beardbrand had a rocky start as a Shark Tank reject. But founder Eric Bandholz had a strong epiphany – after he decided to grow a beard 10 years ago, he found it completely revolutionized how he lived life. He wanted the world to know that beards weren’t unkempt and lazy, but stylish and professional with the right grooming. Eric felt it was time to bust stereotypes about facial hair.
Although Beardbrand now has a turnover of $120k a month, it had to find its way. Over the years Beardbrand has experimented – it tried selling backpacks, wallets, sunglasses, and other things – so don’t fret if you’re still undecided about which type of ecommerce business you want to commit to!
Beardbrand soon discovered the company worked best when streamlined to well-made grooming products. But it also focused on giving value to their current customers, where it really excels with:
- Hilarious articles including an interactive voting for the greatest mustache of all time tournament
- Interactive quizzes about the type of beard and range of styles there are.
- A brilliant YouTube channel with 1.9 million subscribers featuring lots of makeovers, tips, growth logs, and videos with their larger-than-life barbers.
Beardbrand is a great lesson of being unafraid of who you are, knowing your audience has the same point of view, and making their world better because you’re in it. That’s the key to success.
Dollar Shave Club is another disruptor in the grooming and shaving industry. It sells grooming products and razors tailored to each person’s skin needs and daily routine. The product line is reasonably priced. And for a dollar a month, customers get razors automatically ordered and delivered right to their door.
It’s successful because founder Michael Dubin knew what the market needed. It’s not that they need razors. It’s that they need one less thing to worry about. The brand is also successful because Michael Dubin is funny. After deciding to start the business he made a brilliant video called “Our Blades are F**king Great” which went viral.
This approach gives valuable lessons:
- Don’t be afraid to stand-out – Differentiation is important, especially in a market that’s stuffed with big-named brands. Dollar Shave Club had confidence in its ability to stand out.
- Humor goes a long way – It’s a misconception that there’s only room for humor in the entertainment industry. Using a brash, clever type of humor will attract customers that are brash and clever.
Beer Cartel started in 2009 based on a hunch. Because it was hard for customers in Australia to get beer online, and craft beer was rare, it spotted a big opportunity to capitalize on the Australian love of beer. Then it committed to teaching customers about craft beer to deepen the customer relationship with the product, and made sure its social media showed up the amber nectar of the gods. And as a result, growth exploded – from a shed, to a little warehouse, and now Beer Cartel is worth $20-22 million.
With at least 20 new beers arriving every week, there’s always something new for customers. The challenge to this was the quagmire of product pages that littered the website that made it difficult to negotiate. So it brought Searchspring on board to collect data to streamline and customize individual offerings as they scaled up. Scaling your ecommerce business can be tricky, so what can this success story teach us?
- Optimize your online strategy – It sounds obvious, but it’s important to make sure that an ecommerce business uses the best tech and the best plans to support growth. Don’t overlook what social media can do.
- Variety is the spice of life – the only thing better than something you love is more of it. Beer Cartel has a massive assortment, and provides reviews and information to help customers decide.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Your strategy can be optimized all you want, but the customer still needs to see it. Make sure you attract customers to your online store in the first place!
Pretty much every household has at least one type of condiment in the kitchen. They’re tasty, there’s a huge variety, and they make everything so good. What’s not to love? MixedMade (which is part of the larger Bushwick brand) started with an unusual condiment – spicy honey. They made a crazy decision – to launch in just 30 days, getting friends, family, and trend spotters to spread the word about spicy honey via social media.
To say the launch was a success would be the understatement of the year. There were so many orders that PayPal temporarily froze its account because the rate of sales was so unusual (don’t worry, PayPal unfroze it!). MixedMade made sure that it sourced as much as it could for fulfilling the glut in orders, and sent out personalized messages to the customers who would get their shipments a few days late.
But the success wasn’t just about selling spicy honey. Founders Morgan Newman and Casey Elsass and partner Ted Barbeau were determined to show that it’s never been so easy to run a successful ecommerce business. They made sure to blog every minute of the 30-day launch prep to give new ecommerce business owners a window into what’s involved, what works, and what doesn’t. What lessons can be learned by MixedMade’s success?
- Be bold – MixedMade’s ideas came from combining things they loved. Spicy honey wasn’t exactly a household condiment but it looked so striking that it got attention.
- Be agile – Things are going to go wrong, especially when you’re under pressure. Instead of panicking, think about what can be done, and while you’re getting those ducks in order, keep open communication with your customers.
Diamond Candles is one of our all-time favorite ecommerce success stories. When David Cayton wanted to propose to his girlfriend Brenda, he wasn’t sure how to make it special. He knew she loved candles, so he decided to hide the ring in the candle. It worked! And that’s where Diamond Candles came from.
Not only do its candles feature amazing scents, but each candle contains a ring inside. Sometimes it’s a costume jewelry ring. But sometimes, it’s the real deal. And to grow the customer base and keep them coming back, Diamond Candles hired ReSci to automate customer data and allow them to make predictions and provide individual customer experiences, like now giving customers the option to provide their ring size, so they always get a perfect fit.
Diamond Candles has its own lessons for us:
- Have a story – Customers love an interesting origin story. It’s something that backs up your brand values and helps customers emotionally bond to the brand.
- Add something delightful or whimsical – it’s not just that customers can win diamond rings worth $100, $1,000, or $5,000. It’s how they find out – by using the product, building anticipation, and checking a mystery number. It’s a treasure hunt in a candle!
Though each business has given us distinct lessons to learn, there are also five top tips for ecommerce success inspired by the brand examples above.
User Experience Is Top Priority
UX is one of the most important factors in your ecommerce business’ success. 90% of users won’t return to your site if they have a bad experience. Make sure that your customer enjoys interacting with your digital presence. The ROI on UX investment is 9,900%!
In both your products and in how customers react to your products, don’t be afraid to experiment. Often a new ecommerce business has to try different things to figure out what works best for their target audience.
Commit to a Distinctive Voice – And Have Confidence People Will Get It
Anything that is memorable is different or disruptive in some way. There are already so many bland, boring ecommerce businesses, and to choose middle-of-the-road ecommerce means not only will you have tons of competition, but you’ll have no differentiation.
Have confidence in who you are, why you’re starting this business, and what’s important to you. You have to be distinctive for your audience of fellow distinctive people to find you.
Bring In Help When You Need To
Ecommerce is tricky. And though we might be into the hustle, there will be times when we need help from others. Whether that’s getting your friends and family to spread the word, or bringing in a copywriter to optimize your message to your audience, or even bringing in a data-collecting company to show you what your customers want, you don’t have to go it alone.
Whether it’s tips and tricks, jokes, or even a fully transparent public log of your business operations to help new ecommerce business owners, you can’t beat adding value to customers’ lives. You don’t want to be known as a company that does nothing except push products onto customers. They’ll simply go somewhere else.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: A/B testing is a great place to start learning what works with your target audience.
No one said running an ecommerce business was easy. But it can be really fulfilling and a success, even if you experience a rocky start! Taking inspiration from those who have come out the other side through ecommerce success stories will give you what you need to keep going through those challenges.
Who knows? One day your ecommerce business success might inspire someone else. You’ve got this!
Now… anyone hungry for cornbread with spicy honey?