What does it take to be successful in eCommerce?
With so many different businesses, products, customers, business owners, and variables… there is no ONE right way to grow a 7-figure eCommerce business.
But after working with and talking to so many eCommerce business owners there are 7 common characteristics and habits that the most successful ones have. And this isn't necessarily just about those who were making 7 figures in revenue – because revenue doesn't mean anything without profit and happiness.
These are businesses that are still growing and actually making money.
Before we dive in, it's important to understand one thing. This IS NOT a magic formula. Having all seven doesn't equal success and not having all seven doesn't equal failure.
But, if you're not quite catching the traction you hoped for, or are still trying to figure out what's wrong in your business this is a really great place to start. Plus, it's also a great opportunity for you to make some mindset shifts and clarity as you plan out the rest of your year.
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1. A Clear Niche
At the end of the day, you can’t be everything to everyone. Many of us are afraid to niche down because we think casting a wider net will bring us more sales. And while that can work, in most cases it actually dilutes your message.
You’ve probably heard me say if you’re trying to talk to everyone – you’re talking to no one.
This is exactly what I’m talking about.
When you niche down and cater to a specific customer, problem, or solution you ultimately go further faster and your job becomes way easier.
Not only is it a lot easier to create content that your perfect customer will love, but its easier to build ad audiences, it’s easier to say no to shiny objects because it doesn’t make sense for your person, and it makes you referrable. You become KNOWN for something.
How many of you found me or heard of me as the
Once I got those potential clients into my eco-system and solved their immediate problem of fixing their email marketing, then I would say – hey, I can also help you with X, Y, and Z.
Over time I have started to talk about a lot more than just email to my audience; especially as a podcast host. And I’ve even started creating some digital products to support those as well.
But truth be told, now it’s harder to market my different offers or products.
For instance, when someone signs up for my email list they’re signing up for the resource library. I initially created the resource library because it was getting too hard to manage all the different freebies with different landing pages and forms, etc.
But now, when someone signs up I don’t actually know what they’re interested in or what they need help with right now – so marketing anything else to them is more difficult.
There are definitely ways around this and I will be focusing on actually setting up some proper email marketing this year to support all of that – but it’s going to be a fair amount of work to make sure the right person is getting the right message at the right time. If I were still only focused on email marketing that would be a lot easier right? I’d just need to know things like how many subscribers they had and whether or not their product was consumable to lead them in the right direction.
But now, I need to know and understand a lot more about their business and product before I can make the best recommendation for them.
Let me give you a couple of product biz examples and then we’ll move on to number two.
I have a previous client who sells yarn. And it’s not just any yarn. It’s very woolly wool that she imports from Europe and the Uk. It has a lot of character and typically only intermediate to advanced knitters are going to want to use it.
Now, there are a whole lot of beginner knitters out there that we can create content for to attract, and pretty easily right? Creating great blog posts giving knitting education, etc. They would rank super well with Google and bring lots of traffic. But that’s not her customer. Sure, if they find her and want to buy her stuff, we wouldn’t turn them away – but we’re not going out of our way to attract them.
Another example is Megan Tellez of Glass Ladder, who’s been on the podcast and was one of the December replays. She started with just a portfolio and a pen set. Then as the business grew she expanded into handbags and wallets. But they all have the same thread that holds them together and it’s all about intentional design and epic organization within her products.
She also uses Vegan leather – which is some of the best vegan leather I’ve ever seen or touched honestly, and while that is part of her overall brand mission, she doesn’t lead with that. And she isn’t out there making vegan leather jackets or shoes either. Instead, she’s iterating on her existing designs and creating new ones based on the feedback from her customers.
Does it mean that she never could or never would? Not necessarily. But that is a whole other ballgame and set of circumstances she would have to deal with from a marketing perspective.
And one more example. Jessica Principe of All Girl Shave Club. One of the downsides of being first to market is that venture-backed competitors usually swoop in afterward to take their share and that’s exactly what happened to Jessica.
At the time she spoke to an advisor of hers who gave her two options. One, raise capital and go up against them OR carve out your own little niche. Which one do you think she opted for? Tune in to episode 20 of the podcast to find out.
Okay, I think you get the point right? Don’t be afraid to be specific about who your perfect customer is, you don’t have to be everything to everyone and you shouldn’t be.
2. Knowing their Customer
One of the benefits of niching down is TRULY understanding your customer and what they want or need from you.
You can speak to the specific outcome they’re looking for in the exact language they use to describe that outcome. This is how you get them to say… “They get me”
It’s how you get to create content that really connects with them.
While my background is in corporate, when I ventured out on my own I knew I wanted to work exclusively with small business entrepreneurs. Could I have created some high-level corporate training program that demanded a super-high price tag? Sure. But I didn’t want to. My people are the ones who put their blood sweat and tears into their business, who want to spend more time with their family, who want to travel, and who want to binge Netflix… because that’s who I am and I understand what it’s like to want those things but feel like I’m drowning in my business. I know how to talk to those people.
Even in the corporate space, while I did it successfully for a long time and can hold my own in those rooms, I never quite felt like I fit in. So why try? It’s a whole lot easier to just talk to the people I can easily relate to.
Let’s use Megan as an example again. If you don’t already know, all of her bags (size permitting) have cupholders in them. So when she creates Instagram reels and TikTok videos she’s often talking about her love of coffee or water bottles. There’s one video in particular, which she’s probably created more than once, is a skit of her walking into work late with her coffee hidden in her bag.
Her customer can relate to that because they’ve probably done it. I on the other hand was the manager who watched their employees roll in late with Starbucks in their hands and used to get really annoyed. At least if it was hidden in their bag I wouldn’t know the difference.
When you really know who your customer is, you can make them feel seen and heard. And ultimately, as humans, that’s pretty much all we want in life.
3. They Lean into Content & Email
Now before you tune out of this one, know that content doesn’t automatically means reels and TikTok. Sometimes, it's static content on Instagram, pre-recorded videos on YouTube, and sometimes it’s being a podcast guest to solidify your authority in your industry. The perfect content for your business is going to depend on your product and customer, but ultimately, content is the way of marketing these days.
This also doesn’t mean they’re in all. the. places or that they show up every single day. But they do put effort into creating quality content and they don’t ghost their audience.
They show up where their customers are on a regular basis providing value, entertainment, and education. And the thing about their content is that they don’t reinvent the wheel every time. If you look at Megan’s content it’s mostly mini-commercials about her products. The yarn store does a bi-weekly what’s new in the shop video and talks about her own knitting projects.
Why You Should Reuse and Repurpose Your Content
Last summer I was a guest on the Shopify Across the Pond Podcast, and we were talking about this unfounded need for business owners to always feel like their content needs to be the newest, freshest thing all the time. I mentioned how when you look at the accounts with the highest reach and most engagement, they’re actually recreating the same content over and over again.
Adam, the host of the show shared the perfect analogy that he heard from someone else, who he couldn’t remember, otherwise I would give them the credit. But think about your favorite musician. When you go to their concert… do you want to hear the new stuff or the greatest hits? 99% of the time it’s the greatest hits.
Years ago, I think it was at the Bonaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, Metalica was headlining Saturday night. And while during the day there are multiple stages going at once, those headliners are the only ones playing in their time slot so pretty much every festival attendee was there. I don’t remember exactly what they were playing or what new album they had at the time, but they started playing new music that people didn’t really know and the crowd was booing them. I felt terrible for them at that moment, but truth be told I just wanted to hear the Black album and some Ride the Lightning.
Not to mention, consumers need to see and hear things multiple times before it clicks, so it’s in your best interest to repeat things again and again.
How to Use Social Media & Email Together
So, they use social media and blogging to attract new customers, inspire them, and grow their email list. And then most of the time, the sale happens in the email.
But, their email isn’t all about selling. It’s creating relationships and maintaining connections. Even if not every email leads to a sale from every customer, it’s how they stay top of mind so as soon as that person is ready to buy a product like theirs, they’re the first person they think of.
In addition to their automations they have a solid, consistent email campaign strategy as well. And they send a lot of emails. A lot of people ask me how many emails should I send a week and the truth is, as many as your audience can tolerate. That’s probably not the best word because it has a negative connotation to it.
But essentially, the more emails you send, typically the more money you make. And as long as you’re sending emails your people love, you’re good to go.
At a minimum, you want to send at least one per week, and if you’re ready to step up your game, learn how to incrementally increase your email sends. I'll also show you how to gauge the response from your list through the data so you can make any necessary adjustments.
4. They’re Not Afraid to Look Dumb
This is probably one of the most important pieces of all of this because it means they’re not afraid to try new things, put themselves out there, and risk being judged.
They know that showing up for their people is more important than their hang-ups. And when they push through the fear… a little bit of magic happens.
A business coach once said to me don’t let your fear get in the way of your dreams. And if that dream is to have an online business, that meant I needed to show up. I had to show my face. I had to get real.
None of those things are comfortable. But it works. And it works a lot faster than hiding behind a logo.
All the examples I gave today about other product-based people who are showing up creating content in the places their perfect customers hang out are all showing up as themselves.
That’s not to say you can’t be successful without being the face of your brand. There are plenty of examples where that is true. But generally, the more of yourself you can put into it. The faster you’ll get to your goals.
If you’re still shy about being on camera, learn how I got over my fear of live video.
5. They Implement Product Launches
Whether it’s for their new products, collections, or promotions… they build hype and excitement before launch day so they have a group of warm customers to sell their products to.
They realize their business is not about them and they can’t expect their customers to just flock to them. They have to put in the work to get in front of them and keep them engaged.
I’ve talked at length about how to run a product launch campaign in your eCommerce business and teach the full process inside the Lounge eCommerce membership. This strategy is super powerful and works essentially in any eCommerce business. It grows your email list, builds your warm audience, and gives you predictable revenue spikes and cash injections when you need them.
In fact, I have seen some clients actually sell out of all their inventory before they opened the launch up to the public. They sold out just to the early access list. The process just works.
It’s also something that you can consistently optimize over time for better results. You learn new things each time, and you tweak your template along the way, but you’re never starting from scratch which saves you a ton of time and mental energy.
6. They Invest
Whether that investment is in a service provider like me to set up their email automations, a strategist to run their social ads, or even just someone to pack and ship their orders. They know they can’t do it all and they’re not the expert in everything.
Instead of wasting a resource we can’t generate more of, (time) they use a renewable resource (money) to fund the growth they want to see and the support they need in their business.
This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and spend a bunch of money at once or that it has to be some huge monetary investment. Sometimes that money is in education to hone a skill, or in a low-priced membership like the Lounge they can get ongoing support in.
The investment that is right for you is going to be different than what’s right for someone else. It all depends on where you’re at, where you’re trying to go, what skill sets you have, etc.
But it’s almost impossible to grow a business without investing in it, period.
7. They’re Patient
Success doesn’t happen overnight and they don’t expect it to. And they know, that even if things don’t work out exactly as they planned, they tweak their approach and try again.
Let’s take the product launch process for instance. The first time you do it, before you’ve trained your audience or if you’re newer in business, it’s not necessarily going to sell out your product or make you millions.
But just because it doesn’t mean all your expectations from the jump, doesn’t mean you don’t try it again. If the first reel you create doesn’t go viral that doesn’t mean you never make another reel.
Now yes, there are some products that just aren’t good products or aren’t the right fit for the market. There is a point when a business is unlikely to really become the business you hoped it would be. There are tons of failed businesses and products that ran their course. But it's rare that I come across someone where I would think, eh don’t bother. You should just throw in the towel.
How to Know if You Need to Pivot Your Business
More often than not there is some sort of pivot that needs to happen, or it’s just a matter of getting in front of more people.
For instance, I’ve been having some 1:1 calls with a Lounge member. I feel like I’ve talked about her on the podcast, but I can’t remember. Anywho, she has 2 websites. One has been around for a while and it just sort of makes money on autopilot. It sells a niche product with a cult product that is hard to find in Canada and their biggest problem is actually keeping the item in stock.
She got a little bored with that business so she started a line of her own products. She created this awesome brand around it and was basically starting from zero. Ultimately, it just wasn’t really taking off the way she wanted.
After chatting more and more about it, not only was the business not hitting her goals, but the way she structured it wasn’t really supporting her in her long-term goals either. It was all just a lot of work for not a lot of payoff.
Eventually, the consensus was to lean back into the website that already had traction and rebrand her own products so they fell more in line with what she sold there vs. trying to start a whole new brand and website from scratch.
It's too soon to see whether or not that’s gonna work – but it's an easy enough pivot to test out without completely throwing in the towel on these products that she already put so much effort, energy, and money into.
It can be hard to find that line sometimes. There are A LOT of variables that go into that and everyone’s situation is different. But in most cases, people give up right before the scales are about to tip.
Remember: the beginning of anything can be a little rocky, but once you carve out the right path and find your groove, you can fly toward your goals at lightning speed.
Whoa, pretty hefty for the first episode of the year and after a short hiatus. But they are such important things to keep in mind as you set out to strategize your plan for the year.
What Makes a Successful eCommerce Business?
Again, there is no magic potion or silver bullet to creating a successful eCommerce business. But when you look at successful 7-figure businesses, these are the things they have in common.
- They have a clear niche
- They know their customer
- They lean into content and email
- They’re not afraid to look dumb
- They implement product launches
- They invest
- They’re patient.
As you move into the new year and think about the direction you want to take your business and how you plan on growing, consider how you currently fit in with these common characteristics and habits. While every business is unique there are common principles and marketing strategies that exist because they work.