Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Shopify Customer Acquisition Examples: 20 Marketing Insights

shopify customer acquisition

Last Updated: 5 Feb 2018

Shopify has over 150,000 active stores, and many of them are incredibly successful. I found myself wondering, what customer acquisition lessons could we learn from them?

So I decided to dig in and look for stories and quotes, searching for lessons from high-profile stores, including those using our refer-a-friend app on Shopify.

(If you’re looking to set up your own referral program on your Shopify store, here’s a quick guide on how to do so.)

Here are some of my favorites:

1: Black Milk Clothing – ‘give me nylon or give me death’

Mass Effect leggings!

On leveraging social proof:

We also started the hashtagging system over two years ago and we developed that system before anyone else was doing it. Essentially, hashtagging a product on Instagram or Facebook, and then we’d pull it in and populate it underneath the product.

Our customers loved that, it was like their first five minutes of fame and they’re really proud of showing off their individuality of how they style them, and stuff like that. So it wasn’t the models that were selling our products – it was the hundreds of pages of selfies from girls around the world, different shapes and sizes.

Authenticity, storytelling and accessibility:

When it comes to promoting your products online, It should never be about selling. For us, It was all about sharing customer photos, the selfies, telling funny stories. To rethink our breakdown, the three key factors for our success on social media were authenticity, storytelling, and accessibility.

Authenticity comes in with who we are, it means you’re talking to the real people. In terms of storytelling, every element of our business has a story. You look at the product pages, there’s a story, the confirmation emails tell a story. Everything has a story, so there’s that real brand touch, there’s so many multi-layers, we even have our own language.

Lastly, there’s accessibility. If you look at us, James and I, the key people, go around and meet all our customers. I don’t know how many people in head of marketing, or head of general management or whatever you want to call head people, can literally list their customer’s Instagram names, customer’s names, know what customers like. If I go to meet up with somebody, I can be oh, hi so-and-so, and I already know you because I remember you from Instagram. We put in a genuine effort to cultivate friendship with our customers. Now that’s social proof.

Full interview here.

2: Beardbrand – ‘Beard oil dedicated to the urban beardsman’

Eric Bandholz, of Beardbrand | Photo: BeardRevered.com
Eric Bandholz, of Beardbrand | Photo: BeardRevered.com

Build authority in a specific niche.

We noticed there was a more white-collared beardsman that was not being served and with that we launched Beardbrand.

I had been blogging on Beardbrand.com for a while and was contacted by a reporter for NY Times. She was going to do a piece on taming of beards that highlighted products for beard care. At this point I had no store or way to make money. I needed a quick solution to put product online and get ready for traffic via the article.

Our urban beardsman connect with the brand and the image and are loyal to us. It’s been a riveting experience and we are happy to interact with our clients on a one to one basis.

 Full interview here. (Also check out a much more extensive study of Beardbrand’s success on Shopify’s blog, here)

3: LSTN Headphones – ‘buy environmentally friendly headphones, give hearing’


Differentiate your product.

“When we were first starting out, everyone thought we were crazy to enter a market that seemingly every rapper and electronics company in the world had already set foot in. The problem was that although the headphone market is massive, none of the existing brands were making headphones we wanted to buy. In addition to great sound quality, we set out to create headphones that were beautifully designed and environmentally friendly.”

Full interview here.

4: Modify Watches – custom mix-and-match watches


Have a strong, unique value proposition.

Q: How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?

A: First, through branded search and referrals. We work hard to deliver an exceptional experience, so that folks talk about us (on social and when they get stopped on the street because of their bright watch!)

Second, we invest a lot of time (not money, time) on SEO. Make sure to have a blog, but also commit to updating it frequently. We also write a lot of content for other websites. Earning traffic from relevant websites goes a long way.

Third, focus on giving your fans information they can use. Do not just write newsletters and Facebook posts about your product. Find a way to tap into the true interests of your fans, and help make their lives more fun and engaging, even in a little way.

Finally, optimize your website. A/B test landing pages and messaging to make sure that you give yourself the best chance for success when interested consumers stop by!

Our first sales came from bugging the heck out of our friends and family. Soon after, we began customizing watches for major brand like Google and Sega as holiday gifts for employees!

We’d struggled for a few years to make web sales; the mix-and-match story we want to tell about our watches is a complex one which off-the-shelf websites cannot handle. We have to create “virtual” products to showcase all of the interchangeability.

Full interview here.

5: Mudgear – ‘because warriors are not made on treadmills’

mudgear marketing

Start by building valuable partnerships.

Our first 12 months of sales were totally driven by customizing our gear for partner groups. We set up a separate fully hosted Shopify store for our partner F3 Nation at f3.mudgear.com where F3 groups can get their logos printed on our gear and other products.

Today, we drive traffic and awareness of MudGear using SEO/SEM, PPC, Facebook, Twitter, and blogger outreach. We ship all over the US and had our first international sales this year.

Full interview here.

6: Proof Eyewear – Eco-friendly Wooden Sunglasses

customer acquisition

Inform and educate your customers about your product.

Q: How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?

A: We drove a lot of traffic to our product from social media. Before we even had the product ready to sell, we spent months getting customers informed and educated about Proof. When we launched our site in February of 2011 we got 6-7 sales that day. Today, we have a lot of direct traffic to our website as well as new customers from social media.

Full interview here.

(NOTE: Proof Eyewear uses ReferralCandy to power its referral program!)

7: Pure Vida Bracelets – handmade in Costa Rica

image: finefeatherheads.com

Tell a great story that people want to buy into.

A few days before our journey back to San Diego, we stumbled upon 2 local Costa Rican artisans making bracelets on a little table and selling them to tourists just like ourself. Today, 3 years later, we now provide full-time jobs to over 30 artisans and support the lives of their family members. We also created bracelets for 175 different charity partners and in 2013 were able to donate $137,734 to them. To date we are distributed in over 2,500 retail stores around the world and have sold over 2,000,000 hand-made bracelets from Costa Rica!

Full interview here.

8: Sole Protector – high quality sneaker protection


Solve a problem for a community you’re already a part of.

We knew that our product made sense because we are sneaker heads! We are members of the community with an intimate knowledge of the commitment and frustration that comes with being a sneaker enthusiast. We also knew that in tough times, those already valuable kicks would become pairs of solid gold if the right care was taken to keep the shoe in tip top shape. This is where SOLE PROTECTOR™ comes in. We followed our dream and found a solution after relentless research, development and testing.

Full interview here.

9: Raw Generation – convenient juice cleanses


“If it isn’t selling, change it.”

We started off with fresh and raw juices because it is the easiest way to get highly concentrated nutrition into your body, and the most time consuming, pain-in-the-butt thing to do. People start juicing at home only to give up relatively quickly due to the time it takes to prep, juice, and clean up.

I rebranded Raw Generation at the beginning of 2013 after being in business for 6 months making virtually no money. The product we originally introduced had very little appeal because it was made for a small niche market and we hadn’t figured out how to tap into it yet.

I decided to jump on the juice cleanse band wagon since it was becoming very popular. It was right up our alley anyway since all it was fresh juices packaged together and marketed as a weightloss product. This was Major Lesson #1: if it isn’t selling, change it.

Full interview here.

10: Gown & Oars Wristwatches – ‘British design + Swiss timekeeping excellence’

Image: thecoolector.com

Have a very clear focus about what your product is about.

We’ve kept things simple and concentrated on the details, non-essentials have been omitted and subtle emphasis has been placed on the actual task of clear time recognition and a focus placed on sourcing quality materials at a modest price point. It’s a combination of British craftsmanship and Swiss timekeeping excellence.

Full interview here.

11: Holy Crap Cereal – ‘The world’s most amazing breakfast cereal’


Don’t be afraid to be different.

Brian and Corin Mullins launched their breakfast cereal business in 2009 at the Sechelt Farmer’s Market calling it Hapi Food. When one of their very first customers said, “Holy Crap… this is amazing!” Brian changed the name to Holy Crap. Sales skyrocketed.

HOLY CRAP cereal is one of the most exciting health foods on the market. “The eye-catching and humorous product name draws people in,” explains Corin, “Once they experience the great taste and the benefits of the cereal they keep buying it and then they tell all their friends and family about it.”

Full interview here.

12: Premier Estates Wines – Keeping wine simple

marketing strategies

Focus on the untapped section of your market.

We noticed an untapped market in the wine sector. At Premier Estates Wine we like to keep things simple, a lot of people find wine to complicated. We offer only 3 ranges and it’s easy to find a wine that you like. No other wine company offers deals all year round including FREE next day delivery on every order placed. We are working together with wine suppliers across the globe.

Full interview here.

(NOTE: Premier Estates Wine uses ReferralCandy for their referral program!)

13: FringeSport – garage gym equipment supplies

marketing campaign

Work on things that you have a deep expertise / interest / background in.

I’d been CrossFitting since 2005, and I loved the community and the movement but the equipment was expensive and hard to get. With my background in product development and ecommerce, I knew I could bring the gear to market and do it better than my competition. I approached my brother as a partner, and we were off to the races!


Organic and direct traffic are our top sources, with direct converting best – which makes sense because these visits come from people who have an idea of who FringeSport is. Facebook and forums drive a god amount of targeted traffic. Additionally, our PPC (mainly Google Adwords) is pretty dialed-in these days, and our spend there is ROI focused – so this traffic converts or it gets shut off.

Full interview here.

14: Au Lit Fine Linens – ‘We Change The Way You Sleep’

referral program

Help your customers learn more about your product.

Education. There are a lot of elements of bedding that customers need to be educated on before they make a purchase. With Shopify we can easily create content and features that help our customers understand our product more. After almost two years, we’ve only had four returns.

Full Interview here.

15: Greats Brand – Designer quality sneakers

conversion rates

Have a clear vision of what you want the store to look like.

GREATS is a startup so we don’t have any money for marketing. We did however start building a community of followers across social channels and focused on Instagram.

We began posting photos of things that inspired us, it became a mood board that showed people what the GREATS DNA looks like and we didn’t even have our own products yet.

Full interview here.

(RELATED: We wrote about Greats’ referral program here.)

16: Quad Lock – smartphone mount on bikes and cars

increase ctr

Run Facebook Ads to grow your business.

Aside from that we promoted the product to the right audience using Google and Facebook ads. Video Facebook ads have been really effective lately. Aside from organic search and direct, Facebook drives a lot of traffic but it’s the channel we advertise on the most so you would expect that.

Full interview here.

(NOTE: Quadlock uses ReferralCandy to power their referral program!)

17: Lotus Belle – sustainably made tents

increase conversion rate

Have stunning photography.

Facebook really launched us back in 2012. Thats how we seeded our product out to people. Because we had stunning photos we found people sharing them all over the world. Before we knew it we had a huge following.

Full interview here.

18: Trip Apparel – affordable premium activewear

customer marketing

Set up exhibitions and popup shops.

We exhibited our brand at a consumer expo in the UK and were amazed by the reaction. We received in excess of 1000 sales in just 3 days! The rest we built up by driving brand awareness via Instagram content and influencers to spread the word and drive sales. Currently the biggest sales have been via exhibitions and pop ups.

Full interview here.

19: MindJournal – journals for men

mindjournal marketing

Leverage PR.

After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $60,000 I was able to capitalise on the hype that I was still getting for MindJournal. I received coverage in online magazines such as Uncrate, Gear Patrol, Huffington Post and more. Email marketing and articles that are still be written about MindJournal by bloggers and editors of magazines.

Full interview here.

20: AutoECMs – remanufactured automative engine control modules

shopify customer acquisition

Get found in Google.

Our first sale came via our online store getting rankings in Google. The market is somewhat competitive and having the new Shopify based website allowed us to build a gorgeous site, focus on SEO, add in Pinnable photos and shareable URLs. Our traffic comes from link building on forums and advertising on other niche websites dedicated to our market and products.

Full interview here.

Looking for more? Check out how to drive more traffic and write product descriptions that sell with our Ultimate Shopify Marketing Resource.
ultimate shopify marketing guide


Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's former Blog Editor [2013–2018]. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's mildly Internet-famous for his elaborate Twitter threads. He hopes to enjoy a glass of scotch onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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