We know that building an eCommerce business is tough. If you’re a first-time entrepreneur, you’ll have to handle (almost) everything by yourself – marketing, product, design, HR, logistics, finance, etc.
And that alone can derail many people’s hopes of succeeding.
But it is not impossible.
With some grit, luck, and ingenious business/marketing strategy, you too can join the ranks of Shopify stores that are making it. You can join the stores that are headlining the news for disrupting an industry, generating 7- to 8-figures in revenue, or just simply helping the owner live a life of comfort and happiness.
In this article, we’ve listed out 5 of the most successful Shopify stores we know. We’ll tell you why they’re successful, and try to dissect their marketing strategy so that you can replicate them and see if it works for your store.
So how do you stand out from the millions of other businesses that are lining up to cash in on this exponential growth?
Well, this is where our marketing strategy dissection comes in. Here are the common traits used by the most successful Shopify stores.
1. Good customer experiences
Like you'd expect to find when you walk into any good brick and mortar storefront, customer experience, while visiting your Shopify store, is of top priority.
Just as inexperienced sales reps, cluttered storeroom floors, and untidy shelves can turn away money ladened customers, so can slow page loading speeds, badly timed popups, and poorly organized page layout.
In fact, it has been shown that up to 80 percent of visitors will leave an online store due to poor customer experience.
The best way to avoid this?
Use the site yourself. Search for a specific product, click through different categories pages, add an item to your cart, and work your way all the way to the checkout.
Then ask yourself these question:
Were there excessive pop ups that are likely to annoy and force customers to leave your online store rather than help gather their information for future sales?
Was it simple and easy to find products or services within your site?
Once a product was found, was there enough relevant information about that product like product specs, product dimensions, and customer reviews?
Was it hard to add the chosen product to the customer shopping cart?
Was checkout fast and simple without hidden shipping or extra tax costs that are likely to encourage cart abandonment?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it's time to put your site developer hat back on and rectify anything you noticed along your own "customer journey".
Remember, good website design is at the core of a good customer experience. Online shoppers shop online for convenience and to save time. Don't make things harder than they need to be. With so many other eCommerce shops within your marketing niche, they are likely to leave your store and shop with one of your competitors instead.
2. No hidden or extra costs
Hassle-free checkout with no hidden or extra costs is a firm expectation held by potential customers. There is nothing more frustrating for an online shopper than to research a product, locate the product page, choose the size, color, and quantity, enter their payment and shipping details…
…all just to find that it will cost them an extra $10 in shipping.
That's a sure-fire way to push a potential customer away for good.
To avoid this, top Shopify stores offer their customers clear prices and free shipping while avoiding adding any additional costs along the way.
3. High-quality product pages
Researching a product is one of the first steps along the customer journey. And your Shopify store providing potential customers with easy to find specs and clearly laid out product descriptions is a great way to gain their trust.
The best way to do this?
Fill your product pages with high-quality product images, accurate size charts, well-written product descriptions, and even video reviews. This provides them with all the information they could ever need as well as a place to buy it.
4. Social proof
The top Shopify stores social proof their eCommerce website. Meaning they leverage product reviews from other customers to encourage others to follow in their footsteps - buy your products and leave a positive review.
There are plenty of ways to add a review system to your Shopify store. The easiest is to install a review plugin like Rivyo or Stamped.io. That way, when a customer lands on one of your products pages, they can be sure it's a must-buy simply by seeing all those 5-star reviews spread across the page.
5. Solid email marketing
The very best Shopify stores realize that not all marketing should occur onsite, they know that other endeavors like email marketing can reap real rewards.
Sending out marketing emails to your customers is a great way to keep them up to date with product releases and customer sales. Not only that, email marketing is also a great way to stay top of mind and recover any of those pesky cart abandonment issues that plague many Shopify stores.
The online food market is a market worth $3.5 billion dollars. And YouFoodz, a Brisbane-based online food delivery company, is well-primed to take advantage of that trend.
So much so that in 2015, YouFoodz notoriously grew 5% – 10% week-on-week. In YouFoodz Head Chef Christian Andrew’s words, that’s “3,846 percent sales growth over the last 14 months. To say we’ve been blown away is an understatement.”
According to SimilarWeb, YouFoodz is receiving about ~200,000 visitors per month to their site:
Of which, almost a whopping 9% is coming from referrals (note: having almost 10% of your traffic coming from referrals is difficult to achieve!)
I can boil down the success of their referral marketing strategy to their referral program. YouFoodz uses ReferralCandy, and their referral program is shown directly to anyone who visits the YouFoodz website:
The copy “Get Free Meals” is compelling – after all, who doesn’t want free meals?! Once the visitor clicks on the tab at the bottom, they will be shown this:
YouFoodz is pretty generous with their incentives, giving away a week’s free (that’s almost $100 in value given away per person!)
YouFoodz understands that a strong incentive is required to encourage people to share, and that evidently works as YouFoodz’s referral program is one of the most powerful aspects of their marketing machine.
Key Takeaway: A referral program is a powerful way to get more customers at a low cost. Set one up quickly by using a tool like ReferralCandy.
When her friend Kristy passed away at the young age of 24 years old from cancer, Karissa Bodnar was shaken. That is too young to take anyone’s life away, let alone a girl who was the kindest and most compassionate human being Karissa had ever known.
Inspired by her friend, Karissa, who already had a decade worth of experience in makeup and cosmetics decided to start Thrive Causemetics, a cosmetics company that donates one product to a woman-in-need for every product bought.
Thrive receives about ~500,000 visitors per month:
And most of them come from Direct traffic:
The reason for this is simple – Thrive is Beauty With A Purpose.
With her touching backstory that inspired the company and the one-for-one model popularized by TOMS, Thrive is no longer just an eCommerce store. Thrive is a movement – a movement to empower patients with cancer.
This is a movement that many Thrive customers are willing to get behind and spread the word about, resulting in Thrive’s discovery via Direct traffic.
Thrive also has a dedicated page on their website that explains how they give, with powerful, emotional quotes that pull on the heartstrings of anyone that reads it:
Key Takeaway: People don’t just buy from companies; they want to buy from the person behind the company. They want to know your story. Figure out your story, and start telling it – on your website, social media, copy, etc. If you need help with storytelling, here are some formulas you can check out.
3. Endy Sleep – $20 million annual revenue and counting
Endy Sleep is Canada’s largest direct online-only mattress company. In an industry filled with larger-than-life claims, Endy has succeeded. Not only that, anyone who wishes to buy an expensive mattress (Endy’s mattresses cost about $1,000 or more) would definitely want to try it out.
Yet, Endy has managed to pull off the online-only model for a mattress company.
I think one of the biggest contributors to Endy’s success is the use of the free trial. As we know, free trials are a powerful growth tactic. Anyone who has tried out software for 30-days (or more), and loved it will definitely become a customer.
However, as a strategy, free trials were mostly done by software and apps as it was easy to offer access and not lose money on the frontend.
Despite that, Endy has managed to pull it off for a product company. While most companies would fear that they would lose their products to thieves and cheaters, Endy doesn’t care.
In fact, Endy allows their potential customers to trial their mattresses for 100 nights (approximately 3 months).
And the best part is – if you dislike the mattress after using it for 3 months, Endy would still take back the mattress… and offer you a full refund.
It’s a no-lose situation for the customer, and also showcases Endy’s confidence in their own product. They know that anyone who has tried the Endy mattress for 3 months would love and would stick to it.
And here’s the kicker.
It works. Endy has reported that it has one of the lowest rates of return in the mattress industry.
Key Takeaway: Build confidence in your product by offering a free trial, or a testing phase for your products.
4. Freshly Picked – Multimillion-dollar business endorsed by Kardashians
Since kids will outgrow their shoes anyway, it doesn’t matter what kind of shoes they wear, am I right?
Susan Petersen disagrees. She believes that soft soles are better for babies as they’re learning to walk because it promotes better balance and allows them to flex their toes.
And this is the basis behind Freshly Picked, an eCommerce store selling adorable baby moccasins.
Freshly Picked had a rough start. To begin the store, Susan had to sell scrap aluminium to have enough money to kickstart it. Several years later, the story has changed.
Freshly Picked is now one of the top kids footwear online stores. A multi-million dollar business that is selling eye catching kids shoes to celebrities like Jessica Alba, Mila Kunis, and the Kardashians. She even made it onto Shark Tank, where Daymond John offered $150,000 for 25% of her business (the deal eventually fell through, but the publicity was great.)
Susan Petersen attributes her store’s success to Freshly Picked’s regular blogging. And one can see why.
According to SimilarWeb, most of Freshly Picked’s traffic comes from search:
And a deeper dive into Ahrefs shows that Freshly Picked is ranking for a whopping 10,000+ keywords and is receiving an estimated 14,000 organic visitors per month:
The Freshly Picked homepage ranks for a ton of important keywords like “baby moccasins” – searches which definitely help Freshly Picked generate tons of sales.
This clearly shows the power of a well-optimized site. A well-optimized site (and its category and product pages) can rank for tons of important, buyer-friendly keywords that eventually lead to sales on your store.
Key Takeaway: People search for things to buy all the time. Capture those traffic by optimizing your site for the keywords that are important to you.
The way Flat Tummy Tea has built their Instagram following is through influencers. Flat Tummy Tea regularly sponsors actresses, influencers, celebrities, bloggers so that they can share Flat Tummy’s products with their audience.
Here’s an example of Flat Tummy Tea working with actress Laila Odom (110,000 followers) to promote their new lollipop product:
Flat Tummy Tea also regularly shares the before-and-after pictures of their customers, demonstrating evidence that their product works:
And they are so well-loved that even an announcement post receives over 8,000 Likes:
Key Takeaway: Is your product highly visual? Is your product aspirational (in the sense that customers can see a noticeable change after using it?) If so, consider Instagram as a marketing channel. Then, grow your account by partnering with influencers to sell your product and account to their audience.
The Secret to Shopify Success
Why is Shopify such a big deal?
There are a number of reasons why Shopify is a big deal, these include:
Beginner friendliness. Shopify stores are generally easy to set up. Meaning, with a little know-how, those that are new to website development can quickly and effortlessly set up a new store in no time at all.
There are a number of reasons why many Shopify stores fail, these include:
Incorrect product niche. Shopify merchants often jump into a product niche that is either too competitive or doesn't have enough interest.
Bad choice of products. Even if you find the right niche, there is still the issue of finding quality, problem-solving products.
Low-quality Shopify site. Slow page speed, annoying popups, hard-to-navigate web design, low-quality product images, and product pages that lack detailed product information. All of these things will increase site bounce-rates, turn customers away, and hurt your Google SERP rankings.
Poor customer service. Customers expect fast and helpful customer service. Failing this, you are risking turning customers away and gaining yourself negative product page reviews.
Success in eCommerce is not easy, but not impossible.
As you can see above, there are plenty of Shopify stores that have made it work through various successful strategies, luck, and lots of grit and hustle.
Learn from their stories, and model after them. Replicate their tactics. And if possible, reach out to them and ask how they did it. Learn.
Who knows? You might be the next store we profile on this list.
Si Quan is ReferralCandy's Content Marketing Manager. He is also the co-founder of BreakDance Decoded, an online breakdance training company. He loves standup comedy, and has a dream to visit at least 100 countries in his lifetime.