Marketing and Growth ChannelsAccording to the National Retail Federation, the e-commerce sector is set to grow another 8-12% this year. That means there’s plenty of opportunity to grow – but there’s also more competition than ever, too.
Launching a successful e-commerce venture takes more than connecting a valuable product or service with the right audience. Scale too quickly, and you could be one of the 93% of start-ups that flame out before you get a chance to start making $100k per month.
Even if you have a great product, you need expert strategy and incredible customer service to grow sustainably. And – as your customers will no doubt tell you – there’s always room for improvement.
Whether you’re in start-up mode or you’re ready to scale, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. All e-commerce companies have to figure out how to retain customers, drive traffic, and make more sales in a competitive environment. Why not learn from companies that have mastered their corner of the online marketplace?
From driving traffic with killer content to identifying the right platform for growth, these 15 e-commerce case studies will help you transform how you do business.
1. Marketing and Growth Channels
Mobile Accessories Retailer Zagg Develops Content with 172% ROI
Zagg, an online retailer that sells mobile device accessories, is a picture-perfect example of how good content can drive traffic to your site – and help you convert. An aggressive publishing schedule (they post up to 35 times per week) and expert SEO means customers find Zagg content easily.
By promoting products through copy, giveaways, and other promotions, Zagg’s content also drives sales and engagement. In 2012 alone, the company reported a 172% ROI on their blog – all of which came from direct sales.
But that doesn’t mean they rely on their blog to do all the heavy lifting on its own, says Zagg’s social media marketing expert Drew Conrad.
“The #1 referrer to the blog is our email channel,” Conrad wrote at the MarketingLand blog. “About twice each month, we compile the best posts in an email and send it to our list. Generally speaking, these content emails get a significantly higher CTR than our traditional emails.”
How Modcloth Grew to $100 Million Through Retro-Inspired Women’s Clothing
Since 2002, Modcloth has sold retro-inspired women’s clothing. They also launched an audience engagement strategy that helped them scale quickly – catching the eye of buyer Wal-Mart earlier this year.
According to Community Specialist Marketing Manager Mary Packett, Modcloth’s user-generated content platform, “Style Gallery,” helped spur massive engagement and growth on all of the company’s social platforms over the past five years.
“Since Style Gallery launched in November 2012, users have shared over 6,000 photos, and they’ve been ‘loved’ (Modcloth’s version of ‘like’) over 350,000 times,” marketing blog Contently reports. The “Style Gallery” has also translated into 2.75 million Pinterest followers and almost a million Facebook fans.
Modcloth’s innovative engagement strategy has helped the company grow 40% year over year – and earn more than $100 million in revenue.
Segmented Content Helped Dormify Increase Their Revenue by 92%
Lifestyle brand Dormify has tweaked its email marketing campaigns since launching in 2009. But, in 2016, they adopted an automated strategy that changed their bottom line.
Dormify now sends each new subscriber a welcome message followed by a three-email series with segmented content. This small but savvy change resulted in a 92% increase in email revenue.
“[The series] kind of serves as an easy intro and overview of all of the different experiences that Dormify has to offer,” Nicole Gardner, the COO of Dormify told DMN, “but [it also gives them] a little nudge via an exclusive offer to actually shop with us, too.”
Trivago Uses Google AdWords for a 140% Higher Click-Through Rate
In order to compete against major hotel search engines like Priceline and Orbitz, trivago wanted to increase their claim on search traffic.
In 2015, the company used Google’s Dynamic Search Ads to help automate complicated search queries, like “What are the nicest hotels in San Francisco?” According to Google, their DSA feature also “automatically generated longer, more relevant ad headlines for the company’s ads based on a person’s specific search.”
The result? A 140% higher click-through rate, better conversions in new markets, and better ad ROI in the markets trivago had already conquered.
How JackThreads Scored 1 Million New Email Opt-Ins Through Their Facebook Page
JackThreads, an online men’s retailer and flash-sale site, used Facebook’s custom audience insights to reach 1 million new email opt-ins, driving sales and a 6x ROI on ad spend.
According to Facebook’s case study, the company used demographic targeting – including “likes and interest targeting” – to encourage new email sign-ups. At the same time, JackThreads re-targeted their existing ads to ensure their existing Facebook followers were encouraged to become email subscribers, too.
The campaign lowered JackThreads’ customer acquisition costs, delivered a 72% match rate with their intended audience, and improved more than three-fold on their traditional ad buy.
How Harry’s Leveraged the Power of Referral Marketing – Before the Company Launched
Shaving e-commerce site Harry’s generated 100,000 leads in a week by using a gamified referral campaign prior to the company’s launch.
According to company founder Jeff Raider – who also happens to be the brain behind Warby Parker – they wanted to launch their business using “the most powerful and effective” marketing tool they could think of: a credible referral from a trusted friend.
Here’s what they did:
“First, users entered their email addresses on a splash page,” Raider told marketer Tim Ferriss. “This first step was essential since we wanted to capture emails both for our list and so that we could use it as an identifier for tracking referrals.”
“The second page was where the referral mechanisms lived,” Raider added. “By sharing the link with friends, users had the opportunity to earn free product. The more friends who signed up using your unique referral link, the bigger the prize you earned.”
Voilà! A list of 100,000 email addresses in a week.
Customer Retention / Upsells
At Finch Goods, Customers Keep Coming Back to Earn Points – and Be Delighted
Finch Goods, an online retailer that specializes in upscale men’s lifestyle products, uses a point system to keep their customers buying – and referring new business.
According to founder Richard Lazazzera, he’s still in testing mode with the customer loyalty program Loyalty Lion.
“This program rewards visitors and customers for completing actions like creating an account, making purchases, and referring friends,” Lazazzera wrote at A Better Lemonade Stand.
But he doesn’t stop there, either. Lazazzera also adds a personal touch to delight his customers.
His team often sends “handwritten cards with an order, a small additional gift with larger orders,” he added. “[Sometimes], I just send our best customers a gift at random just as a thank you.”
Lazazzera’s hit on a winning combination of creating customer delight – and adding value for loyal customers.
2. Product and Fulfillment
Minted’s Customer Favorites Become the Site’s Best-Selling Products
Minted, an online art marketplace similar to Etsy, depends on crowdsourcing to generate all of their products. Unlike Etsy, though, the retailer built its brand through gamification and online engagement – putting product curation directly in the hands of the consumer.
This is part of the brand’s success, says analyst Yoram Wurmser.
“The future of e-commerce is curation, broadly defined, whether it’s by machine, expert or crowd,” Wurmser told Wired.
“You can only show so many images before people move on, far fewer than they’ll review on a desktop. So it’s important to show the right products in that more limited attention span.”
At Minted, that translates into popular products crushing the site’s customer polls. 80% of their best-selling items were ranked in the top 5% of the product challenge by customers.
How to Take Your Dropshipping Business to $3 Million – All While Keeping Your Customers Happy
Want to scale your business without sinking resources into producing a product yourself? Dropshipping might be the answer.
Online clothing retailer Leo Gary uses Oberlo to fulfill and ship orders directly to their customers. According to the Oberlo blog, this allows Leo Gary to remain more responsive to customers’ needs.
“Dropshipping allows me to have a lot of products, and this allows me to be flexible,” founder Allen explained to the company. “If my niche product doesn’t attract any visitors, I just pick another product for my store.”
In just a few years, Allen hit $3 million in sales and sold his business.
How Custom Cycling Gear Helped ELEVEN vélo Dominate the Market
ELEVEN vélo, a retailer that specializes in customizable cycling wear, was never going to be an easy store to launch online.
“We realized if we could make kit on demand, we would be doing something different,” founder Gerard Thomas told WooCommerce.
“We would let people create what they want within a set of constraints, and that way we would develop a business that was very difficult to touch in terms of a competition (without replicating the same pipeline).”
Thomas and his team leveraged the WooCommerce platform to make product customization easy for their customers – a feat after the company hired a developer to build a similar, but clunkier, custom site.
Even Small Businesses Should be Able to Scale Inventory and Ordering Processes Like the Big Guys
When Al’s Sporting Goods, a small business in Logan, Utah, needed an e-commerce solution that would help them expand their inventory and upgrade their systems, they knew the process wouldn’t be a simple one.
By adopting multiple dropshipping vendors, the retailer was able to expand its online inventory from 8,000 products to 38,000 – but that made fulfillment a nightmare.
“The system we were using before required every order to be touched and required multiple key-strokes,” explains e-commerce manager Riley Reeder at the UniteU blog. “With thousands of orders, it took two people hours to accomplish.”
Automating inventory processes – and tracking inventory in real time – allowed Reeder and his team to become more efficient, even as they grew.
3. Platforms for Growth
How a Clean Shopify Template Helped a Lifestyle Brand Hit $120,000 Per Month in Sales
If you’re going to market upscale beard oils and other hair care products to men, you better have flawless design, a killer brand identity, and loyal customers to boot.
Since Beardbrand founder Eric Bandholz planned to market his upscale lifestyle products to a design-savvy crowd, he used the clean design of Shopify’s templates to create product vision boards that encouraged customers to explore the brand’s story.
With customer review and newsletter integrations in place, Beardbrand encouraged customers to engage with their product and their community. The strategy helped them grow to $120,000 per month in sales in under a year – with a higher repeat customer rate than other competitors in their industry.
From Side Hustle to $1M Per Month: Pink Lily Boutique Hits it Big with BigCommerce
Since launching on BigCommerce in 2014, Tori and Chris Gerbig, the husband and wife team behind online fashion retailer Pink Lily Boutique, used the e-commerce platform to grow a $1M per month empire.
By using multiple integrations, including automated, batched shipping and fulfillment, the Gerbigs were able to manage a deluge of daily orders. According to the BigCommerce blog, the business fulfills about 600 orders per day.
“BigCommerce’s integrations with ShipStation and InStockNotify have made it possible for our team to perform functions that would have previously taken days or even weeks in a matter of minutes,” Chris Gerbig told the blog.
In their first month after switching to BigCommerce, PinkLily’s revenue shot up 40%. Now the couple can truly keep pace with their customers’ needs.
Handle Front- and Back-End Traffic to Build an Online Empire
The speed and reliability of Amazon’s e-commerce platform, AWS, helped ShopDirect, the U.K.’s 4th largest online retailer, scale their business to more than 880,000 unique visitors per day.
According to Andy Wolfe, the CIO of ShopDirect, the company’s previous e-commerce platform couldn’t necessarily handle both their front-end and back-end traffic at once.
“One of the things we needed to be able to do was scale, and scale quickly,” Wolfe told Amazon.
With better hosting capabilities, the retailer’s user experience and website availability improved so dramatically, they received and fulfilled 10,000 orders per hour during Black Friday 2013.
How Subscription Service Nomadik Used Cratejoy to Launch Their Business Out of the Wilderness and Into the Limelight
Nomadik, a subscription box service tailored to outdoor adventurers, used Cratejoy’s platform and integration to increase their number of subscribers from 15-20% per month to 150% – that’s a 12x increase in just 6 months.
According to founder Patrick Hines, this is due, in part, to becoming part of Cratejoy’s online marketplace.
“This is super important because when you’re in that initial 50, 100, 200 subscriber count, you want to get as many orders and as many subscribers as you can,” he added. “For Nomadik, that helped us get some working capital and cashflow coming in.”