Neil Patel

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How to Build a Successful eCommerce Brand From Scratch


Do you know that 40% of worldwide internet users have bought products/goods online from an eCommerce business or eCommerce store?

People are increasingly looking to shop online for an easier customer experience. And, they’re even shopping from the smaller screen, because of better mobile networks and bigger mobile sizes.

Still not convinced about the small business opportunity that a digital marketing strategy presents?

Then look at the findings of this 2016 report by Forrester Research:

  • Online sales from commerce platforms are expected to rise at an average rate of 9.32% annually over the next five years. US consumer spending will reach $523 billion online by 2020.
  • The number of consumers browsing eCommerce businesses and eCommerce stores, and buying online is expected to hit 270 million (mainly driven by mobile).

The eCommerce website boom is already upon us.

If you have always wanted to sell your own products online and build a successful eCommerce business, then now is the time to hone that marketing strategy.

The best part is that there are numerous online business tools that will take care of the technology. So, you’ll only need to focus on building a brand and taking care of the real business aspects.

Let’s start with the obvious options for starting an eCommerce business or eCommerce store:

Becoming a seller on shopping experience sites like eBay and Amazon.

While you can earn a lucrative income from these huge e-Commerce platform brands, it’s tough to market for sales on these commerce platforms. You’ll face problems with differentiating yourself among the plethora of sellers and resellers that reside on these commerce platforms and sell the same products as you.

That’s why I emphasize building a personal eCommerce business brand boasting a better customer experience. Sure, you might not become as huge as Amazon, but you won’t have to fight solely on price.

What can building a loyal audience that emotionally connects with you mean for your small business?

You can have hundreds of thousands people waiting for your eCommerce web products, even before you launch them. And, you’ll get a free viral marketing strategy for your brand when your fans share your brand story on social media.

A great example is Emily Weiss from Glossier. She grew her new small business Instagram account to 15,000 followers, even before announcing her first product as an online retailer. I’ve shared Emily’s detailed story here.

Similarly, you might have seen the hilarious Dollar Shave Club (DSC) YouTube advertisements. DSC was committed to become a consumer-focused brand and they eventually got acquired by Unilever for $1 billion.

If you’re serious about building a successful eCommerce business from scratch, then this article can help you achieve your goal. I’ll share examples of eCommerce stores, case studies, social network tips, and tools to set you on the right path.


Here are a few tips to create an eCommerce store that clocks upwards of $1 million in yearly revenue.

Position yourself uniquely in front of your target demographic

While I’ve perhaps got you all excited about building a small business from scratch, let me be frank:

It’s a lot of hard work to get your marketing strategy right.

And, if you fail to take a unique stance and solve a unique problem in the market, then consumers won’t care about you.

In their analysis of 18,000 eCommerce sites, Yotpo found that an average eCommerce store site fails to go past 500 fans on the social network site Facebook.


I know you might be thinking that a ‘like’ on social networks is a vanity metric. But, it is an indicator that you’ve managed to hustle your way to acquiring those true 1000 fans that love you like crazy and buy all of your products and share their love on the social networks.


Without a USP (unique selling proposition), it will be almost impossible to build these true fans.

A brick and mortar Walmart store might be available across the street for all of your prospects. And, Amazon is always just a click away. In all probability, these huge businesses will have similar products at a lower price than your e-Commerce platform. So, you need compelling differentiation to make an emotional connection with your target audience.

If your customers can associate with the problems that you’re trying to solve, then your marketing communications have more likelihood to go viral.

Let’s look at Dollar Shave Club, as an example. Their first video told a great story in a comical manner and tied it back to their brand.


But, it also quickly differentiated DSC from their competitors, like Gillette. People were clear that DSC is all about ‘affordable razors as a subscription service.’

Their product isn’t fancy, with a boat load of unnecessary features, but it does the job.

They presented their benefits succinctly and memorably through these narratives in the video:

  • “Each razor has stainless steel blades, an Aloe Vera lubrication strip and a pivot head.”
  • “Do you like spending 20 dollars a month on brand named razors? 19 go to Roger Federer.”
  • “Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a backscratcher and 10 blades?”

And, we all know how the video launch went….

People could relate to Michael Dubin and saw DSC to be an effective solution to their razor needs. They went on to acquire 12,000 Customers within 2 days and their social network garnered a lot of traction. In short, their online business became a great success and the search engines also recognized this.

The first exercise for you is:

Decide what you want to be for your consumers and craft a compelling brand story that improves the customer experience.

This might involve saying no to a lot of things. Spend ample time to finalize your message, but ensure that it appeals to you and your audience.

The first 3 steps in this article on building an audience will help you in defining your target audience and positioning yourself as their go to online retailer.


Eric has taken Beardbrand to over $120k/month. And, he has a simple advice for building a compelling brand – “walk the talk.”

If you build your brand image around your lifestyle, you won’t simply be selling products like any old small business, but you’ll also get noticed for your commitment. And, it won’t feel like work, because you already have genuine interest in the products you’ll sell.

Eric loves his beard and shooting videos on how to maintain a beard. So, it’s no wonder that he gets comments like the one below, stating that his brand seems like an extension of himself.


Indeed, Beardbrand customers say that the company’s vision is a key reason why they purchase their products.

THIS is an essential ingredient of every successful brand

One fatal mistake that often leads to death for brands is inconsistency, and this covers everything from your commerce platform to your content and your social network presence.

Once you’ve crafted your message, it’s important to stick with it and use it consistently in all of your marketing activities.

Your design, logo and other collaterals should follow your brand guidelines (that you’ve set previously). Essentially, your website, social network channels, merchandise, emails and advertisements must all be cohesive and be easily identifiable to represent your brand’s personality.

The first important step for maintaining a consistent brand image is observing a consistent color palette and design, because colors speak a lot about your values and make the customer experience more pleasent. I’ve written in detail about color psychology before. Here’s a recap of the color wheel, showing the emotions associated with colors.


Beardbrand has a well-defined brand color palette. They like to keep it simple, with black and white as their primary colors and cyan as their secondary color.


Eric says that they settled on the term, “urban beardsman,” to attract folks that care about style and grooming habits. They wanted to break the stereotype that only bikers and hippies have beards.

And, if you look at their About page, tagline and other branding material, you’ll find that this term and their philosophy are consistently represented.

For example, here are their vision and mission statements:

VISION STATEMENT: To change the way society views beardsmen.

MISSION STATEMENT: To foster style for urban beardsmen.

Eric was a trained designer with a clear vision of how he wanted to portray Beardbrand. If you need help with graphics, then I’ve shared a step-by-step process in this article on Quick Sprout.

Remember that you won’t find good designers for cheap at marketplaces like Fiverr (at least not easily). Be ready to shell out real money.

But, once you manage to get a good designer, they’ll help in crafting your brand guidelines, based on your vision. And, you’ll be on the right track to keeping your small business branding consistent.

One you hire salespeople, marketers and customer service executives, you’ll need to maintain a culture that reflects your vision and brand personality. You’ll also need to ensure that all of your employees are clear and consistent in their communications with your customers.

Ensure a stellar experience for your customers

Remember that I told you that you won’t be able to compete with the bigger commerce platforms on price?  You’ll need a clear, differentiating USP and a compelling brand story.

There’s another way that you can earn loyal customers and simultaneously extend your branding- by personalizing your product packaging and making your prospects feel special. It’s all about adding to that customer experience.


Dollar Shaving Club offer a premium unboxing experience to their customers. They treat their members as part of a high-quality club. And, they welcome you with a colorful postcard and a free drink – which they comically refute with disclaimers “not really” and “please don’t drink and shave.”


The backside of the postcard makes you feel like you’re part of an elite movement and shares necessary information about changing your subscription and following them on their social network.


Here’s their complete welcome package.


Indeed, people across the globe have shared their DSC unboxing experience. All of the above images were from a blog post written by Jonathon Colman. Here’s another video of a guy from Australia sharing his executive membership unboxing experience.

Think of all the free marketing that DSC has earned, purely due to their stellar packaging. In fact, it’s not DSC alone. The number of videos titled “unboxing” on YouTube have consistently increased since 2010. This means that people are interested in sharing their first impressions with a brand.


Dotcom Distribution found that 52% of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from an online merchant that delivers premium packaging. So, moving beyond generic packaging can be your ticket to free social network publicity and earning more loyal customers.

I would suggest calculating the shipping and custom packaging charges. Then, perform a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate if it’s worthwhile to go for custom packaging or not.

If you opt for customized packaging, then here’s a guide by Shopify to create a memorable unboxing experience for your customers.

Another way of making your customers feel special is by creating loyalty programs and offering discounts. HubSpot shares 7 great customer loyalty programs in this article.

Around 50,000 DSC customers tell their friends to try DSC products every month. Such word of mouth marketing is happening because DSC is offering free months and credits with their welcome mail.


A few nitty-gritties to kickstart your business

Until now, you saw high-level strategies for building an eCommerce brand. Now, let me share a few strategies to get your business off the ground.

Most niche businesses will find their audiences on Facebook. So, I would suggest that you to start with Facebook Ads and leverage the platform’s powerful targeting capabilities.

You can also refer to my detailed guide on driving sales through Facebook Ads specifically for eCommerce businesses.

Once you’ve figured out Facebook and streamlined your ads, then I would suggest that you migrate to the visual social platforms – Instagram and Pinterest.

The users expect to see high-quality visual advertisements from brands on these platforms. And, these platforms have a sticky audience that loves to shop. Here are my guides on generating sales through Pinterest Ads and making sales on Instagram.

Don’t forget to experiment with ads containing buy buttons and practicing native commerce on all of these social media platforms.

Finally, I would recommend that you find the key influencers in your industry and develop relationships with them. I share a few tips on influencer marketing in my guide on making sales through social media.


The internet is a wonderful place to sell your products and become an established business. But, most companies don’t make the cut, because they take short-cuts. Creating a branding strategy and following it consistently is extremely important for creating a sustainable business.

In this article, I’ve shared a few examples and strategies to develop your own brand from scratch. If you’ve always wanted to build an eCommerce business, then get started right away.

Are there any other branding exercises for eCommerce businesses that you want to share?

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