E-commerce

6 Shopify Success Stories and the Lessons We Can Learn from Them

This article was written by Joyce Chou. She is a Content Specialist at Compose.ly, a content platform that matches businesses with seasoned freelance writers. Apart from writing for Compose.ly’s blog, Joyce also contributes to other publications about digital marketing, personal finance, and business and ecommerce.

 

With ecommerce bringing in an average of $60 million per month in the U.S., it’s no surprise that so many people today are investing in it.

And where better to get started than Shopify?

As a one-stop-shop for online storefront owners, Shopify itself boasts a compelling success story. After struggling to open their own online store (for snowboarding equipment), three friends founded the company in 2004 with the goal of improving the variety of ecommerce tools available. To date, more than 800,000 businesses use its platform and net over $100 billion in total sales.

Among those 800,000, a handful of stores stand out, whether by generating impressive revenue, building strong brand awareness, or even revolutionizing the way we shop online. Whatever the case, we’ve rounded up six of these Shopify success stories as mini case studies for winning at ecommerce.

1. Leesa

Founder David Wolfe has said that his impetus for creating Leesa, a mattress company, was simple: he wanted people to sleep better for a more affordable price. That’s it.

Leesa's homepage

So Wolfe connected with designers and experts in the mattress industry to create an innovative product: a hybrid mattress combining “the premium support of individually wrapped pocket springs with specialty foams that provide pressure relief and support.”

And it worked—compared to its rivals, Leesa stands out because of its mattress’ approach to body contouring, air flow, and coolness.

As simple as the original idea was, Wolfe was wise to follow his instincts in creating Leesa. The company quickly joined the ranks of leading online mattress companies, reporting $30 million in income in its first year—in fact, $800,000 in its first month.

Key Lesson

Wolfe’s success exemplifies how simple ideas have the potential to become massive successes, so long as they’re well-executed.

To be clear, Leesa wasn’t the first online mattress company to hit the market—its well-known competitor Casper came a year earlier in 2014. However, Leesa distinguished itself by designing a new mattress that appealed to sleepers unimpressed with their current options. Wolfe connected with experts early on and used consumer research to develop something better, making his product quickly stand out from others.

Applied to your own Shopify store, Leesa’s success is a lesson in doing your homework and researching the market, regardless of how simple or straightforward your business idea is.

2. Ring

If it seems as though Ring doorbells are popping up everywhere, it’s because they really are.

Serial entrepreneur Jamie Siminoff’s idea to pair doorbells with mobile devices met a need that many people didn’t even realize they had—what his wife called, “caller ID for the front door.”

Ring's homepage

Because Siminoff didn’t have much capital for his project, originally called Doorbot, he turned to Kickstarter to fund the idea—only to run into strict guidelines that prevented it from coming to fruition. Sensing another opportunity, Siminoff launched the competing crowdfunding platform Christie Street for hardware products—and used his own platform to raise funds for Doorbot. From there, Siminoff was able to manufacture and market what would eventually become the wildly popular home security device (later rebranded as Ring).

Famously, Siminoff’s idea was rejected on the venture capitalist game show Shark Tank, but he didn’t give up. In fact, Siminoff credits this public rejection for helping the brand take off; he estimates that his appearance was “probably worth $10 million of ads.


And although Christie Street eventually shut down, Ring went on to flourish.

In 2015, Siminoff launched sales of the doorbell on Shopify, where it quickly gained a dedicated following, including big-name investors like Richard Branson and Shaquille O’Neal. What’s more, Siminoff sold Ring to Amazon for over a billion dollars in 2018.

Key Lesson

Ring’s success can be attributed to not only a fantastic concept but a founder who persevered in spite of many obstacles along the way—including being broke. Had Siminoff accepted rejection or given up early on, his success story would never have been written.

Of course, taking a major risk is easier said than done, especially when your livelihood is at stake. It’s thus worth noting that Siminoff was not afraid to reach out for help to fund his pet project. His dogged persistence even led him to creating the crowdfunding platform Christie Street after setbacks with his Kickstarter campaign.

3. Angelus Direct

Angelus Direct‘s history reaches back over 100 years, when the family-run Angelus Shoe Polish company was founded in California. However, it was only in the past several years that the company grew exponentially to reach customers all over the country—all thanks to the original founder’s tech-savvy grandson. His Angelus Direct site, powered by Shopify, provides both supplies and instruction for a unique niche: shoe painting.

Establishing an online storefront was just the beginning, though. After setting up on Shopify, Angelus Direct expanded its web presence to include Instagram and YouTube—which turned out to be a major game-changer for the company’s sales.

According to the Angelus Direct family’s pioneering grandson, their YouTube channel was “horrible, but people actually loved watching because it taught them about a new hobby they may have [otherwise] never known about.”

AngelusDirect's youtube channel

See for yourself. Running at less than a minute each, Angelus Direct’s videos act as the perfect introduction to shoe-painting.

Moreover, as the founder’s grandson says, “YouTube is huge for sales in the arts and crafts world because people are scared to try new things nowadays without being shown how to do it first.”

In just two years after bringing the company online, Angelus Direct grew its sales to over 10,000 orders a month. And on top of increased revenue, the business has also gained the attention of famed shoe artists like Alexander John.

Key Lesson

Creating a digital storefront with Shopify is just the beginning of the world of ecommerce. As Angelus Direct’s team shows, you should also capitalize on social media and other channels to increase your brand visibility.

Sharp storeowners aren’t afraid to evolve their brands for today’s consumers, who spend more and more time online. Embracing new technology like social media can seem like a leap of faith, but done well, it can widen your brand’s reach.

4. Poketti

Poketti is such a simple idea that a child (or two) might have thought it up, and it turns out that’s exactly what happened. These animal-shaped pillows incorporate a useful pocket that sisters Sydney and Toni Loew say are perfect for your “phone, notebook, glasses, tooth fairy treats, or other small treasures.”

Poketti's homepage

The girls raised Poketti’s initial manufacturing funding through the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Once they had sufficient stock, the Loews launched the Poketti website with the Shopify platform. People fell in love with the cute, practical pillows and to this day, continue to support this homegrown business venture.

Poketti’s online success is enhanced by the Loews’ commitment to growing their business through word-of-mouth and tried-and-true methods. They routinely attend trade shows and direct sales events, and they’ve even produced a TV commercial for their product.

Key Lesson

Traditional marketing isn’t just for traditional—that is, physical—businesses. In other words, you can apply the same marketing tactics used by brick-and-mortar stores to your own ecommerce shop.

For Poketti, that means attending trade shows and direct sales events as well as filming a TV commercial. However, these aren’t your only options. Depending on your target audience, you may want to consider:

  • Direct mail, e.g., brochures and fliers
  • Print advertising in newspapers and magazines
  • Broadcasting, e.g., radio
  • Referral marketing

5. Death Wish Coffee

Mike Brown doesn’t actually want you to die; he wants you to wake up. That’s why he’s developed a coffee bean roasting technique that increases the amount of caffeine in every cup without sacrificing flavor.

In fact, Death Wish promises it is the “world’s strongest coffee.”

Since Death Wish opened in 2012, customers have been enthralled—so much so that expanding the business through Shopify made sense. And just like Poketti, Death Wish has explored traditional marketing to land more customers, most notably through its Super Bowl 50 commercial.

What exactly makes the company worth highlighting, though?

In a heavily coffee-saturated world, Death Wish’s loud branding is one of a kind. Calling itself the world’s strongest coffee and naming it “Death Wish” makes the brand especially memorable, but that’s not all—Death Wish also uses its web copy to cement its brand personality.

Take a look at its homepage for an example.

Offering a “100% no-BS guarantee,” Death Wish invites prospective customers to try its coffee and “awaken their inner rebel” and “kick bad habits”—language that other coffee roasters certainly shy away from. Even the site’s exit popup takes an unconventional approach with its copy:

Death Wish Coffee's Shopify exit popup

But Death Wish’s site copy isn’t the only area where the brand’s personality comes through; the company also reinforces this voice through social media.

This branding has no doubt led to Death Wish’s prominence, making it more distinct and memorable among customers. It was even featured on Good Morning America! Had Death Wish chosen a more mild-mannered name and slogan, chances are it wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity or amassed such a following.

Key Lesson

Creating a distinct brand voice is integral to making your business stand out. Unlike more mellow (and forgettable) coffee brands, Death Wish accomplished this through its slogan, website copy, and social media channels.

Your branding doesn’t need to adopt the same exact voice as Death Wish to make an impression, though. Find a voice that’s authentic to your business, whether that’s quirky, whimsical, or humorous.

6. Taste Wine Company

Taste Wine Company—or Taste, for short—started as a brick-and-mortar Manhattan wine and spirits store before launching a successful ecommerce venture on the Shopify platform. These days, the company fulfills online orders for wine and spirits in Manhattan and ships wine all over the country.

Observing the lack of consumer wine education in the wine industry, founder Gary Landsman started Taste with a vision to help customers find the perfect wine. In person and online, Landsman appeals to customers who are wine lovers as well as those “trying to find their taste.” His goal: remove the snobbery of wine-tasting to make it more accessible to consumers.

Unlike Angelus Direct and Poketti, the best marketing strategy for Taste wasn’t quite so clear-cut or intuitive. While Landsman invested in both traditional and digital methods—using a combination of phone booth ads and advertising on Facebook and Yelp—they simply didn’t pan out as he had hoped.

Instead, what Landsman found most effective was a free mobile app and review system.

Taste’s app rewards users each time they rate and review wines—earning them points that they can then use toward tasting more wines. The app thus creates a feedback loop that encourages users to continue tasting wines while their reviews draw in more customers. But that’s not all; the app also includes a survey that pinpoints a customer’s ideal wine.

Key Lesson

Some businesses thrive from social media and traditional push marketing, but that doesn’t mean yours will. For Taste, Landsman saw the most success after creating an interactive app that helped with word-of-mouth marketing.

You’ll need to experiment just as Landsman did, and consider thinking outside of the box if you’re seeing few results.

Fortunately, Shopify offers a wide range of tools—like an online portal and interactive mobile apps—that can help businesses expand customer reach and connect with their customers in new, meaningful ways.

Conclusion

Partnering with Shopify can help launch your business to the next level, but be warned: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to finding success on the platform.

Take it from the Shopify success stories above, most of which have used different, even contradictory, strategies on their respective paths.

What’s more, as the brands above demonstrate, ecommerce success doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to keep an eye on your market and constantly adapt your strategy to better meet customers’ needs, whether that’s with regard to content, branding, or your actual product.

 

Greg D'Aboville Greg is Head of Growth at WisePops.

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