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9 key success factors in building a successful e-commerce brand


Last updated on 07/13/2022

In my previous article I had presented you the factors to analyze to determine if an e-commerce brand has a better chance to be successful than its competitors in its industry.

Here I will present to you the 9 essential elements to build or invest in a successful e-commerce brand, through those that have already achieved success.

Why are some e-commerce brands so successful while others fail to enter a sustainable expansion phase?

What I mean by e-commerce brands in this article are the e-commerce brands that started as Digital Native Vertical Brands, also called Pure Players and Direct To Consumer Brands.

Today, DNVBs are developing on omni-channel strategies, and do not necessarily integrate production in the value chain anymore.

I am therefore referring to brands that were born with digital and have grown in the expansion phase on a strategy that can integrate an indirect distribution channel to the consumer such as wholesaler.

What I mean by sustainable expansion phase is an e-commerce brand that will be able to scale to growth and increase its turnover while preserving its margins by trying to remain profitable during its expansion.

A great product that creates value

Customers give bad feedback and reviews when they are not satisfied. The brand won’t be able to last in the long run without a product that brings value to a certain type of customer because a series of bad news can happen.

For example, I launch a new product on the market quickly, without having controlled the production, it turns out that the samples provided were correct, I asked for an improvement but I did not control a new sample because I’m in a rush.I am already working with the factory and am generally satisfied with the work provided.

The project planning has to be respected so it seems too late to control the whole quality of the order, partnerships, brand content and celebrities are scheduled, the product has to be launched and the launch plan has to be followed.

Nevertheless, the delivery is not as good as expected,or the product is simply not interesting enough in terms of value for potential customers, but driven by marketing efforts, they buy it anyway to test it.

The consequences of this rush can be hard. If customers are not satisfied with the product or it doesn’t meet their expectations, negative reviews can occur on:

  • the Facebook page, increasing advertising costs
  • the Google shopping page, drastically reducing clicks
  • trustworthy sites such as Trustpilot, without control and the possibility to delete them.
  • marketplaces if the products are also available on them

As a result, if the e-commerce brand wants to launch an improved version later, it will struggle with this previous bad experience.

Launching an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is OK for testing a market and find the product market fit, however the quality of the product and the customer experience should not be too disastrous. It will definitely impact the brand. If this is the case, the brand should repatriate all its products to avoid backlash, if they care about their clients.

A strong and consistent brand storytelling

Storytelling is an important element for the e-commerce brand and must be present everywhere in a consistent manner, i.e. without sudden changes of direction.

○  The vision that the brand conveys through all its points of interaction with customers, prospects, fans and site visitors is ultra important. It must be taken care of.

○  Consistency in branding is key, it’s not just a logo. The typography used, the colors, the tone used, the values carried, the positions taken and the partners chosen all have importance.

○  The mission and values that the e-commerce brand advocates must be embodied through its products, its advertising, its marketing, its teams. It must be proven and amplified by the voice of its customers.

Cost control and margin optimization

Knowing the revenue, net margin, and everything in between is crucial.

I’ve worked with many first-time entrepreneurs who were building an e-commerce brand. And what often jumped out at me was their lack of awareness of certain costs that they had not integrated into their financial projections to calculate their ROI.

Examples of what is often forgotten for an entrepreneur who starts in e-commerce:

Warehousing costs when the product is stored at a 3PL

○  The shipping cost to influencers and celebrities (and returns)

○  The shipping cost to the end customer for 2 to 3 items in an order.

The customer does not want to pay more for a bigger cart but the shipping is calculated by total size and weight. Therefore, the cost may be higher with the carrier.

○  Integrate the cost of acquisition per customer and know how to optimize it.

The cost of acquisition or the cost per purchase is the metrics to estimate and integrate into the financial part of the plan.

Brands that fail the profitability exercise are often those that fail to optimize their cost per acquisition. Note that in recent years on advertising platforms such as Facebook Ads, the cost of advertising has increased significantly, leading to an increase in the cost per acquisition of new customers.

This is also the reason why e-commerce brands (before covid) have turned to physical distribution models such as showrooms pop-up stores or partnerships with specialized distributors to reduce the Cost per Acquisition and increase the conversion rate.

Effective Operations and back-end technology

The costs associated with operations, supply chain and technology to have an optimal system and be able to achieve sustainable expansion is often overlooked although extremely important to support business growth.

The choice of a good CMS, ERP and CRM to scale and not have inventory problems is important.

Example: TechStyle Group which owns  JustFab Fabletics and other retail brands implemented an internal software suite that enables a seamless omnichannel retail experience for customers.

An integrated suite of retail-related services such as design, SCM, inventory management, media planning, merchandising, etc.,

A Brand LABS to leverage its patented technology, deliver expert services and VIP membership information, all in service of its multi-brand model.

I recommend Shopify as an e-commerce website solution for an e-commerce brand that wants simple, quick to set up, and robust enough that they can handle a very large volume of traffic without additional loading.

Deliver a better overall customer experience

The relationship doesn’t end when the customer has placed their order on the website for the first time, it just begins. Brands that understand this are ahead of the game.

Here are some examples of how to improve the customer experience.

○  The post-purchase emailing flow: allows to create this first step relation between the new customer and the brand, by delivering for example educational content, the brand makes sure that the customer will understand how to use the product, so that they can also follow their order via a link or learn more about the brand they just ordered.

○  The unboxing experience: when the customer receives their product, just like the famous unboxing experience of Apple products, they have to give an experience that they will appreciate.

Example: Brands like Glossier with premium packaging rely heavily on this unboxing moment.

This is a full-fledged strategy linked to packaging, customer experience and support in the first use of the product, which must be seamless and very easy for the customer to repeat his purchase for the same brand in the future.

The post-purchase experience satisfaction email and feedback request are also important to get feedback on the product and the overall customer experience.

Test quickly and often use data

This comes more from the ability of e-commerce brands to use data to make decisions and optimize the overall business. Split testing or A/B testing when something works is a key element in figuring out how to scale in a sustainable way.

Ezra Firestone, co-founder of Boom! By Cindy Joseph in this podcast delivers 53 tips for an A/B testing strategy. Data is at the heart of online business performance analysis. When used correctly, it can optimize the margins of the e-commerce brand.

On the other hand, not using the available data and letting emotions guide decision-making can be very bad and leave a permanent blur on the results obtained.

An e-commerce strategy that is not limited to the next 6 months

As the acquisition of a digital customer is becoming more and more expensive, e-commerce brands that have a more advanced strategy with strong customer retention and a regular purchase cycle make more profit per customer.

They, therefore, focus on several levers to optimize their strategy, but also:

  • Increase Customer Lifetime Value
  • Decrease the cost per customer acquisition
  • Plan for the next product launch
  • Plan Product Development or R&D budget
  • Improve operation, back-end and supply chain

Successful e-commerce brands have found the balance between performance and branding. By taking a long-term approach to building their asset and performance at the same time to sell and profit almost immediately from their investment.

A well thought-out acquisition strategy and sales funnel

Depending on the industry and target audience, some e-commerce brands will tend to focus on a single communication channel to deliver the maximum piece of content with the corresponding format.

For example Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or Tiktok, as the main communication channel in order to have a maximum of exposure in organic and boost with paid.

Then in a second step, acquire clients exposed to the content via marketing acquisition strategies.

Sometimes some traffic acquisition sources are rather obvious for the brand, given its history (an SEO blog already implemented or an Instagram ambassador program already in place for some time), for others it will be necessary to test several traffic acquisition sources to create its community and recruit new fans.

Example: Glossier with its beauty blog – Into the Gloss and slack channel where fans regularly give feedback and free marketing to reuse.

Reassure the potential customer during his purchase with a guarantee, a free return, a trial period.

When the customer has clicked on “Add to Cart”  on the product page of the website it does not mean that he will buy. Unlike a retail store, where it’s rare to see a customer drop off a full cart at the checkout and walk away without the items and without paying.

In digital, customer conversion rates are generally much lower than add-to-cart rates.

But the difference can be reduced because the visitor on the site who adds to the cart has indeed performed an action of purchase intention.

The objective is to reassure them of the possible friction before purchase that they may have by proposing, for example, a visible guarantee on the product page or at checkout, a free return and even a free trial.

Example: Casper has popularized this model with a 100-day trial period, or rather 100 nights,To reassure the customer during the purchase phase.

A right marketing strategy

The “right” marketing strategy is the one that fits the brand, the product and the persona. The brand that will have understood who is its hardcore fan, will manage to find more of them and who positions itself where the potential customers are, who serves the right audience at the right place and at the right time will have all its chances to face the other competitors, with the 8 elements listed above.

A favorable context for the development of e-commerce brands.

In 2019 63 percent of global internet users had purchased products online. According to a study in 2021 we can expect this percentage raise to 65.

Now is the best time to get started in this thriving industry full of opportunities.

Hey! Thanks for reading my article to the end! If you have something to add or want to give your opinion on a part of the article, don’t hesitate to comment!

Part 1


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