If you’re reading this article my guess is you’re interested in learning how you can create an Authority Ecommerce (AE) brand.
Maybe you’ve already tried the ‘pop-tart’ Ecommerce method:
- Throw up a Shopify store
- Plug-in the Oberlo app
- Run some Facebook ads… and… just like that…
…. Out pop your millions!
Yeah, I know, doesn’t quite work like that does it?
No worries, you live and you learn.
If you’re (finally) ready to create a brand built to last you’re in the right place. Here’s what you’re about to discover:
- What is Authority Ecommerce (and what it is not)
- How Authority Ecommerce works (it’s simpler than you think)
- Examples of Authority Ecommerce in action (the big players & the little guy)
- Questions to ask yourself before you decide to build an Authority Ecommerce business (so you don’t waste even more time)
What Authority Ecommerce is & What Authority Ecommerce is not
There are 3 distinct and popular business models in the Ecommerce space right now.
I have some cheeky, but fairly accurate names for them:
- The ‘pop-tart’ Ecommerce brand – POD t-shirts, Dropshipping from Ali Express, Shopify store, tons of plugins and f&s offers
- The Amazon band-wagonist – White labeled products from China, no website or other sales outlet
- The (broke) brand builder – invest in inventory on the front end, live on social media, make sales in Facebook groups
While all three methods can be wildly successful – if you have the time, skills, cashflow and experience behind you.
Sadly, the large majority of new-comers to the Ecommerce space, don’t. And their well intentioned – but inexperienced forays – into all three methods often fail miserably.
Now before we look at what an Authority Ecommerce brand is, I think it helps to look at what an authority Ecommerce brand is not – so we’re all on the same page.
The Anti-AE approach: What Authority Ecommerce is not
A step-by-step guide to starting an ecommerce business (that has a 81% chance of failing)
- Step #1 Decide to sell an *amazing* product to everyone
- Step #2 Spend weeks trying to find a supplier or a drop-shipper
- Step #3 Buy a bunch of inventory (or plug-in Oberlo app)
- Step #4 Use crappy wholesaler images as you don’t have the skill/ time/money to do your own
- Step #5 Create 6 social media profiles , then spend 6hrs a day trying to create BRAND BUZZ
- Step #6 Launch your new online store with a few posts on Facebook
- Step #7 Realise if you want to make a sale to someone who isn’t your sister, you probably need to start doing paid Facebook ads
- Step #8 Start doing Facebook ads (badly), reach your cashflow limit (quickly), make no money, lose interest (and face) & shut up shop
If your stomach is plummeting right now because this sounds exactly like your Ecommerce journey so far.
Don’t worry, all is not lost.
However, there does need to be bit of a strategic shuffle around.
Let’s try this on for size.
The Hallmarks of an Authority Ecommerce Brand
- They validate their Ecommerce business idea BEFORE spending a ton on inventory
- They clearly identify their brand’s unique selling and value proposition – especially if they’re going into an already saturated market (cough… women’s fashion)
- They build an email list of interested people, prior to launching
- They run a pre-sale BEFORE they hard launch the brand (reasons for this coming later)
- They are committed to being supremely helpful and creating SEO optimised content assets that help customers make informed buying decisions
- They plan to become a part of their customer’s lives – even when they’re not directly selling (they want mindshare)
- They have a plan for how they will retain customers, and increase the lifetime customer value, as well as the average order value.
- They’re willing to learn the fundamentals of paid traffic (or have the budget to hire an expert)
- They select 1-3 social media channels to be active on (then take the time to master each)
- They prioritise building their mailing list over all other social media activities – including the ‘gram
Still with me?
Haven’t run away in terror?
Great! Now that we know what it looks like, let’s look at how it works.
How does Authority Ecommerce work?
The strategy behind the AE approach to selling physical products online is surprisingly simple:
- Be supremely helpful – help your customers make educated buying decisions
How to do this: Make meeting your customers needs, wants, questions and challenges the foundation of your brand.
In order to do this, you need to really understand who they are at an almost cellular level. This starts with having a well researched and developed customer avatar. Skip this step at your peril.
- Become a part of your customer’s lives – grab mindshare, then keep it
How to do this: Stop focusing on the sale and focus on the brand experience. Have an on going strategy for creating SEO’d content assets that talk to your customers holistic interests.
Make it impossible for them to ignore or dismiss you––without being annoying.
- Build an Ecommerce website which ranks in search engines – without ignoring paid traffic
How to do this: Understand the keywords that will lead your customer to your product – those keywords with buyer intention and those with educational intent.
Plan your SEO attack in tiers going for the low-hanging fruit first. Build a maze of content around your brand, where all roads lead to your product.
Inform, educate and inspire, but do it strategically.
- Be unforgettable – have a story worth telling, create an experience worth sharing
How to do this: Get clear on what makes your brand interesting and worth paying attention to. Find your hook and your brand voice. Indifference is the death of a brand, so go boldly.
When laid out as simply as this the argument and rationale for building an authority Ecommerce business is pretty obvious, right?
When customers can find you, trust you, and feel confident recommending you to others, you have the fundamentals for a stupidly successful brand firmly in place.
But the truth is, building a brand like this isn’t easy
It takes time, planning, resources, skills, and cashflow.
And this is why most rookie Ecommerce entrepreneurs opt for the ‘pop-tart’ method. Makes perfect sense (kinda).
In fact, I can imagine at this point you’re racking your brain trying to think of brands who live up to all of these principles?
**Want to make sure you don’t miss part #2 of this post? Leave your email below to be notified the minute I update it.
That’s why the next step is to show you some examples of Authority Ecommerce brands in the wild.
Examples of Authority Ecommerce In Action
The Big Players
- Dr Axe
Dr Axe has got to be one of my favourite authority Ecommerce businesses.
And yes, while this brand is in a niche perfectly suited to this strategy, it’s the way Dr Axe approaches it with his website that I find particularly impressive.
What makes Dr Axe an Authority Ecommerce brand?
- Dr Axe takes being supremely helpful to the next level. If you search pretty much any health related topic on the web you’ll find Dr Axe has content to answer that question.
- The output on this website is enviable, with fresh content weekly in a variety of formats, written, video, infographics – you can’t miss him
- Customer education is paramount. Instead of using every link to take you to product, he strategically leads you through his content building trust each step of the way. If you need what he sells, buying from him becomes a no-brainer.
- Dr Axe understands the power of his email list, so he gives you something really worth opting in to
Sephora are truly genius when it comes to applying the AE strategy to their business model.
While they don’t seem to have the traditional ‘blog’ we’ve come to expect, they make exceptional style-guide content (often video format) which answers the hair and beauty questions their customers have…
…then, they direct them to where they can buy the products to get the same results. Job. Done.
What makes Sephora an authority Ecommerce brand?
- They have a deep and personal understanding of the women who shop with them – this is evident in their website and email design
- Customer education on how to use their products is a priority for them, and you can tell.
- They have a social conscience – the Sephora Stands Initiative promotes the brand’s social awareness.
Our programs address the needs of entrepreneurs, communities in transition, and Sephora employees. And together, our company and employees share a commitment to increase our positive social impact. – Sephora
- Riverpools and Spas:
Marcus Sheridan has got to be one of the founding fathers of the Authority Ecommerce approach. Although I’m sure he calls it something way cooler than that.
What makes River Pools and Spas an authority Ecommerce brand?
- In an industry with a notoriously long sales cycle, they make sure they have content assets that meets their customer every step of the way
- They leverage the power of customer testimonials. When purchasing a product with such a high price tag, having other customers rave about how good the product and sales experience is goes a long way to build trust.
- They understand the power of search, and create educational content (in a variety of formats) designed to be found by search engines
- They focus on building their email list and nurturing that relationship, by offering an opt-in offer so educational and in-depth that even if you continue to price shop – they stay top of mind
Now for one of my favourite Authority Ecommerce brands
- Boom By Cindy Joseph:
Boom is the quintessential Authority Ecommerce brand.
From all the great content on the front end.
To the sales strategy – long (ish) form sales pages, one-click up sells – that go down in the backend. Pay close attention. This brand totally smashes it on all levels.
What makes Boom By Cindy Joseph an authority Ecommerce business?
- They know exactly who their customer is, what her pain points and questions are, and they answer them systemically and strategically
- Their sales pages are detailed and informational – if you have a question pre-purchase you can be sure the page answers it
- They leverage the power of user generated content and testimonials to maximum effect
- They strategically increase the average order value of each customer, without being annoying or invasive. Their post-purchase up-sell is genius.
**Want to make sure you don’t miss part #2 of this post?
Leave your email below to be notified the minute I update it.
Authority Ecommerce in Action: The (Smart) Little Players
If you looked at those examples and for a moment thought:
Errmm these guys have a crap ton of money, people, and time at their disposal.
I’m the only one working in my business. I STILL work my 9-5. And, my marketing budget comes out of my son’s college fund, so how the heck am I supposed to create a brand like that?
I can totally understand.
That’s why I want to show you this plan in action, scaled down. Because it’s equally effective.
- Classy Yet Trendy
Starting out as a fashion blog, Leanne built an audience of followers before plugging in the Ecommerce component to Classy Yet Trendy.
What makes Classy Yet Trendy an authority Ecommerce brand?
- Leanne understands the power of having an audience, and has taken the time to master one social media platform in order to build one. Pinners are eating out of the palm of her hand. I bet her list is pretty jumping, too!
- She thinks like a publisher, carefully creating and curating content designed to answer her ideal customer’s questions, concerns and challenges
- She has multiple revenue streams. Affiliate income, digital products and physical products – no stone is left unturned when it comes to maximising revenue from visitors on the site.
- Bold Life
This brand is a classic example that shows you don’t need to be a big-buck business in order to put the AE strategy to work for you.
In fact, with some time, planning and research you can achieve killer results – all while working alone from your kitchen table while the kids are asleep.
What makes Bold Life an Authority Ecommerce brand?
- They decided Pinterest was their traffic channel, then learned how to drive traffic like a pro
- They create content which is educational yet has buyer intent, and they fully understand the power of Search Engine Optimisation
- They choose to focus on serving a particular part of their niche, rather than trying to be for everyone. Smart.
Want to make sure you don’t miss part #2 of this post? Leave your email below to be notified the minute I update it.
Still not convinced?
I created a post called 50 Ecommerce content marketing examples, which has, err, 50 examples of brands building their authority via content, and bloggers building their brands via content.
But in case you don’t want to read another mega post, check out these two AE brands.
Art of Style, and their new brand, Huckleberry.
Serendipity Diamonds, who make purchasing rocks a breeze.
*** Read more articles on content marketing
- What is content promotion?
- How to create an ecommerce content strategy that converts
- The content promotion plan that coverts like crazy
- The content promotion checklists for online store owners
Now you know what to look for you should be able to recognise the formula immediately.
If you’re still reading you probably know this is only part #1 of this article.
In part #2, we’re going to dive deep into HOW to build an Authority Ecommerce brand, and you can use the form above to sign up to be notified when it’s live.
But, before you do.
I need you to have a moment of radical honesty…
…and ask yourself a few questions.
Because as you’ve probably guessed this framework is NOT for everyone – and with good reason.
Let’s find out if it’s for you?
Questions to ask yourself before you decide to build an AE brand?
- Focused on building a credible brand, or do you just wanna make a quick buck?
- Expecting results overnight, or are you ready to grow slowly but surely?
- Willing to do the work. Week in and week out, and get help if you need it?
- Prepared to make your customer the hero of the story, and stop thinking it’s all about you?
- Interested in the numbers, ready to learn new skills, and excited by the idea of making data-based decisions (rather than relying on guesswork)
- Ready to pick a social media channel to master, and keep going and experimenting – even when your post gets no love?
- Ready to focus on building an email list – and get over your issues about mailing those people who subscribed to you?
If you answered yes to most of those questions, you’re exactly the type of person this framework works well for, so listen in…
Coming up I’m going to share with you the next steps you need to take to build your Authority Ecommerce brand. This will include:
- How to validate your business idea – before spending a shit ton of money
- The power of a pre-launch email list – and tips to help you build one
- To pre-sell or not to pre-sell? (and the reasons why I recommend you do)
- How to decide whether your idea has legs (the metrics that signal success or failure)
- The challenges of building an Authority Ecommerce business & how you can overcome them
Understandably a post this size takes time to write. And in all honesty, I’d rather not bother if not enough people want to read it.
But, if that sounds like the information you need?
Then let me know by leaving your email below, and I’ll make sure that you’re the first to know when the follow-up to this post goes live (+ receive a special gift).
Until then, I’m gonna invite you to come follow me over on my Facebook page, where you’ll find me happy to answer your questions about how to build Authority Ecommerce brand.