The fact that you’re reading this digital magazine means you want to learn more about website monetization and eCommerce. Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or a veteran of the industry, you know that your education never really stops. In this post, we’ll look at the best eCommerce books every serious entrepreneur should read.
Every time you read a blog post, listen to a podcast or watch a tutorial, you pick up something new that you can apply to your e-commerce business to grow faster.
While blogs, podcasts, and videos are perfect when you’ve got 10 to 15 minutes to spare, they don’t go into the depth of detail that a book does.
Read these 27 books, and you’ll be way ahead of your competition.
Appetizers eCommerce Books
If you’re starting in eCommerce, these books are for you. That’s because if you read them, you will find out about how different people succeeded and what their issues were along the journey. You’ve probably come across some of them before.
They’re on this list because they’ve changed the way people think about eCommerce and starting an online store.
Please read them, make notes, and when you are ready, launch your business. When you have a problem, you can easily relate to the stories in this book and use one of the techniques and solutions you found.
As I many times say on this blog, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Find out what others did in your situation, adapt the solution to your particular case, and implement it.
1. The Startup Owner’s Manual – Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
Steve Blank was the catalyst for the Lean Startup movement, making sense to include his book here. The Startup Owner’s Manual will show you how to bring your eCommerce idea to life with Customer Development and the Business Model Canvas.
2. The 4 Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss
I had to add this to the list. It’s what got me into eCommerce years ago and if you haven’t read it yet, get it now. Tim Ferriss’s classic will open your eyes to a new world of possibilities.
Be warned, though, many entrepreneurs start with this book and then nevermore. 4HWW does paint a pretty picture of eCommerce, but there’s more to it if you want to build a real business.
3. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
Another instant hit, the Lean Startup, is now a movement in the startup world. Although it primarily applies to software startups, the book will show you the value of validating your product and getting feedback before investing lots of money into it.
With crowdfunding, many eCommerce companies have started putting these principles into action and reducing their risk of failure.
4. Zero To One – Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and this book contains everything he has learned in his journey. While not as actionable as the previous three books, I’ve included it here because it emphasizes the importance of being innovative, creating defensible market positions, and finding unique opportunities to gain an edge in your business.
Now you’re at the stage where you’ve validated your product and market, and you need to start selling online. But just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. There’s more to selling online than creating a store, and branding is where you start.
5. What Great Brands Do – Denise Lee Yohn
Drawing from her years of consulting work with top brands like Frito-Lay and Sony, Denise Lee Yohn lays out the seven key principles of great branding in this book. If you want to stand out from your competition and create a brand like Zappos or Apple, read this book and implement your business principle.
6. Lead With A Story – Paul Smith
Without a story, your store is just another bland site on the web. With a story, you transform into something that engages and inspires consumers. It adds color and separates you from the mass of colorless eCommerce stores.
In this book, Paul Smith shows you how to craft a captivating story that you can use in your About Page, your value proposition, your marketing materials, or anything else your customers come in contact with.
7. Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug
You may not be a designer, but you do need to care about your store’s design. Why? Because your customers do. No, I’m not saying they’ll come in with a critical eye and find design mistakes. On the contrary, customers want things to be simple and comfortable when they shop on your side.
Sadly, many eCommerce stores are riddled with design and usability mistakes that make customers want to tear their hair out in frustration. In this classic, Steve Krug shows you why customers leave your site and what you need to do to improve it.
The big problem for eCommerce stores, or any business really, is getting traffic to the site. How do you get the word out about yourself? How do you tell people that you have a cool, new brand that they should check out? That’s what marketing is all about.
8. The Ultimate Marketing Plan – Dan S. Kennedy
Dan Kennedy, the best-selling author of the No B.S. books, lays down the fundamentals of marketing in today’s world with this book. It’s not an ultimate plan, but it does give you all the steps you need to build a foundation for your marketing strategy. Start with this if you’re new to the game.
9. Traction – Gabriel Weinberg
There are so many ways to market. Which one works best?
That’s where this book comes in. Traction brings a scientific approach to marketing by showing you how to score and test different channels to find the ones that work best for your business.
10. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
In eCommerce, there are no escaping social media. Sites like Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for showing off products. And you already knew you needed to be on Facebook and Twitter before you started your business. With this book, you’ll learn how to create your social media strategy straight from one of the leading experts in the field.
11. Growth Hacker Marketing – Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday was the director of marketing for American Apparel, so when he says marketing is changing, and you need to adapt, you’d better listen. Growth hacker marketing is your primer into the new world of growth hacking. Even though it’s primarily meant for software businesses, the concepts still apply to eCommerce.
12. The New Rules Of Marketing And PR – David Meerman Scott
While the previous book shows you what’s changing in marketing, this one gives you a step-by-step plan to take advantage of that and apply it to your business.
David Meerman Scott is a marketing expert and author of multiple marketing best-sellers. In this one, you’ll find the tools, techniques, and strategies to market your business at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing strategies.
13. The Referral Engine – John Jantsch
We place far more importance on recommendations from friends and family than an advertisement, and with good reason. We trust people more than we trust a faceless organization.
That’s why word-of-mouth marketing, or referral marketing, is so powerful. By getting your customers to talk about you and your products, you’ll dramatically increase your sales. John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing fame, shows you how it’s done.
What gets measured gets managed. Ultimately your store boils down to profits and losses. To make a profit, you need a certain number of sales. To be able to make those sales, you need a certain amount of traffic. And to get that traffic, you need to spend money marketing. Unless you measure it all, you can’t find out what’s working and what isn’t.
14. Measure what matters – John Doerr
Measure What Matters is about using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a revolutionary approach to goal-setting, to make tough business choices. John Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates, to demonstrate the focus, agility, and explosive growth that OKRs have spurred at so many great organizations.
This book will show you how to collect timely, relevant data to track progress – to measure what matters. It will help any organization or team aim high, move fast, and excel.
15. Lean Analytics – Alistair Croll
Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz bring the lean startup principles to analytics in this book. This book will help you build a foundation and understand what metrics matter most to your business if you’re new to analytics.
16. Web Analytics 2.0 – Avinash Kaushik
Avinash Kaushik is the analytics evangelist for Google, so he knows what he’s talking about. His previous book, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, guided on creating a successful analytics strategy.
In this book, he follows up with specific strategies and frameworks to measure, analyze, and act upon the data you collect from your analytics.
17. Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics – Brian Clifton
You can’t talk about analytics without mention Google Analytics. Brian Clifton’s book is recommended by Avinash Kaushik himself as the only book you need to use Google Analytics. This book teaches you everything, from fundamentals to best practices, so buy it and read it before your competitors do.
The easiest way to make an impact on your sales is to optimize your website conversions. If your eCommerce store makes one sale for every 100 customers, then optimizing it to make two sales is far more cost-effective than throwing twice as much traffic at it.
18. Optimize – Lee Odden
While this book isn’t about conversion rate optimization, it’s still required reading to optimize search engines and social media. Lee Odden shows you how to create optimized content that attracts and engages the right customers.
19. You Should Test That – Chris Goward
Chris Goward is the founder of WiderFunnel and the brains behind the LIFT Model and Kaizen Method for conversion rate optimization. In this book, he gives you a step-by-step guide to help you optimize your website conversions. He also talks about analyzing data, prioritizing experiments, and making business decisions through tested insights.
20. Convert! – Ben Hunt
Ben Hunt teaches designers, developers, and marketers how to make websites that work. This book shows you how to create an eCommerce site that provides a compelling shopping experience and converts browsers into buyers. You can implement many of the techniques presented in this book without the help of an expert.
Starting a business is not just about making some money. It’s about creating something that outlives you, a long-lasting legacy for people to remember you by. But the journey begins today.
21. Principles: Life and Work – Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio is the founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, which has become the largest and best performing hedge fund in the world over the last forty years. Dalio created a set of principles for his personal and professional life that serves as an operating system for living based on radical honesty and radical transparency thriving within an idea of meritocracy.
Ray Dalio has appeared on the Time 100 list of the most influential people globally and the Bloomberg Markets list of the 50 most influential people.
You may check in the following 30-minutes video a summary of Dalio’s principles, but I recommend you to get the book to understand them, see how he created them based on his life experiences, and most importantly, how you can apply them in your personal and professional life.
22. Built To Last – Jim Collins
When Jim Collins and Jerry Porras were doing a research project at Stanford, they asked themselves what makes the truly exceptional companies different from others.
They studied companies that have lasted longer than others, like GE, Disney, and Walmart, and distilled what made them exceptional. This book is the culmination of all that work.
23. Good To Great – Jim Collins
While Built To Last addressed already successful companies, Jim Collins wanted to find out if anything went from good, mediocre, or even poor to great. After five years of research and mountains of data, Jim and his team found why some companies leap while others don’t. This book contains all their findings.
24. Indispensable – Joe Calloway
The key to building a company that customers can’t live without is to create indispensable products. In this book, Joe Calloway shows us a 5 step strategy for turning a commodity product into a necessity.
Ok, while all these books are precious, some can get a little heavy. Now and then, when things get rough, we need to take a step back and find inspiration instead of another marketing book. Here are some suggestions.
25. Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs started Apple in his garage, but today, years after his death, it’s the world’s most valuable company. Everyone knows the story of how he was kicked out but came back and turned the company around. So when you’re feeling down and out, pick up this book and get inspired by Steve’s resilience and sheer force of will.
26. Sam Walton: Made In America
Starting with a single dime store, Sam grew it into the retail giant that Wal-Mart is today. In his autobiography, Sam tells his story and his motivations behind starting Wal-Mart.
27. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
If you had to point out one man who’s changing the world right now, it has to be Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark. Elon’s is not a rags-to-riches story, but the way he thinks about the world and humanity’s future is just fascinating. Read this book if only to get a tiny glimpse into the mind of one of the most amazing people alive right now.
The best eCommerce Books Pay For Themselves
Yeah, books cost money, but they eventually pay for themselves. Every single one of these books will pay for itself many times over when you have a thriving eCommerce business.
How many of these have you read? And which e-commerce books do you think should go on the list?
Let us know in the comments below!