Best Ecommerce Books for Aussie Stores

There is no shortage of tips, tricks and hacks for eCommerce. In my humble experience (which started in 2003), they tend to be what’s popular and often regurgitated in various forms making them seem common practice.

They attract lots of likes, comments and shares, but rarely move the needle or offer long term value. The best source of insights I’ve found is by trying things, talking to others who run store and eCommerce books.

Below are the best books I’ve come across that will help your Aussie eCommerce business, no matter what stage you’re at. Just starting out, up and running or growing.

They are broken down into the following categories

  1. Finance Books (aka get on top of your numbers)
  2. Marketing Books
  3. Starting an Ecommerce Business

Best way to “read” these books

I’m lucky enough to have the gift of dislexia dislyxia dyslexia (why do they make that word so hard to spell?). It means I’m great at problem-solving but find reading very difficult. When I discovered Audiobooks (Audible is my go to for audiobooks), it was a game-changer. Anytime I’m going to the office, walking or travelling I consume them like there is no tomorrow. If an audio version isn’t available I’ll put the effort into reading the book, but it just takes a lot longer for me. An example of this is Stark Naked Numbers, and I’m glad I put the effort in. It answered so many questions for me.

Ecommerce Finance Books

Stark Naked Numbers

Author: Jason Andrews

An unknown classic on making an eCommerce business profitable (a surprising often overlooked part of many eCommerce businesses, as it’s assume growing revenues means profit. Hint it doesn’t).

What you’ll learn

Ultimately how to make decisions about how to setting up and run your eCommerce business profitably. The goal of any smart business is to have more cash in the bank at the end of the month than at the start, this is called “cash flow positive”.

Many people see headlines like “XYZ business worth $100m” and aim for that. The reality is, some Venture Capital businesses invested $10m for 10% of the business, which values it at $100m, even though they are losing money hand over fist and have very little chance of being profitable.

Reading Stark Knaked Numbers will help you avoid building or running an unprofitable business.

I’ve been lucky enough to work directly with the author Jason, and I can tell you he is the real deal. It’s the reason companies like Xero and Shopify ask him to write guides for their customers.

Stark Naked Numbers Book

Profit First

Author: Mike Michalowicz

When I asked a very financially savvy friend how I could learn how to use my accountancy software (Xero by the way, total no brainer) so I could know at any one time how much tax I owed and what free cash I had, they said, just read Profit First. It will tell you everything you need to know!

What you’ll learn

Fundamentally it’s a budgeting book that will help you work out for every AUD$100 in revenue you take, what percentage should go to a separate profit account (profit comes first, see what the author did there), to operating expenses, paying you, taxes and anything else you need. You can then log in to your bank at any time and see how much money you have for specific parts of your business.

I describe this book at the Barefoot Investor for businesses. If you haven’t read the Barefoot investor and are live in Australia, where have you been, it’s a game-changer?

A word of warning about Profit First. The first half is very much selling the idea and getting you hyped up about it. Let’s call this the American infomercial approach (Thigh Master anyone?). It could easily be much shorter and is just a word of warning. It wouldn’t have made this list if it wasn’t worth reading.

Like a few books on this list it isn’t written specifically for eCommerce businesses, but can be easily applied. There is a variation that has been written by another author called “Profit First for Ecommerce Sellers“. I haven’t read it yet (haven’t been able to find an audio book version), but if you need more specific details on how to apply the principles to your eCommerce business I’d start here.

Ecommerce Marketing Books

All Marketers Are Liars

Author: Seth Godin

Another underrated classic on marketing for small businesses.

What you’ll learn

How to build marketing into your eCommerce business so others do it for you.

Every now and again a book comes along that changes the way I see the world. This is one of them. Even though Seth Godin is well known in marketing circles for his other books, like Purple Cow, All Marketers Are Liars isn’t that well known. It explains how small businesses can beat big companies appealing to niches and becoming a storyteller about your brand instead of just talking about the product (which is what most eCommerce businesses do).

This approach results in your customers talking about you to others, which is free marketing and will help reduce your online advertising costs, which is a significant cost for any eCommerce business.

Even though it’s not specifically written for eCommerce, it’s my most recommended book, because if you read it with your eCommerce business in mind you’ll be able to apply the principles to your business.

All Marketers Are Liars

Build A Story Brand

Author: Donal Miller

A step by step guide to REALLY branding your eCommerce business

What you’ll learn

Your one sustainable competitive advantage in Ecommerce is your brand (that is how people feel about your business, not your logo and colours used). Although this book is clearly a lead generating tool for the authors, the fundamentals laid out will help you build an eCommerce brand that will weather the storm of increased competition.

The beauty of this book is it has very clear steps to follow which will define your own brand. Brand is such a hard thing to really understand as it’s a pretty woolly subject, but once you master it you’ll be ahead of 99% of your competition.

Starting an Ecommerce Business Books

12 Months to $1 Million

Author: Ryan Daniel Moran

Ignore the cheesy title, this book is about building great long term eCommerce businesses.

Titles like this usually have me running for the hills. However, I saw Moiz Ali (founder of Native Deodorant) recommend this on Twitter. Took a chance on listening to it and am glad I did.

What you’ll learn

Doing well in eCommerce isn’t about clever marketing or the ultimate Facebook Ad account structure. The common thread in all successful eCommerce businesses is a great product. This book clearly lays out how to identify these products and make the most out of them.

If you’re at the stage of running an eCommerce business and no matter what you do with your advertising you can’t make a profit, it’s time to read this book.

The 4-Hour Work Week

Author: Tim Ferriss

Not what you’re thinking, but a very practical guide to getting stuff done and not just copying everyone else.

What you’ll learn

Even writing this book title still makes me cringe a little. The idea of working very little, becoming rich etc. doesn’t sit well with me. However it was recommended to me by multiple people, and several times by one person I really trust who runs a very successful eCommerce agency. So as with a few books on this list, I’m glad I looked past the title. Personally, I’m not fussed about working less, but the tips on productivity and not just following the crowd have always stuck with me.

It will explain the fundamentals about getting any small business up and running (eCommerce or not), and although it was originally published in 2007, making specific tips like which services to use outdated, the principles remain the same.

  • Select a product that has a high average order value so you can afford to advertise it and still make a profit
  • Make the business setup simple
  • Not everyone is your customer
  • It’s what you do, not how long you do it for (80 hour weeks) that counts

Available EVERYWHERE!

Company Of One

Author: Paul Jarvis

Why being small is the new advantage in business

Unlike All Marketers Are Liars book (included in this list) this book didn’t change the way I saw the world, it did confirm that you don’t have to be a massive organisation to be successful.

What you’ll learn

This isn’t a work on your own book, but questions being big for the sake of being big. It’s now possible to have the mentality of a company of one and be very profitable and not stressed.

One business I consult with decided to keep their eCommerce business a small family run team and have paid off their mortgage. They were thinking of going for massive growth and having big teams. Unless you’ve managed a team of 60+ people (I have and don’t recommend it) it’s hard to convey the challenges and it doesn’t mean a better business.

In Company Of One you’ll learn about lots of small “Company Of One” mindset owners who have done really well leverage modern technology.

A must-read if you think you have to be big to do well in eCommerce.

Company Of One Book

How to get the most out of these eCommerce books

If you’ve got this far into the article you’ve clearly serious about improving your Aussie based eCom businesses. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking if you read every book on a subject you’ve got it made. What counts is what you implement. You’re better to read one and implement 5 changes to what you’re doing than read them all and not change anything.

The marketing channel with the highest return is…

Email marketing.

It gets the highest return (amount back compared to how much you spend) because the cost is low, and if used correctly, generate a lot of sales.

For example, this food store we work with. Each of the big sales peaks is an email going out to 3,500 previous customers.

How?

The example above is from sending 3 simple emails, 1 a week, with messaging about new products in high demand being available.

The 2nd email (biggest peak) had a 20% off a specific product they were over stocked in. Note the promo was to clear a product with too much stock, not just a blanket 20% off (that just kills your profit).

What not todo

The above examples were send to customers who had showed some type of interest. Basically don’t email everyone on your list. That will see your open rates drop and subsequently sales.

If you’re new to email marketing, it’s time to start reading up on it and investing your time and energy in it. You won’t be disappointed!

Is your eCommerce store too reliant on one source of visitors?

Oooooooh that wrappt feeling when you work out how to make sales from one marketing channel, like Insta, Google or Facey Ads.

You’ve found the magic formula and keep cranking it up, and more sales keep coming in.

BUT, what if you weren’t able to use that advertising anymore?

It happens ALL the time and you should be prepared for it.

It’s common for Facebook and Instagram accounts to get disabled by Facebook for literally no reason (Sometimes because the onions are to sexy).

Google regularly updates it’s organic ranking (SEO stuff) algorithm, which can cause big drops in your rankings and subsequent visitors.

Now imagine if your main source of visitors gets cut off suddenly.

Bad times.

Why diversify where your visitors come from?

If the worse does happen, then you need to have a backup, while you fix the issue.

At some point your eCommerce store will experience an issue that will stop some visitors coming to your site.

That means, your sales are very likely to drop off. Therefore you need to make sure you’re getting visitors from multiple marketing channels.

Ideally you want a mix of the following sources of visitors

  • Google Ads
  • Facey/Insta Ads
  • Google Organic (SEO)
  • Email Marketing
  • Industry specific channel (Award sites etc)
  • Affiliates

The percentage is different for each business and there is no magic formula.

However if your traffic is diversified then your eCommerce store will be more resilient to when an issue does arise (because an issue will happen at some point).

I’ve seen to many good eCommerce business go under by relying too heavily on one source of visitors. Don’t be one of those!

See ALL your competitors Facy & Insta ads

It’s possible to see exactly what ads your competitors are running on Facey & Insta, not just what they are targeting you with (because lets face it you have a good look at their site, for “inspiration”.

On top of that you can see which countries they are advertising in too.

Thanks to Facebook “Ad Library” all you have to do is type in your competitors name and boom there they are.

Go to Facebook Ad Library

Boom!

Red hot tip, make sure you select “Search All” not just “Issues, Elections and Politics”, which it currently defaults to at the time of writing (Oct 2020).

Quick win for more Facey and Insta sales

Running ads on Facey and Insta (not just posting and hoping) then you should already be making sales.

However, there is a very common mistake most Aussie eCommerce businesses make with their ad setup though.

If your ad campaign goals aren’t set to conversions and the conversion isn’t a purchase or add to basket, then you’re missing out on sales.

Setting your campaigns to conversions tells Facey and Insta you want people that buy online.

You do need to have conversion tracking setup (which can be a pain).

I’ve seen lots of campaigns set to “traffic” or “engagement” because they’re “nurturing the customer along their journey” or some other weird marketing phase that looks good in a preso.

Stuff that!
Maxout showing ads to people who are ready to buy now. Once maxed out you can look at doing branding with engagement and traffic.

Remember, most Facey and Insta ads charge you for Impressions (views of your ads) so they want to show your ads as much as possible. We want sales, cash in the bank.

It’s very common to have social ad accounts set up this way if the person running it is used to selling non eCommerce products or services, as they often have a longer time to purchase.

All social ad accounts I run for my eCommerce business are all set to conversions as a goal.

Do it and get more sales.

How do you expand eCommerce sales from S’traya to the US?

Ah the old good US of A. The home of fast food and over confidence.

They speak the same language as us Aussies, so surely we just turn on some Google Ads in the US and off we go?

Wrong.

Successfully expanding sales to the US is a big job.

You’re smart, so you’re selling products you stock meaning you can deliver quickly (because drop shipping is only for galahs who think they can get rich because someone on a Facey ad they said you could, and why would they lie?). Delivering quickly keeps customers happy and coming back.

Therefore to sell in the US you need stock there. Which means splitting the stock you hold here in Australia, which will limit your sale here.

Selling to 50 countries

Selling to US is like selling to 50 different countries. Each state has different import and tax rules. There is this really painful thing called Nexus, which basically means you collect the US equivalent of GST for each 50 states you sell in.

If you’re massive fan of paper work and bureaucracy then it’s right up you street. Otherwise, avoid untill you can.

Also there is 328,000,000 (thats million) people in the US. If you decide to launch Facey ads with a $1,000 budget for the month “to see how it goes” you’re going to be very disappointed.

That adspend isn’t going to go far, it will be spread too thin.

It will be about as effective as trying to put out a bush fire by pissing on it!

Are you ready to start selling in the US?

This is the real question you want to ask.

Have you maxed out all sales in Australia first? Has this generated a large pot of cash to buy more stock and run some big ad campaigns there to test if yanks want to buy from you?

If the answer is no, then I highly recommend you don’t start focusing on the US until you have done the above.

I’ve seen a lot of eCommerce businesses (very well known brands here) try and fail, because they under estimated the scale of the challenge.

Is your store suited to the US?

I often joke on Boom Ecommerce that yanks just want to teach Aussies to sell thigh masters via drop shipping.

Us Aussie are more genuine. After living in the US I saw first hand how different the culture is there and what buyers respond to.

For example, in most cases people in the US won’t care that it’s Aussie made, although that can work well here. You’re sales pitch often has to be over confident and loud.

Unless you have a uniquely Aussie product that yanks want, it’s basically like starting all over again.

Remember how hard that was setting up and find the sweet spot to grow you business here?

I’m not saying don’t do, but just realise what a huge undertaking it is selling in the US from Australia.

How to start selling in the US

Firstly you’ll need a US version of your site. Because the good old US have come up with their own version of English, it’s called English US.

In S’tray we use Commonwealth English or English UK.

Side note, when I lived in the US someone asked me where my accent was from, I said England (I grew up there), they then asked me where I learnt English!!!!!

If your website says your product “colour” is X, they will think you have typos. They spell it “color”.

US dates are month/day/year, not day/month/year.

Another side note, my birth is on the 16th of the month. I went to a bar, they ID’d me and said you have a fake ID, there is no 16th month!

As I said, the US is different to S’traya.

So you have a dedicated US site, with…

  • English US
  • US Dollars
  • Stock in the US
  • US brand propositions that appeal to them
  • Customer support that works US hours

Now you need to start running ads to get traffic. Pick a state that you have already made sales in organically (they just found you and somehow managed to order from you paying more for shipping than the actual product, you know the ones).

Limit your ad targeting to that state or city.

Make sure you do loads of remarketing as most people won’t of heard of you and will need some convincing.

Run it for 2 months and see what lands.

If you make sales, scale ad spend and expand other marketing.

If you don’t make significant sales you’ll need to find out why US consumers don’t want to buy from you. Which is literally the million dollar question, and never easy to answer.

How to forecast startup DTC eCommerce sales and costs?

You know what to sell, the site is being setup or you’re already trading.

But how much revenue will your Direct To Consumer (DTC) eCommerce brand do and what will your expenses be?

Excel is demanding answers, and your pulling more figures out of the air than Trump!

Sound familiar?

You’re not a lone. To make things worse it’s the most important thing you’ll do in your eCommerce business.

However, to create an accurate forecast you need previous sales data.

If you’re a start up, you don’t have that.

Bugger.

Start up DTC brands need to take a different approach to forecasting

Ideally you’d know your eCommerce conversion rate and how many visitors you can get with all your marketing activity (you have a marketing plan right, course you do).

However, until you start selling you won’t know these figures, and averages, in this case, are about as useful as a drunk bogan at an economics convention. Entertaining but ultimately a distraction.

Every site performs very differently.

You’ve told me all the things I can’t do, what is the answer?

All smart DTC eCommerce sites buy and hold stock so they have higher margins and quick delivery times.

If you’re drop shipping I suggest you pay an online guru who works from a hammock far to much money to help you and find out it doesn’t work. See you in 6 months.

Anyway, you have or need to commit to certain amount of stock. The more stock you buy the greater the opportunity for sales.

Buuuuuut the more stock you buy the greater the risk.

Time to put on the big girl/boy pants and commit some cash. Otherwise this thing will never work.

Take your stock cost amount (what you paid for it), lets just says it’s $10,000AUD (At Boom Ecommerce it’s always AUD, because we’re about helping Aussie Ecommerce stores).

Work out how much you plan to sell that stock for. Lets say your gross margin is 50% your retail value is $20,000AUD.

You can only sell the stock you have, so until you order more, your revenue will be $20,000AUD.

Now split that into months.

The amount of months will be depend on how aggressive your marketing is.

If your approach is “I’ll build my site and they will come”, then forecast those sales to be over 120 months or 10 years. Because unless you get so lucky that you should buy a lottery ticket, you won’t be selling much anytime soon.

Not sure where to advertise? Watch this Youtube video on “Where to advertise your eCommerce business in Australia” (That’s me in the video, hi Mum!).

Back to the forecasting.

You should now have sales by month for the stock you have, but what are your other major costs?

  • Advertising
  • Technology fees (Shopify, Xero etc)
  • Staff or warehouse fees
  • GST and other super fun taxes
  • Usual business costs

These will vary on your setup.

How much you spend on advertising will depend on your Gross Margin and how aggressive you want to be.

After 3 months of trading you’ll have some data to work with that will make for better forecasts.

If you’re not sure of any of the figures (start-up eCommerce costs or % of marketing spend to revenue) or terminology i.e. Gross Margin, how much you’ll need to get your DTC eCommerce business started, signup for the Boom Ecommerce Training course. It has everything you need to know.

Advanced Tip, How to track instore sales from social ads

If you work in, or run, a retail business that has an eCommerce and physical retail stores, this tip is for you.

You can track sales in stores after customers saw Facebook and Instagram ads.

Yep!

As long as the person in store asks for their email address (so they can email the receipt to the customer) then you can connect this to Facebook Ads Manager.

You can then generate a report in Facebook Ad Manager to show sales in stores.

It’s amazing.

I’ve seen 25% of in store sales be “influenced” by Facebook and Instagram ads.

To set this up, you need a service by a company called Yrecipts. They connect your in store tills to Facebook Ad Manager.

Your tills have to be PC based, so they can install a print driver on them.

Find out more here…

https://www.yreceipts.com/#live_purchase_data

What not to do in eCommerce

DON’T (repeat do not) send promotional emails every day to every email address you’ve ever collected.

Not matter who says it’s “best practice” to send emails everyday.

That is the definition of spamming people.

Only drongos do that.

Apart from the fact it’s annoying, customers will ignore them, your open rate will go down, and your email service provider (ESP, aka Mailchimp, Klaviyo etc) will start marking you as an untrusted sender and your emails will be less likely to get to your customers inbox.

If you’re not making enough sales, address the root problem, don’t spam the good people of S’traya.

How to advertise to previous customer with Insta

It’s easy to forget about your previous customers in the never ending chase for new ones.

Don’t!

As long as you have more than 100 customers you can advertise just to them on Insta, or Facey in Australia.

You’ll need either…

  1. 100 email addresses of customers
  2. A page that only customers have seen
    (i.e. purchase confirmation page)

Using either of these, you can create something called a “Custom Audience”. There are many great guides online on how to do this. Below is a good example.

AdExpresso guide to Custom Audiences

However, there are a few things that could be gotchas.

If you’re using email addresses, 100 have to match email addresses users login to Facey or Insta with. You really need 150 to be safe.

Planning on using option 2, targeting people who viewed the checkout confirmation page, the Facebook Pixel will need to be installed on your site.

If that sound complicated, you’ll need a bit of help from an expert.

Need a Facebook marketing expert, contact us. We’d be happy to put you in touch with someone based in Australia.

Boom doesn’t implement these, only train non technical Australians on how to get the best out of your store. Sometimes that means getting the experts in!