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Ecommerce has absolutely exploded in recent years. Online sales are projected to account for roughly 22% of global retail sales in 2023. But while now is most definitely the time to dive into the ecommerce market, not every online store that hits the internet generates the same kind of revenue and conversions.
So, what is it that makes some e-commerce businesses succeed, while others fight to stay afloat? While there isn’t a generic formula for success, one way to glean some insights and learn a thing or two is by reading some of the best e-commerce books that have been written. And that’s why we put together this article.
But we didn’t want to put together just another standard reading list of the most popular titles listed on Amazon (definitely not our style). So we took a different approach to putting together this post and reached out to a bunch of the world’s top ecommerce business owners, consultants and marketers, and asked them for their recommendations on books that they think anyone involved in ecommerce should read at some point.
So whether you’ve just launched your first ecommerce store and want to fast-track the learning process or you’re a seasoned veteran looking to sharpen your toolkit, there’s bound to be some useful titles on our list.
Top Picks: Best Books to Read for Ecommerce
There were lots of different titles recommended during the course of our survey, but there were only a few books that were referenced by more than one of our experts. If you’re on the hunt for the “best ecommerce books to read” the following list would be a great place to start. While some of them aren’t specifically about ecommerce, their teachings can most definitely be applied to ecom.
1. The Everything Store
When you think of successful online stores, Amazon is the first name that’ll come to your mind. But did you know that the e-commerce giant started as an online bookstore launched from Jeff Bezos’s garage? Written by journalist Brad Stone, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” is an inspiring account of the rise of this e-commerce juggernaut. The book also highlights the innovations and strategies that have contributed to its success.
2. Purple Cow
Is your online store struggling to garner traction despite spending plenty of advertising dollars? It’s high time you get your hands on Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”. The Business Week and Wall Street Journal bestseller will compel you to brainstorm ways to make your business stand out from the crowd. It also features a treasure trove of insights on how to create and showcase your brand’s unique story.
3. Good to Great
How do some businesses manage to stand the test of time, while others strive for success but ultimately fail? Written by Jim C. Collins, Good to Great uncovers the factors that contribute to an organization’s long-term success. The book features extensive statistical analysis of 11 pairs of business competitors. It finds out what propels a great company to reach new heights of success while its competitor fails to accomplish the same.
4. 80/20 Sales and Marketing
This book is a must for every e-commerce marketer. Written by marketing consultant and expert Perry Marshall, “80/20 Sales and Marketing” explains how to get the best bang for your buck on your e-commerce marketing campaigns. It helps you understand the importance of selling to the right person rather than aggressively marketing your product to everyone.
5. Building a StoryBrand
Donald Miller’s “Building a StoryBrand” outlines a seven-point framework to help you spin a compelling and captivating narrative around your brand. It’s just the guidance you need to transform your e-commerce business into a brand that instantly resonates with your target consumers. It also includes various insights on how to showcase your brand’s core values and vision.
6. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
First published in 1984, “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement”, describes a manager’s fight to keep his manufacturing plant running against all odds. Written by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, this novel is an MBA lesson wrapped inside a fast-paced thriller. It outlines various strategies and techniques you can use to skyrocket your business’s success.
Other Books Recommended for Ecommerce By Ecommerce Professionals
In this section, we’re going to run through all of the other titles that were recommended. We’ve organized them into some rough categories for you so that you can navigate to the books of most interest more easily.
Specific to Ecommerce
Business Development + Strategy
Relationships + Audiences
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Read What The Experts Said
Below we’ve published exactly what each expert had to say when we asked them for their recommendations on the books they deem to be “must reads” for anyone involved with ecommerce. If you want to see what was said about a particular book, use the filters to jump right to the relevant content.
- The Everything Store
- Purple Cow
- Good to Great
- 80/20 Sales and Marketing
- Building a StoryBrand
- The Goal
- The E-commerce Book
- Billion Dollar B2B Ecommerce
- Dropshipping 101
- New Retail Born in China Going Global
- Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Growth
- B2B eCommerce MasterPlan
- Built to Scale
- The Bezos Letters
- Start with Why
- The Effective Executive
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- 1 Minute Manager
- The Ultimate Sales Machine
- Users Not Customers
- The Lean Marketplace
- The Innovator’s Solution
- Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur's Handbook
- Exponential Organizations
- Simple Numbers - Straight Talk - Big Profits
- The 4 Hour Workweek
- Scaling Up
- The Customer Centricity Playbook
- Always Day One
- The Wizard of Ads
- It's Not How Good You Are
- Forging An Ironclad Brand
- Ogilvy on Advertising
- The Robert Collier Letter Book
- The Experimentation Handbook
- The Brain Audit
- The Long Tail
- Into the Magic Shop
- Black Box Thinking
- The Only Way to Win
- The Tipping Point
- The Catalyst
- You Should Test That
- Making Websites Win
- Don't Make Me Think
- Losing My Virginity
- Sam Walton: Made in America
- Let My People Go Surfing
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- The Power of Moments
- As a Man Thinketh
- The World is Flat
- The Obstacle is the Way
- My Utmost for His Highest
The Long Tail – “A book that inspired me on several fronts is “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson. I read it when it first came out in 2006, around the time we were discussing the design for WorthPoint.com, and many of the observations shared by Anderson still resonate. Because I’m a collector at heart, and given the nature of our business, I also enjoy nonfiction books with a focus on archeology, history, and biographies, usually with a ‘treasure hunt’ or discovery somewhere in the mix.”
Into the Magic Shop – “More recently, I was impressed by the bestseller “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart” by Dr. James R. Doty, which was published three years ago and came to my attention in 2020. The author’s hardscrabble upbringing resonated with my personal experience, and I found his writing both interesting and engaging. While teaching readers how the brain works, he offers suggestions to harness positive thinking and train the brain to overcome even insurmountable challenges to achieve goals. The book also touches on how to come back from the brink of failures, and he underscores the importance of compassion in the work you do, explaining how successful leaders can build inclusive teams. At WorthPoint we take great care of our team members, and this book suggests that if other companies did more for their employees — like paying 100% of the health insurance premiums and better-than-average living wages or tailored benefits — they’ll meet more success in the long run.”
Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur’s Handbook – “This book covers building a business model and strategy. If you don’t know your customers well enough to reach them, and if you haven’t built something that’s a good fit for them, the rest of your model isn’t going to work. This book isn’t just for folks in eCommerce, it can help anyone that’s part of an organization or looking to start a company.”
Forging An Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide – “This book is outstanding. Lindsay has such great experience and is able to relay valuable information that can benefit your organization. Reading this book will help to eliminate making mistakes and find out how your brand can flourish. Her ideas and knowledge are remarkable. It is worth reading even twice so you don’t miss anything!”
Ogilvy on Advertising – “Everyone that wants to work in the advertising industry must read this book. It tells you David Ogilvy’s experience throughout his career and the information shared here is valuable even in today’s digital world. Great insights and advice.”
The Tipping Point – “The Tipping Point is one of my favorite books for understanding how ideas can snowball in popularity. As e-commerce entrepreneurs, we’re always looking to get an element of virality in our marketing efforts. This book provides an out of the box way to think about how things go viral.”
80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More – “Even though this book has been around for a long time, the lessons it teaches in how to prioritize your work and cut out timesucks are there to stay and can be applied in all aspects of life.”
How to Win Friends and Influence People – “I was recommended this book at university whilst on my business course… I didn’t read it! I was then recommended this book by my 1st great boss after 2 false starts in my career post-university. It changed my life and I aim to read it at least once a year. No other book I have read has helped me understand the psychology of colleagues, clients and suppliers in business.
Written in the 1930s, its message is still 100% relevant even today. Good business is about crafting great relationships and motivating those around us and this book (still!) has the answers.
I simply cannot recommend this book enough.”
Start with Why – “This book again was a recommendation and as my career has progressed into more strategic roles, it has helped me craft strategies that really influence people and leaders in business and is a gem of a read. It’s hard going at points, there’s a lot to take in, but Sinek eloquently crafts a message of how to bring meaning and emotional investment into business. If you wish to understand how to drive people to believe in your message, this book will help guide you there.”
The Ultimate Sales Machine – “This is one of the few business books that I have read multiple times – it is that good. Specifically, you will learn both core sales techniques to sell more products and related skills. For example, he provides an excellent approach to create your own training system and time management.”
80/20 Sales and Marketing – “In e-commerce, there are many different marketing and advertising options. Deciding where to focus your efforts is difficult! Marshall’s book, based on his years of success with Google Ads, gives you an excellent framework. For example, it is almost always better to focus on your top 10% or 20% of customers who buy frequently rather than trying to market to everybody.”
The Robert Collier Letter Book – “This book was published decades ago and it is incredibly valuable. In this book, you will find letters used to sell coats, books and even coal! Don’t let the older style language put you off. There is copywriting good in this book if you apply yourself to it. Human needs and desires haven’t radically changed.”
Purple Cow – “This book is a must-read for ecommerce business owners looking to learn how to differentiate their positioning, to stand out from the competition, and to build a unique brand that customers root for.”
Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Growth – “I love that the authors are brothers! They also have done some awesome work in the UK as e-commerce consultants – this is not just a theory book. Whilst the language in the marketing of the book borrows more from the world of Internet marketing than e-commerce, their 7 KPIs are a great way to focus the mind of e-commerce store owners. Making sure you are concentrating on the very things that will move the needle.”
B2B eCommerce MasterPlan – “What I really like about this one is it is a B2B play and when it came out was unique in that fact. There are a lot of B2B businesses out there that want to add e-commerce to their business. This really gives them a plan and action steps on how to think about adding this factor.”
The World is Flat – “This is a classic and older, but recommended reading for anyone with eCommerce aspirations. While not specific to eComm, it is very relevant because it explains how the convergence of technology has and continues to break down barriers across the world. This is all about globalization and less friction enabling a future way of doing business with no boundaries…eCommerce fits!”
The Obstacle is the Way – “This book is based on the premise that instead of looking out upon the world and how we can change it to our benefit, we should instead look at how we can change to make an impact. In this age of hyperpersonalization, the desire for seamless interoperable channels and ubiquity, successful eCommerce depends on how well one can provide these experiences for their customers and users. Also, this book explains that the tolerance for failure needs to be high as it is necessary to try quickly, fail quickly, learn quickly then try again quickly until the success happens.”
Built to Scale – “This book excellently addresses many of the issues that I have seen with eComm businesses making sure that the proper foundation is in place and that growth and penetration is supported as the business evolves. It does a great job explaining in a non-technical way things such as, what product descriptions should look like on a website, how to target the desired demographic, common mistakes that should be avoided and how to grow revenue in general. A value add is that the book incorporates actual case studies of eCommerce brands that have successfully grown, which allows readers to be inspired by excellence and borrow accordingly.”
The Lean Marketplace – “In this book, Makkonen and Gracia provide detailed practical advice to build and run a successful marketplace. Using an example of a marketplace for personal trainer services, while also referring to Airbnb, Etsy and Uber, they take us through all the steps from concept to launching and growing a marketplace. Whatever your experience with marketplaces might be, this book is a must-read!”
The Everything Store – “Amazon is arguably the greatest e-commerce business in the Western World yet few know how they operate and interact with the sector. The book describes Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos’s early life and how he started Amazon. I particularly enjoyed the sections on how it got started (an online book store that 25 years later sells everything for its customers). The key takeaway is that business owners must understand that to stay relevant you need to disrupt your own business or others will do it.”
The E-commerce Book – “Graf and Schneider do what few authors have done – a deep look into all the various business models that e-commerce businesses have and key learnings for them. As small business owners have little time, it is vital to understand that globally there are various business models that can be used to sell products to consumers.”
Billion Dollar B2B Ecommerce: Seize the Opportunity – “There is a large opportunity within B2B Business, understanding the gaps, customer sentiment, how to grow and pivot for B2B and lead the team for growth. I would say this is a little more towards the mature audience in eCommerce, who are in the business and want to scale. But it gives a lot of case studies and perspective on how to achieve and manage scale. It’s a really good book nonetheless with lots of insights and tactics.”
Building a StoryBrand – “Analytics and Branding/Marketing are key to eCommerce growth. After successfully building a store, without a brand vision or marketing investment there is no return on investment to the awesome store you built. This book gives you a good guide to branding and why it is important. It also has a guide to building a brand story.”
Dropshipping 101 – “If you are wondering why dropshipping, it’s the new way of getting an eCommerce business started in the shortest and low investment way. A lot of companies are drop-shippers and you may not even know it. This book is a must-read for any eCommerce business owner/professional. Dropshipping is a business model that allows you to run an eCommerce business without inventory. Instead, your supplier holds the stock for you. After you make a sale, you pass the order along to a supplier, who ships the product directly to your customer. An interesting read that guides you through the steps to start dropshipping.”
Exponential Organizations – “If you have ever wondered about what the types of businesses are that will succeed the most in the next 10 to 20 years, you have found it, they are called Exponential Organizations. This book by Salim Ismail not only lets you know what Exponential Organizations are, but how to ensure your business is one of them. More than just an e-commerce strategy book, this book is a must-read for any business owner that wants to stay in the game and grow their company quicker than their competitors.”
The Brain Audit – “…”I know I have a great product, why aren’t people buying?” If you’re asking this question, you need to read this book. It will help you get a deep understanding of your customers and the story you need to tell them about your brand in order to make the sale. The step-by-step process outlined in the book is simple to follow and will improve your messaging and how you communicate it. I’m constantly recommending this book to my clients.”
Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits – “By far one of the most influential finance books I’ve ever read. Greg Crabtree takes the mystery out of financial forecasting, profitability, metrics tracking, and more. I wish I would have read this book earlier in my entrepreneurial journey as I spent WAY too much with my first business not thinking about profits.”
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement – “Regularly used in MBA classes, and for good reason. This book really helped me start identifying the bottlenecks in my business and what I need to do to remove them. The book is written in novel style, but is packed with relevant lessons applicable across many business verticals. Read it, then share it with your employees to get them thinking about the bigger picture.”
I know I was only supposed to recommend 3 books, but I consider this next one to be a must-read. Think of it as my bonus recommendation.
Essentialism – “Most businesses struggle to scale because they focus on too many things at once. When I read this book, I was stretched too thin with too many irons in the fire. If you’re feeling simultaneously overworked and underutilized or have any urge to declutter your work life, this book is a must-read. The remedy here is rarely to “get more done” and almost always to “do the right things.” This book will help you simplify and find balance so you’ll feel more at peace across all aspects of your life.”
I interviewed author Greg McKeown on my podcast — check it out for some additional nuggets of essentialist wisdom:
Building a StoryBrand – “Who hasn’t struggled with communicating their value to customers in the past? We often take for granted that our business’s offerings add immense value to our customers. Yet from the perspective of unfamiliar buyers, this is not always a given. The author does a fantastic job of distilling the art of storytelling down to a seven-point framework that will help eCommerce business owners put themselves in their customers’ shoes and tell a compelling story that translates into sales.”
Don’t Make Me Think – “When it comes to driving sales in eCommerce, your goal is to create a path of least resistance. And if the title of this book didn’t already make clear its overarching theme, readers will walk away with a greater appreciation for the importance and necessity of user experience, intuitive navigation, and information design. For any eCommerce business owners keen to improve their Conversion Rate Optimization, this book is definitely worth its weight in gold!”
You Should Test That – “The art of effective marketing involves setting oneself on a path of continuous improvement that involves hypothesizing, testing, reviewing, and adapting. When it comes to eCommerce, it’s often easy to take for granted that what makes sense in our heads isn’t always the same thing going through the heads of our potential customers. This book emphasizes that point. It provides actionable tips and tools for validating your assumptions and baking your proven methods of success into your business’s DNA.”
Purple Cow – “The one book that really stands out to me is Purple Cow by Seth Godin.
Many e-commerce business stores fail because they don’t know how to stand out from the crowd or engage their customers. They set up a business (usually to make money) but fail to do any market research to find the right customers and understand what those customers actually need or want. This makes it very difficult to stand out in front of your audience and be noticed. It also makes it more difficult to sell and you become a commodity.
Purple Cow makes you look at your business (not just e-commerce) from a different perspective. It makes you understand that you need to identify the right audience and then create a product or adopt a marketing approach that is engaging and appeals to that audience, helping you to stand out from the competition.
Without standing out and being interesting, your business will struggle to convert interest into sales and to create loyal customers. Make your online brand engaging, talk to your customers and you will have a better chance of success.”
The 4 Hour Workweek – “The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss dramatically changed my life. In fact, I have said several times that I was not the same person coming out of that book from when I first went in. It taught me that my success will not just rest in my efforts and that it was vital for me to outsource all the work that I could. As a result, I have been able to duplicate myself incredibly. While I may only spend 4 hours on a venture, it has allowed me the time to spend more time on more ventures thereby allowing me to grow exponentially.”
Good to Great – “Good to Great by Jim Collins is a must-read for any entrepreneur that wants their business to exceed beyond them. Jim has studied businesses and how they operate for a very long time and he penned this book with the anecdotes of real businesses and pinpointed the reasons their businesses were able to thrive while others strived and ultimately failed. It helped me form the mindset necessary to create a culture within my organization that will allow us to stand the test of time.”
Scaling Up – “Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is great for a seasoned entrepreneur. I would not recommend it for someone just starting out as the concepts laid out in this book are a bit advanced. If anything, read it when you start out and then pick the book up again in a year or two for a more thorough read. That’s exactly what I did. Verne walks you through how to properly structure your business, who to add, and when to add them, to allow massive growth within your company.”
The Power of Moments – “Often when we talk about improvements in eCommerce, we focus on the minimal (but real) incremental gains in UI improvements discovered through disciplines such as testing. This can lead to a myopic view of the ecommerce experience. What “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” teaches us is that excellence in ecommerce is about far more than the top navigation or the product detail page. To create a compelling experience that keeps customers coming back, marketers are tasked with creating experiences that delight in unexpected ways. The opportunities for these experiences can happen anywhere – from packaging to promotions to customer service on-hold music.
As an example, during the early days of the pandemic, I received an email from Boden, a British fashion brand and one of my favorite retailers. They sell fancier clothes – a category no one was paying much attention to at a time when people were spending their days in sweats and pajamas. The fictitious voice of the brand, Johnnie Boden sent an email saying, “It’s hard to know what to say right now. It might seem highly inappropriate to show you clothes for which you currently have no need, but we’ve already made them and it’s too late to stop. I really hope that they cheer you up.”
This was a radically different message than what other retailers were sending at the time, most of which focused on safety protocols. This moment stayed with me, even months later. The email felt genuine and personal, and actually did cheer me up.”
The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind – “So much of what we do in e-commerce is helping consumers to make purchase decisions, and helping co-workers adopt new thinking, and both of those require a great understanding of cognitive psychology. This is a great recent book in this category by Jonah Berger.”
The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value – “One of the most important shifts in e-commerce is the transition from simple transaction-based metrics (like sales) to customer lifetime value. This book is a great entry point for this journey.”
Always Day One: How the Tech Titans Plan to Stay on Top Forever – “You can’t compete in e-commerce without being a student of the world’s most successful e-commerce business, Amazon. This book by Alex Kantrowitz is a great introduction to some of the core leadership principles that make Amazon successful.”
Dennis M. Driscoll
“While none of my selections are directly eCommerce books, I believe they are essential for anyone who wants to start, join or improve an eCommerce Company and its offerings.”
Outliers – “This book by Malcolm Gladwell through real-life examples and data analysis examines what it takes to be the best at what you do, regardless of area of focus. A combination of luck, skill and hard work separates the truly excellent from the ordinary. Gladwell confirms that 10,000 hours of focus and discipline is all it takes to become an outlier.”
Good to Great – “Jim Collins does an in-depth statistical analysis of 11 pairs of companies who compete with each other, at the same time, in the same industries. The author shows how and why one company succeeds at transforming into a great company while its competitor, faced with the same challenges and external pressures, either succumbs to the pressure or proves to be less successful. The results of his team’s efforts uncover the need for fanatic discipline to your mission, vision, values and goals. This fanatic discipline needs to exist at all levels of the organization. Oh, and as Malcolm Gladwell points out above, there is a great deal of luck, skill and discipline in these great enduring companies.”
The Everything Store – “As if to cap off a modern-day example of the two books mentioned above, this book by Brad Stone about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com, shows how an Outlier with fanatic discipline took an idea dreamed up on Wall Street has become the world’s biggest online retailer, cloud service provider and customer experience juggernaut. This book paints the clearest picture I have seen on how hard yet rewarding eCommerce can be. The author shows how Jeff Bezos and team used a long term focus, imagination, risk-taking and discipline in the face of daunting odds, naysayers and the unknown to achieve what they have.”
The Only Way to Win – “The world of ecommerce is fast-paced and competitive. You have to have the mental fortitude to withstand all of that. In this book, you learn strategies that top athletes use to keep your head in the game. Use this and believe in yourself.”
Purple Cow – “Longevity, in any capacity, for a brand requires them to have a clear unique story and to tell that story to their target audience effectively. Seth Godin shows you why being unique and standing out is so important. Go and be the big fish in the small pond and dominate YOUR niche. You can’t be all things to all people.”
My Utmost for His Highest – “This book keeps me centered and reminds me of what is most important. If I can show God’s love in every interaction I have, then I know my life has been purposeful.”
Andrew PM Tse
The Everything Store – “My first pick is the story of Jeff Bezo’s rise from a startup in his garage to a global e-commerce behemoth. It will inspire you because we all start as a small business, even Amazon. His major innovations that have altered ecommerce forever are reviews by customers to give social proof, Prime next day delivery and FBA logistics to store and deliver orders for sellers. Having grown with Amazon and played a small part in their success by growing their consumer electronics division, I appreciate their proprietary technology for product suggestions, performance metrics and first-class logistics. They are very much a company you if you can’t beat em, join em to build massive online sales.”
1 Minute Manager – “This book is a must because it’s simple and effective. It gives you a clear and consistent structure to motivate and manage your people. It’s your team that will build your company and your success and why this book has been a bestseller for 4 decades. Set 1 min goals with each employee and make sure they are written down and reviewed regularly. Give a 1-minute reprimand if the goal is missed which means confronting the action that went wrong and what can be done better. If the goal was achieved, give a 1 min praising telling them what great value this has contributed to the team and business.”
As a Man Thinketh – “An absolute classic book that is essential reading to keep you grounded and focused. Written over a hundred years ago but a book I would implore everyone to read. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he” is the central theme of this original self-help book. Our world is shaped by us not the other way around and Allen writes beautifully and persuasively about why we determine our fate, with positivity and calmness we achieve positive outcomes; with anxiety and fear comes failure and lack of direction. He likens your mind to a garden, left to grow unattended and wild, you can see the weeds and mess, but cultivate and tend to it and you can produce fruit for a lifetime.”
Making Websites Win – “This is my first recommendation and #1 answer to anyone looking for the most actionable book on building a successful ecom site. It’s focused on Conversion Rate Optimisation, from a couple of guys that are masters on the topic. But more than that, it is a rulebook on the absolute fundamentals of psychology & user experience to create an effective page structure. This would be a worthy read for any agency or internal ecommerce team, with actionable points that can be applied to every site – making it a great one to keep on the shelf to reference when needed!”
New Retail Born in China Going Global – “A topic I find incredibly fascinating after visiting China & working with a couple of clients in finding the best solutions to selling online in China. Whilst that isn’t immediately relevant to everyone, understanding the ecommerce trends – including smart devices & digital payment methods – of 800 million consumers should be. The use of experience-first physical retail environments has suddenly been made extremely relevant, and along with concepts like VR & streaming there are a lot of glimpses into what to expect for us in the near future.”
Let My People Go Surfing – “My final recommendation is a bit less ecommerce specific and more about creating a brand that lasts. How to build a retail company that treats staff to such a high standard that they never want to leave, creates products to such a high standard that they’ll (almost) never be thrown away – and hold the mission statement in such high regard that it becomes the metric of their success. As sustainability continues to trend in ecommerce, Yvon Chouinard documents exactly how it’s done well here. I’ve been obsessed with Patagonia since reading this book, so hopefully someone else finds it as inspiring.”
Users Not Customers – “Written in 2011 by the then CEO of digital marketing agency HUGE, this presents a model of how to make yourself indispensable in your market. A narrow focus on what you sell or do is not enough, you need to think instead about how you make yourself genuinely useful and add value to the lives of your users.”
Decoded – “This book pulls together much of the most useful science on behavioural psychology and decision-making and shows how it can be applied practically to real marketing decisions. Although not specifically about eCommerce, this will prompt you to think about your brand and what it stands for and to work out how you execute that in your digital channels.”
The Experimentation Handbook – “Digital White Papers and eBooks from solution providers are rarely worth the paper they’re not printed on but this is an honourable exception. Endless Gain are a Manchester-based CRO agency who build their work on the principles of behavioural psychology. This eBook is chock-full of useful, real-life examples of how you can translate the theory into practice.”
Thomas J. Vosper
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – “I’ve found this one of the best, most influential books on personal development I’ve been lucky to read. It’s applicable to both your personal life and all aspects of a business.
Even though it was first published in the 80’s it still accurately resonates today.
These are the seven habits:
- Be proactive
- Begin with an end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win-win
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Sharpen the saw
Every single chapter is a treasure trove of actionable insight that helps you understand and focus on what matters to really achieve your goals. Once you begin with the end in mind so many challenges become much easier to manage.
Personally, I have found the hardest to implement, but most useful, is seek first to understand. Not only does this stop me jumping in with a solution or opinion, but it also encourages me to really listen to the other person without focusing on my response. Of course, this is a bit of a curse since once you start to master this yourself you will quickly become very frustrated when you realise how little you are listened to!”
Black Box Thinking – “This entire book focuses on various studies and anecdotes that explain why it’s so hard to admit mistakes. But that if you want to improve, either significantly or via marginal gains, then it is recognising and embracing these mistakes that sets you up for success.
Without mistakes and failure there simply is no progress.
I’ve heard quite polarizing views on Matthew Syed’s style of writing but I find it thought-provoking through the use of expert storytelling of relatable examples. He demonstrates through these tales surprising examples of failures that on reflection are easy to correct whilst framing how you can bring this insight into your day job.
For me, the biggest eye-opener I have taken back to business is the principle of cognitive dissonance and how rather than admit mistakes, or accept a different viewpoint, we try and reframe the evidence.
Whilst I can now spot this in political arguments and turmoil, the most useful application is when I’ve found difficulty approaching new business or in final stage negotiations.”
Factfulness – “Factfulness is one of the books I’ve read that has most dramatically changed both my view of the world and how I react and interact with data and statistics. This is incredibly useful in stimulating contrarian thinking and rebel ideas in a business environment.
Most interesting is how it tackles a fairly consistent belief that the world has gotten worse – however, this cannot be further from the truth.
In almost every single measurable category life is better than it was even less than 50 years ago.
More people in the world are escaping poverty, living longer and have better access to education and healthcare.
There’s a great piece of advice in this book about how we can better treat our children to grow up respecting facts.
There’s a great piece of advice in this book about how we can better treat our children to grow up respecting facts.
There is no good to come from continually reminiscing about the past through rose-tinted glasses – children should know what the past was really like (especially the bad parts).
They should learn how to hold two apparently competing views at once, such as, there is pain and poverty, but things are getting better for many people across the world.
Finally, try to teach them and us how to avoid feeling anxious or helpless when the news is being overdramatic.
The biggest learning for me was the need to escape from the bubble of popular media and look behind the news coverage to put the real facts in context.
The next time you see a group of trained rescue experts, with first aid training, pulling survivors out of a collapsed building try to focus not on the rubble but the group of people that would have not have had the training or equipment just a few years ago.”
“For budding and experienced e-commerce business owners and professionals alike, when it comes to the best books to invest your time in reading, it really depends how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go.
While the Global pandemic of 2020 has slowed this down somewhat, the human interaction that comes from attending as many of the e-commerce industry meetups, networking and educational events as possible cannot be underestimated either.
These events will allow you to absorb advice, share war-stories, successes and failures from peer merchants, small and large, and pick the brains of various technology and implementation partners and consultants – many of whom may be authors of relevant business books as well!
From a purely reading perspective, however, there are hundreds of books you could read on every facet of business, sales, operations, leadership, UX, marketing, start-up life, investment, product development and so on.
Distilling down to just three is a difficult task, so I’ll simply suggest here the three books that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, shares with his top Executives.
These are notable because they provide the framework that Bezos uses to shape the future of the company.”
The Effective Executive – “Consider this book as the ultimate guide to productivity. Like all skills, Drucker explains how effectiveness can be learned.
Read this book and then, more importantly, practice:
- Recording where your time goes,
- Focusing on what you can contribute,
- Making your strengths more productive, rather than building on weaknesses,
- Doing the things that are important, not merely urgent,
- How to take rational actions.”
The Innovator’s Solution – “Many e-commerce business owners dream of being a disruptor. Now, naturally, The Innovator’s Solution cannot guarantee success, but this book expands on the concept of “how can” and “why should” companies become disruptors themselves?
Underpinning this, is identifying how to both create and sustain business growth over the long term. Identifying the common key forces that cause managers and business owners to make bad decisions that impact the ability to grow, the authors based this on in-depth research and test theories in hundreds of companies across many industries.
What the first recommended book here was to productivity, The Innovator’s Solution is the ultimate guide to disruption and sustainable growth.
Pro tip – A previous book from the same author, called The Innovator’s Dilemma, was allegedly the only business book that Steve Jobs ever actually liked. So that may be a companion read worth checking out as well.”
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement – “Now this one is indeed a proper U-Turn compared to the above, and indeed most other business books, which can be very dry and matter-of-fact reads.
The Goal is actually a novel about a failing manufacturing plant and how it is turned around by a manager. We all love stories, and the narrative format of The Goal may be an easier way to digest these fundamental business theories.
Since its publication in 1984, the messages taught in this bestseller are as relevant today as ever, such as: Developing a process to manage system constraints, learning how to drive continuous improvement, and driving better collaboration between teams.
The lessons imparted in this book can be applied to many business processes, including:
- Operations Planning
- Accounting & Management Reporting
- Process Improvements
- Sales & Marketing Operations
- Achieving a Better Work-life Balance
For an exercise in seeing how tenacity and working smarter, not harder reaps rewards, The Goal is a real page-turner!”
Sam Walton: Made in America – “If you’re in eCommerce, it’s critical to know the fundamentals of retail. In this autobiography of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, you’ll learn how Walmart grew into a billion-dollar company and how they adjusted to eCommerce as the Internet took form.”
The Bezos Letters – “A quick read with 14 key principles that have made Amazon such a powerhouse. You’ll be able to take the 14 principles and apply them to your own eCommerce business. You’ll also be inspired by Bezos and how he and his team have created and run Amazon from the start.”
The Wizard of Ads: Turning Words into Magic and Dreamers into Millionaires – “This book is one I can never put down because it is pure inspiration. I have used the knowledge from this book over and over. This is a must-read to keep within arm’s reach at all times. Just open it anywhere, read what you land on and you will see!”
Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way – “Most business books can be difficult to read simply because business people are not always the best writers. Richard Branson knows how to write and tell the amazing stories that have made him who he is. I think business books should inspire you and this one does just that!”
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be – “This is a must-have and read for anyone wishing to understand how marketing works. I have given this book away more than any other. You will find yourself coming back time and time again to learn from it.”