The English poet Alexander Pope was on to something when he said: “A little learning is a dangerous thing”.
Especially if you’re in the business of building a business, continuous learning is the name of the game.
Whether you’re just starting out on your eCommerce journey or have already established a successful business, acquiring knowledge is a lifelong pursuit. As an entrepreneur in the eCommerce space, you need to take all the help you can get. And there’s really no reason to learn it the hard way when those that have blazed the trail are more than happy to share their experiences.
While podcasts and blogs are a great way to learn the tricks of the trade, nothing beats the good old book to get the complete picture. So let’s take a look at the top 10 books that can help you build a successful eCommerce store.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
“So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
Shoe Dog is an important book for entrepreneurs. An autobiographical account by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, the book will give you some of the most valuable lessons in leadership. Famous for having maintained an air of mystery for a long time, Knight finally talked about how he started Nike in this book.
Starting in the 60s when Knight decided to travel the world, Shoe Dog tells the story of the most iconic brand of our time. Knight was 24 when he had what he calls the “crazy idea” of importing Japanese running shoes into the US. The memoir ends with the IPO in 1980, tracing an unusual journey of struggle, challenges, and hope. Each chapter has a nugget of wisdom that you can apply to your eCommerce venture.
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
“It was grounded in my belief at the time that a business is only as strong as its closest customer relationships, and that what those customers said about our business beyond our four walls would shape our future.”
Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the importance of building a social media presence for businesses in this phenomenal book. He says that every company, no matter the size, has a lot to benefit from cultivating a personal relationship with customers – pretty solid advice for eCommerce businesses. The Thank You Economy is an impressively researched book meant for businesses of all sizes to tap into the power of lifetime customer value. Filled with case studies and keen observations on running a business, this is a book that deserves to be on the bookshelf of every entrepreneur.
The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
“Winners throw out the traditional product management and introduction processes they learned at existing companies. Instead, they combine agile engineering and Customer Development to iteratively build, test and search for a business model, turning unknowns into knowns. Winners also recognize their startup “vision” as a series of untested hypotheses in need of “customer proof.” They relentlessly test for insights, and they course-correct in days or weeks, not months or years, to preserve cash and eliminate time wasted on building features and products that customers don’t want.”
The Startup Owner’s Manual is an invaluable resource for anyone thinking of starting a business but confused about the right way to begin. It is over 600 pages long but don’t let that intimidate you. You’ll not find the many charts, infographics, and checklists in its pages anywhere else.
What makes this book unique is its lessons in building customer-centric strategies, business-building strategies, and scaling a business. It will (sequentially) take you through the process of starting up, following two different tracks i.e. web/mobile channels and physical channels – both presenting priceless advice for eCommerce entrepreneurs. So reliable is the book’s advice that Ivy League universities rely on its methods!
Originals by Adam Grant
“Justifying the default system serves a soothing function. It’s an emotional painkiller: If the world is supposed to be this way, we don’t need to be dissatisfied with it. But acquiescence also robs us of the moral outrage to stand against injustice and creative will to consider ways that the world could work. The hall mark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.”
This book attempts to answer the age-old question – Where do new ideas come from? The award-winning work by Adam Grant is a study on originality, detailing studies on non-conformists in every sphere – politics, sports, entertainment. Grant talks about the challenge of improving our world through the sheer force of original ideas, those that truly go against the grain. He explores the question of how we can recognize a good idea (ours or someone else’s), choose the right time to act, and manage doubt.
Apart from teaching leaders on building a culture that welcomes dissent, it’s also a great guide for parents and teachers to nurture originality in children. Pick this book for groundbreaking insights on rejecting conformity and making our world a better place.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
In Mindset, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck talks about a simple yet powerful idea – the power of one’s mindset. Built upon years of research, this book creates a new vocabulary for motivation and leadership. The author shows how success is a direct function of how we perceive our abilities.
In the book, she introduces a two-mindset concept. In a fixed mindset, people believe their intelligence and abilities are fixed traits while those with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed. The primary lesson of the book is that with the right mindset, you can motivate people and transform lives i.e. it all boils down to how you think about yourself, a powerful lesson in unlocking your potential.
The Best Service is No Service by Bill Price and David Jaffe
“Customers would prefer not to contact companies in the way they are forced to do to get answers or solutions. They would either prefer not to make contact at all or, in many situations, prefer the flexibility and convenience of well-designed self-service that they can use whenever they have the time or of proactive alerts to them before an issue becomes serious.”
We’ve heard tales of exceptional customer service, those that talk about doing anything it takes to please the customer. This book offers a take that is 180 degrees apart. It is an ingenious work that eCommerce entrepreneurs can use to revolutionize the way they treat and retain customers.
This counterintuitive book argues against having customer service at all. Why? Because you only need it when you do something wrong. Instead of focusing on how to improve customer service interactions, companies must treat service as a data point to learn of mistakes and figure out how to eliminate them altogether. Get a copy and start taking note of its 7 key principles that you can put into practice immediately.
Lead With a Story by Paul Smith
“Decide what values you want your organization to have. Then find and capture stories that illustrate them. Remember, if you don’t have strong company value stories, you probably don’t have strong company values.”
Stories have the power to shape ideas, communicate a vision, and ultimately change the world. This is the premise of entrepreneur Paul Smith’s brilliant book. Lead With a Story delves into the subject of storytelling and harnessing a narrative to lead, motivate, and inspire.
The book is a must for anyone who manages or trains people. It is especially recommended for entrepreneurs who want to influence customers and employees with a powerful narrative. The book offers ready-to-use stories and actionable guidance for readers looking to craft stories and tackle business challenges. Replete with examples from brands like Kellogg’s, Merrill-Lynch, Pizza Hut, this valuable resource will tell you just how to deliver stories that move your audience.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
“The better you learn the psychology and habits of your social media consumers, the better you can tell the right story at the right time.”
In his characteristic street-wise style, Gary Vaynerchuk writes this bestseller on connecting with your customers in the 21st century. The social media expert lays out perhaps his best tricks on winning your customers’ hearts with engaging storytelling on social platforms. The author talks about the right ‘jabs’ and ‘hooks’ in an age of social media. Learn why creating high-quality content doesn’t cut it anymore, but creating high-quality and tailored content for social does. Get a copy to learn the art of hooking your customers on social media, from the expert himself.
One-Click by Richard Brandt
“The focus should be on the customer, not on the Web site. It’s pretty obvious that a simple Web site is easier to use than one with a bunch of fancy gadgets. He was adamant about that.”
If you run an eCommerce store, there’s no one better to learn from than the yardstick of excellent itself. The biggest eCommerce enterprise, Amazon’s business model is as simple as it gets – makes online shopping so convenient that customers don’t even think of looking elsewhere.
This book traces the success story of Amazon and how it evolved into the giant that it is today. A lot of the credit goes to Jeff Bezos, whose vision and strategy took Amazon to the top of the eCommerce world. The author charts Bezos’s rise from computer nerd to a remarkable entrepreneur. You’ll find unique insights into how the mind of the star entrepreneur works and his kickass business acumen. The most important lesson is that of innovation and survival – how businesses that refuse to change do so at their own peril. Goes without saying that the book is a must-read for anyone looking to make a mark in eCommerce.
Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
“I’d say determination is the single most important quality in a startup founder. If the founders I spoke with were superhuman in any way, it was in their perseverance.”
This book features a collection of interviews with some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. How did they start? What happened in the early days of the company? How did they convince investors? How did they get to where they are? These are some questions you’ll find answers to. Celebrity founders like Steve Wozniak, Max Levchin, Sabeer Bhatia take you through their journeys and impart some rare pearls of wisdom on the way. Pick a copy to get some invaluable business lessons, straight from the horses’ mouth.