Fastest Growing E-Commerce Stores 2019 [Customer Acquisition Study]

Revenue Growth of 8.86X — See How These Retailers Do It.

E-Commerce is exploding in 2019.

New stores, brands, and products are popping up everyday…

And every day we hear about a new startup disrupting a stale company. Or the after-hours tinkerer whose clever new invention we can’t live without.

The beautiful part is that more people are being served. Niche populations can be reached with new products that would’ve never previously had the economic viability to see the light of day.

Without today’s e-commerce abilities, Squatty Potty would never have been a thing…

Nor would Chewy.com, a pet store with no physical locations, be able to compete with PetSmart — 1,500 locations — and later be acquired by them for 3.35 billion.

And further, with today’s abilities, these new brands are going on to find real, tangible success, allowing them to further innovate on their new products and ideas. Take the new The Oura ring, for example, a device that uncovers a new level of insight into our sleep.

These hot new gizmos have been known to sell out months in advance.

10X The Opportunity

The new possibilities of a lean & mean startup team, or the corporate intrapreneur skunkworks, has increasingly boundless opportunity to launch new brands, hone a product, and bring new ideas to market. These new products drive more and better options for consumers — compared to the ones sitting on store shelves.

Yet, the e-commerce effect is not just limited to purely digital businesses. Brick and mortar stores also can now expand their reach and visibility of what’s inside — say, when I need an item right now and want to see what the local businesses down the street have on hand.

In the last decade, e-commerce has grown 15% every year. And yet, just now is e-commerce approaching 10% of total retail sales in the US. It’s barely scratched the surface.

E-Com growth is accelerating, yet has only reached 10% of retail sales.

First, we saw the most commonplace goods, such as trinkets and t-shirts, move online. We now see specialized purchases happening digitally, such as eyeglasses, facilitated by the improvements in technology — augmented reality product exploration — and the online buying experience with customer-focused shipping and return policies.

And the more e-commerce grows — the more platforms, tools, and technologies that pop-up.

The more plug-ins, widgets, and browser extensions that flood the market… the more confusing the landscape gets. Marketing folks were bombarded with over 7,000 “solutions” this year.

If you work in e-commerce or retail, shiny object syndrome threatens to derail your strategy multiple times per day — it’s a challenge to know which to take seriously.

So many apps… so little time.

Newcomers want to know the best place to start and choices to make.

Retailers need to constantly keep an eye on the current channels and strategies, else risk being edged out on ever-changing platforms where trends, brand, and reputation can change in a flash.

Companies looking to make the move into e-commerce today can benefit by seeing what’s working for the top stores and choose the best starting point for their future store.

Is your store hitting benchmarks? If not, read on to see where your store deviates from these retailers.

Are you ready to launch a new product? See what’s working now.

WARNING

Industry studies are excellent for seeing trends in the marketplace.

But the primary indicator of success is having a great product or service that serves a real need or desire in the marketplace.

⚠️ No amount of selecting the right technologies or marketing can save a bad product.

Case Study Methodology

To compile this case study, our team analyzed the fastest growing e-commerce stores on the Inc. 5000. We looked at retailers with online self-checkout across all verticals, locations, and platforms.

We used industry standard tools, such as Moz, SEMRush, BuiltWith, and more, along with a human inspection of pages, widgets, ads, and etc.

Raw data is available by emailing hello@modernmedia.io.

Trends of the Fastest Growing Stores in 2019

First, we looked at verticals to see which had the highest representation in the list of fastest-growing stores.

Then, we compared each vertical to growth.

Style & Fashion and Health & Fitness were the two leading verticals.

Fashion, such as apparel and clothing, were the highest accounted for. From new mainstream men’s and women’s brands to interesting new niches, such as medical scrubs and beanies on a mission to fight cancer (ie. people with hair loss).

Health & fitness showed the fastest median growth.

Feel like you’ve seen hundreds of new ads for yoga pants & gym shorts? You have.
Health & fitness was the fastest growing — Consumers pull out their wallet to feel, look, and perform better.

E-Commerce Platform

A website is the critical first technology decision a company makes as they enter the online marketplace.

This decision will determine your options and limitations of site functionality, widgets, and extensions that you can integrate with down the road.

We found that Shopify was by far the most used e-commerce platform in today’s fastest-growing stores. Shopify also scored the highest median growth for their stores.

Magento came in second, in both adoption and store growth, and it did have strong representation among stores with larger revenues.

Choosing a platform with high adoption is important as each will have their own support communities, developer ecosystems, question & answer forums, and app stores. The higher the adoption, the more options you’ll typically have in all of those areas.

Shopify is the most used e-commerce platform among the fastest growing retailers.
Shopify stores scored the highest median growth

Site Widgets & Technologies

As e-commerce explodes so does the ecosystem of new plug-ins and website extensions that pop-up to serve it.

This sprawling MarTech landscape doubles in size every year!

So, which to choose?

But for a few major technologies, we found widget adoption to be quite fragmented. Google Analytics and the Facebook Pixel were of course favorites, but the only other notable widgets (ie. not including Google Font API and others that come built into various frameworks) were Google Tag Manager, Klaviyo, and Hotjar.

Widgets were highly fragmented. No wonder sites are always breaking 🤷‍♀️
No surprise on GA & FB Pixels… and why retargeting ads give us daily deja vu.

Customer Acquisition

This is where it gets interesting. Anybody can throw up a new e-commerce store with nice website design, but what is working today for getting new customers?

Once your store is live, how do you get in front of your target market? You can have the best product in the world and choose the best e-com platform, but if no one ever visits your store, the cash register is not going to ring.

What needs to go into your ecommerce marketing plan?

This is how the fastest growing stores do it…

Organic & SEO

Search is a HUGE channel. Google processes over 3.5 BILLION searches per day.

So to measure organic traffic & SEO, we looked at the Domain Authority (DA) of each retailer.

For the fastest growing e-commerce stores, we found both an average and median Domain Authority of 35–37.

That’s a relatively low number in terms of DA, if we’re expecting to look at popular, fast-growing websites.

This is likely because SEO rankings — and Domain Authority — require time, content, and links to build up. The length of time a website has been around, the more links which point to it, the authority of those links, along with Google evaluation of the website’s content, largely make up the DA score.

Does your marketing stack up? We can help.

E-Commerce stores are not usually known to be content-heavy websites. They may have some blog posts and may have videos on product pages, but their focus is on the products or services they are selling and helping customers through the checkout process.

Therefore they may have a larger number of pages — catalogs, categories, and product pages — but each page has less content than an average page when compared with, say, a news or media site.

Thin content combined with the fact that they are fast-growing means they probably have not built up the content, links, and authority needed for organic rankings to catch up. Content marketing takes time.

And even for stores with time under their belt… their organic rankings can be instantly pushed down by a single search ad.

Organic results are typically pushed down by a handful of ads.

Search engines require time to crawl a website, index its content and evaluate its performance when it does appear in search results. Do users click through? Did that search result fulfill their request? Or did they bounce and search again? It takes time for those searches to happen and aggregate into rankings.

With the overall DA averages being low it was not surprising to see that there was little correlation between higher Domain Authority and higher growth.

Higher DA had little correlation to store growth.

In fact, digging deeper into Inbound Links and Linking Domains for each — important factors into Domain Authority — we found a negative correlation between more links and growth. More links related to LESS growth. 🙀

Is link building is dead⁉️

Once again, organic traffic can be a HUGE traffic source and your content strategy is extremely important for sustained success… but Domain Authority does not seem to be a growth indicator here.

So, what does drive growth? …

Paid Acquisition

We looked at the online advertising of the fastest growing stores and their use of Facebook, Instagram and Google ads.

For the fastest growing e-commerce stores, we found that 66.67% use Google Ads and 60.98% use Facebook Ads. Overall, 78.86% used some form of advertising.

That figure was even more decisive for the Top 25% of Stores — 96.97% advertise.

Advertising is the fastest way to get your message in front of a new audience.

For those running Facebook & Instagram ads, the median number of ads was between 10–25 ads per store, with the most common being 25+ ads on Facebook & Instagram.

There was also a correlation between growth and the use of advertising. E-commerce stores that advertised grew 3.67 times faster than stores which didn’t.

Advertising was prevalent among fast-growing retailers.
Throw some fuel on that fire 🔥 — Stores that advertise had higher growth.

There are different ways to get in front of your target market, depending on your audience — such native ads (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest), display ads (Google Display Network — GDN), search ads, and many more.


Does your store need help with customer acquisition? We’ve helped many retailers nail their marketing & hit profitable a ROAS.
Get in touch! → anthony@modernmedia.io

Growth with Advertising

The advertising correlation with growth may also be in part with the real-time market feedback it provides companies.

When a campaign is launched with a series of ads, each ad, and each click can be linked to many interactions — a Like, a comment, a website visit, and a purchase, if one occurs. That data quickly points to the visuals and messaging which drive the most clicks and drive the most purchases.
Companies with an eye to this advertising performance feedback can iterate on their product or service — honing their product-market fit to better serve their audience.

Does the tee shirt or sweatshirt draw more clicks?
Do SoulCycle collabs perform better? #SplitTesting

These companies must be able to zero in on their top advertising campaigns and generate a positive ROI… or else they will quickly burn through cash and go out of business — especially at the size these stores are operating.

Once a positive return is achieved revenue can scale with investment, and profit can be earned from every additional ad dollar, assuming a large enough addressable audience is available.

Advertising can also be useful to rapidly test new markets and new audiences. Once a campaign is running and baseline performance is established, it’s possible to duplicate that campaign and set it to target different keywords, interests, or demographics. Does this new audience tend to purchase more or less than our average?

Younger women are making most of the purchases, but the few purchases made by older women have a very high ROAS… it’s probably worth considering that older demographic. 👵

Similarly, campaign targeting can be held constant and duplicated, while new ads, images, and messaging are used — maybe for a new line of products or a new seasonal catalog collection. Do these new products attract more or less customers?

As a company grows, this is how the store can enter new markets and develop new products and services.

Bonus: Social Media

Now available! Check out more social media insights at modernmedia.io/ecommerce-growth-study/

Grow Your Store

Ready to apply this to your store? You now know the most popular website platforms and widgets and you’ve seen the correlation between customer acquisition channels and growth. Hopefully, you’ve taken away some ideas for your e-commerce marketing plan.

If you’re ready to grow, look into paid advertising opportunities on whatever platforms your target market spends most of their time.

Get your message in front of your audience and hone your advertising campaigns until you hit the holy grail profitable return on ad spend (ROAS).

…And in the meantime, don’t let the widgets crash your site 🙃


Ready to execute this marketing for your business? You can reach me & my team at anthony@modernmedia.io

Originally published at modernmedia.io/ecommerce-growth-study/.

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