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10 Best Books Recommended By Ecommerce Leaders (+ Lessons Learned)

10-best-books-recommended-by-ecommerce-leaders-(+-lessons-learned)

Illustration by Diego Blanco

“Learn every day, but especially from the experiences of others. It’s cheaper,” said John C. Bogle, an investor and founder of Vanguard Group.

Not just that: it can be a shortcut to an insight you’d otherwise spend a long time acquiring. Books are exactly that: years or even decades of experiments, lessons, mistakes, and smart moves compressed into about 250 pages.

We reached out to 10 of the best ecommerce mentors and asked them for the best ecommerce books leaders should read, along with their favorite lessons from each.

These books are about more than pure ecommerce and include topics like messaging, marketing, writing, personal development, mindset, and connections.

Jump in:

  1. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  2. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
  3. The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
  4. DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson
  5. Supermaker by Jaime Schmidt
  6. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
  7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  8. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
  9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  10. Linchpin by Seth Godin

1. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

Recommended by:

Nick Disabato, founder of Draft, an interaction design consultancy

What it’s about:

The Personal MBA is an antidote to the expensive and time-consuming business degree. This book distills entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, negotiation, operations, productivity, and systems design into simple mental models you can apply to your business.

Four methods to increase revenue, the iron law of the market, and the pricing uncertainty principle are a few of the many concepts The Personal MBA explains.

This book will enable you to skip many of the trials and errors of running a business and make better decisions, from solving business problems to planning your day.

Best lesson:

“This book teaches you a lot about business, yes, but it’s also a book about self-care, overcoming cognitive biases, and protecting your boundaries and sovereignty,” says Nick.

It will help you adopt the mindset of a business owner, especially in ecommerce, where the mindset is usually short term and driven by fear.”

2. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Recommended by:

Tina Donati, marketing manager at Fuel Made, a design, development, and email marketing agency for Shopify Plus brands

What it’s about:

Everybody Writes is the go-to guide to creating content that stands out and attracts loyal customers. Ann Handley argues that great writing matters more than ever before, and that our online words are our currency.

As an ecommerce leader, this is the guide you need to help share your message to your customers with style, clarity, and empathy.

Best lesson:

“I’ve been a professional writer for years, and this book still taught me so many valuable lessons. Ann makes it clear that writing is an art that can be learned with discipline,” says Tina. “I think so many marketers immediately cast themselves off as ‘non-writers,’ but with practice and the right advice, anyone can develop the skill to be a good copywriter.”

For DTC founders, this book is a great way to learn some of these best practices. The truth is, writing is incorporated in everything you do. There’s copy all over your website, in your emails, in the content you create, on your social channels—it’s so ingrained in the ecommerce experience that it’s important for it to be done well.

“As a founder with limited resources, learning how to be a better writer can be your saving grace between a good customer experience and a bad one. Ann’s book will help teach you how to write clearly, effectively, and in a way that your customers care about.”

3. The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Recommended by:

Caitlin Teed, program manager at Shopify

What it’s about:

The Art of Gathering argues that coming together is more important than ever, but that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive. Priya Parker has run many high-powered gatherings around the world and shows you what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Creating meaningful, memorable experiences as an ecommerce leader—for your employees, partners, and customers—is essential. Use this book for your next meeting, conference, company retreat, and more.

Best lesson:

“This book helped me reimagine traditional expectations you put on yourself when you meet with other people. I learned that it’s OK to be vulnerable, and it’s OK to say no to an event that doesn’t align with you,” says Caitlin.

It helped me think outside the box and push the bar on what a great gathering looks and feels like. How we gather matters. This book breaks down conventions and helps you think outside the box and, as a business owner, helps you reconnect with how you approach gatherings within your team and beyond.”

4. DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson

Recommended by:

Connor Gross, an ecommerce founder with a seven-figure exit and co-host of The Next Generation podcast

What it’s about:

DotCom Secrets is the result of thousands of tests the authors ran to understand what makes a successful online business. It’s packed with processes, funnels, and scripts they used to scale companies online.

This book will help you create or rebuild your marketing system, define your ideal customer, and scale your online store.

Best lesson:

“For me, the book introduced the concept of value ladders and completely changed how I think about acquiring customers and how to nurture that relationship to earn more,” says Connor.

“The whole concept is that selling anything is hard, and the more expensive your product gets, the tougher it is to convince customers to buy from you as soon as they hear about you. So your best bet is to begin by giving away free content to get people to engage early. Eventually, you’ll want to begin selling them more and more expensive products, and you’ll build trust with them for the long run.”

5. Supermaker by Jaime Schmidt

Recommended by:

Kristen LaFrance, director of community at Repeat, a SaaS platform for creating personalized reordering experiences

What it’s about:

Supermaker was born out of Jaime Schmidt’s experience building Schmidt’s Natural, a natural products brand, and growing it into 30,000+ stores. Seven years later, Unilever bought Schmidt’s Natural in a nine-figure acquisition. 

Jaime gives advice on branding, product development, social media marketing, PR, customer engagement, and scaling. This book is both informational and entertaining; actionable and inspiring for ecommerce founders.

Best lesson:

“It really exposed what a truly founder-led company looked like and opened my eyes to the potential of really great CPG brands,” says Kristen.

The best lesson? An honest look at truly how hard it is to develop a longstanding, highly successful brand, and that founders are some of the most resilient and brilliant people.”

6. Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

Recommended by:

Troy Petrunoff, retention marketing manager at Every Many Jack, a  men’s natural grooming brand

What it’s about:

Building a StoryBrand covers the seven universal elements of powerful stories to help you improve how you connect with your customers.

You’ll learn the real reason customers make purchases and what you can do to simplify your brand message so they can understand it and resonate with it. This will help you cut through the noise and engage your customers to see real ecommerce success.

Best lesson:

“This book is packed with many good lessons, especially for founders that might not have a marketing background. For example: ‘If you confuse, you’ll lose.’ You can have the best product ever, but if you don’t do a good job presenting it via clear, concise, and informative copy—not muddled down with flowery, marketing-y language— you risk losing potential customers,” says Troy.

You have to be able to describe your brand in one sentence. Your products in one sentence. And why your brand is best in one sentence. 

When we launch a new product at Every Man Jack and we’re writing the product description, we keep it short and sweet but make sure to address what the product does for you, the customer, and why it’s the best version of this product; for example, top tier ingredients/scents.”

7. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Recommended by:

James Sowers, head of marketing at The Good, an ecommerce conversion optimization agency

What it’s about:

Atomic Habits is the ultimate book on building habits and changing your daily behaviors in the long run. Its focus is on making small improvements frequently, rather than big, sweeping changes, as these improvements accumulate and the impact is enormous.

You can use this book to build deeper focus at work, read more, journal regularly, reflect on your work, build better relationships with your colleagues and employees, build a fitness routine—anything that will help you become your best self, at work and elsewhere.

Best lesson:

“The lesson is that before you can successfully manage a business, you have to learn how to successfully manage yourself,” says James.

Time, energy, finances, mental capacity…it’s all important and all in limited supply. Atomic Habits helped me build the discipline and routines to be a more effective business leader and entrepreneur.”

8. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Recommended by:

Michelle Ebbin, founder of Jettproof, a sensory clothing brand for children and adults

What it’s about:

The E-Myth Revisited focuses on getting you to work on your business (read: focusing on growth, the role of your competitors, your USP), not just in it (doing the day-to-day work).

This is the updated edition of the original 1985 version. It breaks down your assumptions and expectations that can get in the way of running a successful company—a valuable read for growing a thriving ecommerce business.

Best lesson:

“It’s the one entrepreneurs don’t want, but absolutely need to learn: there is no magic wand that makes everything run smoothly! Many ecommerce leaders lose money on the smallest tasks because they still haven’t learned that the key to success is consistency,” says Michelle.

“Create processes and systems that are consistent and you will get consistent, predictable results. It’s not the fun or exciting answer most people want, but once you start implementing it, its value is huge.

Consistency creates a framework that builds value and trust. As Gerber writes, ‘Documentation is an affirmation of order.’”

9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Recommended by:

Michael Rosenbaum, founder and CEO of Spacer, a parking marketplace

What it’s about:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People shares a principle-centered approach for solving professional and personal problems. These principles— or habits—include beginning with the end in mind, taking a win-win approach, and focusing on what you can control.

Implementing these seven habits will help you lead your life, team, and organization in a truly effective and intentional way.

Best lesson:

“When running an ecommerce business, you constantly have to make big decisions on where to focus your time, energy, and resources. The chapter ‘Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood’ is a philosophy I incorporate every day when it comes to managing my team, speaking with stakeholders, and fostering a culture of true efficiency,” says Michael.

In the start-up world, time is often the most precious resource you have, and the lessons I’ve learned in this book have helped me to work, whether it be by myself or with others, in a much more productive way.”

10. Linchpin by Seth Godin

Recommended by:

Lillie Sun, head of growth at Three Ships, a natural skincare and beauty brand

What it’s about:

In Linchpin, Seth Godin defines linchpins as people who figure out what to do when there’s no rulebook. They love their work, challenge and delight their peers and customers, and get the best jobs.

Linchpins are indispensable; the key building blocks of exceptional companies. Your ecommerce business can thrive by hiring and nurturing linchpins, and this book will help you create a culture where linchpins thrive.

Best lesson:

Best lesson I learned is that, in ecommerce, being good at your job doesn’t mean being really good at one task, or one project. The key to building a successful business is finding people who are linchpins, who can see beyond surface level to do work that is extremely meaningful,” says Lillie.

“This book truly highlights the concept of being indispensable and the opportunities it can create for you.”

What are the best books for ecommerce leaders?

Here’s the list of book recommendations once again:

  1. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  2. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
  3. The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
  4. DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson
  5. Supermaker by Jaime Schmidt
  6. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
  7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  8. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
  9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  10. Linchpin by Seth Godin

Save this list and start with a book that resonates with what you want to focus on next in your ecommerce business or your professional development—and dive in.

More leadership resources:

This originally appeared on Shopify Plus and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.