Some of the fastest growing companies started with a hobby and a great URL. While those two things don't come close to making a great company, there are some great examples we can learn from today.
Watches.com (previously Watchismo) is the home of Xeric, an in-house watch brand started over 15 years ago by Mitch and Andrew Greenblatt. It is also the #1 independent online watch retailer and growing at a rate of 63% year-over-year since 2008.
Diapers.com was founded in 2005 by Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara and is the largest online specialty retailer for baby products to this day.
Running an e-commerce company is similar to operating any other business; there is no one-size-fits-all formula for creating a winner. However, there a few great gems that will help any business succeed.
1. A Personal Hobby
After receiving his first watch (ever) in 1998, Mitch began collecting and blogging about unusual vintage watches. Like Gary Vaynerchuk and wine. If you consider what you are doing fun, you'll quickly start seeing pathways to monetize. In this case, Mitch turned into an influential watch blogger and authority on the subject of modern horology. Like many successful businesses; Watches succeeds through the passion of its founders, and it's this deep-rooted drive that keeps business owners motivated and engaged.
2. The eBay Store Was the Launching Pad
Not everyone will begin on eBay, but there is a good takeaway from this. If you focus on using resources that are currently in market to launch your business, you will allow yourself more time and energy to really grow.
Mitch and Andrew mentioned that once their eBay store was up and running, Vogue reached out and wanted to write about Mitch's business selling interesting pieces. In order to write about him, they needed a brand to talk about, and that was the birth of Watchismo.com in 1999. It was built by a friend and lacked even basic e-commerce functionality, but it got the job done. He didn't waste time or money on an extravagant site.
3. Your Pricing Should Reflect Your Target Market
One of the secrets to business success is pricing products properly for the market in which they are selling. Doing this correctly can enhance the quantity sold, and create the foundation for a business that will prosper. Understand your market, and find a place to settle in that will help you grab your slice of market share.
4. A Strategic Focus on Search
Even in the early days, Mitch and Andrew focused on search engines. Due to their focus on finding interesting and individual designs rather than chasing what they feel is the most popular - their instinct was to target keywords people searched for that big box watch websites didn't know were important. Know your buyer, understand what they are looking for, and make it easy for them to discover you.
5. Create a Unique Brand
In 2013, the Greenblatt brothers with the help of Danny Hunsaker, a watch world insider, made a smooth transition from curators to creators by designing and producing their own line of unique watches under the brand, Xeric. Similar to the launch of Watchismo on eBay; Xeric launched on Kickstarter and went on to become the most funded mechanical watch brand in Kickstarter history, having raised over $2 million across 3 Kickstarter campaigns. Now, in addition to carefully curating interesting watches, their business now features their own, personal line.
6. Rebrand to Represent Market Position
The founders took their business to new heights by acquiring the Watches.com domain in 2016. In an effort to encourage more mainstream adoption of their business, they felt that the Watches.com name simply commanded more credibility within the market and properly signaled the size and scope of their brand.
Building your own e-commerce business is no easy task - and building a brand is even more of a challenge. From choosing a product, launching and growing sales - there are quite a few pieces to put together. However, following in the footsteps of those who have blazed the trail should provide you with the framework for creating a roadmap to ultimately help you build a profitable e-commerce business.