7 Essential Books For Growing Your E-Commerce Business in 2021


Book recommendations for business, sales and marketing are everywhere.

Join any Facebook group in this arena and you’ll inevitably find posts showing lists of peoples favourite books. I’d like to help you short cut the massive list of books, and tell you the ONLY essential books you need to read.

Having run an e-commerce business since 2012, out of the 100’s of books I’ve read in that time, only a small number have been read more than once, and an even smaller number to have impacted my business in a significant way.

The following short list are the ones you need to find on amazon (or elsewhere) and buy today. Then bury yourself in them for the next few weeks.

None of them are difficult reads.

None of them are particularly long reads

But all of them will shape your e-commerce business in a positive way.

7 Must Read Books For E-commerce Business Growth in 2021

Best Book For New E-commerce Businesses

12 Months to $1Million – Ryan Daniel Moran

Despite the cheesy book title this is a stand out book, especially if you’re new to physical products businesses. It’s a literal step by step guide… ie. do this in Month Zero to Month 4, do that for Month 5 through 8 etc etc.

12 Months to $1 Million by Ryan Daniel Moran
12 Months to $1 Million by Ryan Daniel Moran

Ryan encourages you to stop being product focussed, but center your brand around a person (the customer). We’ve all done it where we have the million dollar product idea, go ahead and create the product and then try to sell it to people. This approach invariably creates failure or constantly chasing the hot new product, rather than building a true brand that people love and continue to buy from.

Quote From 12 Months to $1 Million:

If you have three to five products, at an average price point of $30 per unit, each selling twenty five to thirty units per day, you have a million dollar business.

Ryan Daniel Moran – 12 Months to $1 Million

You can’t argue with the maths, reaching that number is not easy, but the process is straight-forward. Definitely worth your read if you're a beginner or a veteran e-commerce business owner like me.

Where to buy 12 Months to $1 Million

UK Amazonhardback book £16.05
US Amazonhardcover book $18.82

Best Book For Recurring Revenue

The Automatic Customer – John Warrillow

Close to being the MOST influential book I’ve read, and I’ve read it multiple times. Subscription businesses have been around for ever. However subscriptions have become the norm for many households, everything from your Netflix subscription through to fresh supplies of toiletries delivered on autopilot every month.

John Warrillow - The Automatic Customer
The Automatic Customer – John Warrillow

This book explains not only the economics of subscription businesses, and the value of a business with a recurring billing element, but also a range of different subscription models to fit your specific business.

Subscriptions are literally the lifeblood of my brand, producing 60% of our monthly revenue. It’s saved our business in the lean times, and provided strong profit margins in the good times.

Quote from The Automatic Customer:

“there are two main things you need to focus on. First, as we saw in chapter 12, you need to find a way to consistently acquire customers for no more than a third of their lifetime value. Second, you need to reduce the number of customers who cancel (churn).”

John Warrilow – The Automatic Customer

Even if you have no intention of offering a subscription in your business, read this book. You’ll soon be finding ways to incorporate recurring billing anywhere you can.

Where to buy The Automatic Customer

UK AmazonPaperback from £8.45
US AmazonPaperback from $16.51

Best Book For Sorting Your Business Finances

Profit First – Mike Michalowicz

No doubt you’ll have heard the phrase “Pay Yourself First”? If like me, you ignored this for years because there’s no way I can afford to pay me first! But reading this simple book and implementing the approach described set us free from struggling to pay our suppliers, pay the credit card bill, and then comes along the tax bill… to having zero stress about paying for every aspect of running our business AND being able to take a regular dividend from PROFITS every quarter.

Profit First - Mike Michalowicz
Profit First – Mike Michalowicz

Mike Michalowicz’s book explains step by step a method of money management that’s not taught at business school, but one that saved my sanity and business.

The simple premise of taking your top line income each week or each fortnight and splitting it across multiple bank accounts seems like it won’t make any difference, but the psychology of the process has huge implications.

Quote from Profit First:

“The old, been-around-forever, profitless formula is: Sales – Expenses = Profit The new, Profit First Formula is: Sales – Profit = Expenses The math in both formulas is the same. Logically, nothing has changed. But Profit First speaks to human behavior—it accounts for the regular Joes of the world, like me,”

Mike Michalowicz – Profit First

This book falls in to the category, of why do they not teach this stuff at school? Read it and set your business up for consistent profit.

Where to buy Profit First

Amazon UKHardcover from £14.95
Amazon USHardcover from $20.45

Best Book for Customer Segmentation

80/20 Sales and Marketing – Perry Marshall

Not all customers are created equal. In fact treating all customers equally is detrimental to the success of your business. The Pareto Principle is a guiding part of this entire book… fundamentally it says that 80% of your income will come from 20% of your customers.

80/20 Sales and Marketing - Perry Marshall
80/20 Sales and Marketing – Perry Marshall

It’s true… We’ve been operating since 2012, and of the 10’s of 1000’s of customers, just 20% of the customers have produced over 80% of revenue.

Perry Marshall goes deeper. In your top 20% of customers, there’s also an 80/20. Which means 4% of your customers produce 64% of your revenue. Again I can attest to the truth of this with a tiny minority of our customers out spending others by a factor of 25!

After reading this book, you’ll look at your customer list in a very different way. The approach  to marketing and communicating with customers will change depending on what type of customer they are, and where they fall in the 80/20 formula.

Quote from 80/20 Sales and Marketing:

“Why Do People Spend Insane Amounts of Money? Here’s a little marketing secret for you: Almost everybody has at least one passion, one interest, one obsession where they’ll gleefully spend irrational amounts of money. For some it’s makeup or shoes. For some it’s rock concerts. For some it’s bowling. For some it’s bird watching. For some it’s skiing.”

Perry Marshall – 80/20 Business and Marketing

I’ve re-read this book a dozen times. It’s a constant reminder to NOT waste resources on people who are never going to buy from you, and to invest more resources in those that will seemingly buy irrationally from you over and over again.

Where to buy 80/20 Sales and Marketing

Amazon UKPaperback from £11.25
Amazon USPaperback from $15.31

Best Book For Beginners To Entrepreneurship

Expert Secrets – Russell Brunson

This will possibly be a controversial inclusion in to this list. Russell Brunson is a bit like Marmite, you either love or hate him. He comes from a pure internet marketing background and his website building application, ClickFunnels has a huge following.

Expert Secrets - Russell Brunson
Expert Secrets – Russell Brunson

Russell has written a couple of different books, Expert Secrets is certainly the pick of the bunch. It’s a book suited to those who want to build a brand around themselves or around a personality. Especially if you have expertise in a specific subject (as the book title suggests), this is a guide to building and monetising that knowledge.

The book is broken up by simple illustrations to help explain the concepts, and it works well to get across beginner concepts of creating a following, persuasion and sales

Quote from Expert Secrets:

“Pay attention the next time you’re scrolling to what hooks grab your attention. Why did you stop? Why did you click play? What did the hook say, and how did it make you feel? Answering these questions will help you to become amazing at developing hooks.”

Russell Brunson – Expert Secrets

Despite being in the e-commerce world for many years, I still like to read books like this. It gave me a different perspective on the fundamentals of marketing, growing an audience and selling our products.

Where to buy Expert Secrets

Direct From Russell Brunson – FREE
Amazon UKHardcover from £17.49
Amazon USPaperback from $10.75

Best Book For Simplifying Your Message

Building A Story Brand  – Donald Miller

Have you ever landed on a website, and had a moment of utter confusion? Confusion of what is this site about? Is this site what I’m looking for? Am I in the right place? Is this product right for me?

This happens a lot! This book helped reduce the noise and clutter from my website significantly. Using the basis of the Hero’s Journey and the story arc, Donald Miller explains how telling the right story works for practically any business.

Donald Miller - Building A Story Brand
Donald Miller – Building A Story Brand

The key concept to get across is YOU, your business and your product are NOT the hero in the story! It’s your customer or website visitor. Your product or service is simply their guide, helping them on their journey to success.

Quote from Building A Story Brand:

“Imagine your customer is a hitchhiker. You pull over to give him a ride, and the one burning question on his mind is simply Where are you going? But as he approaches, you roll down the window and start talking about your mission statement, or how your grandfather built this car with his bare hands, or how your road-trip playlist is all 1980s alternative. This person doesn’t care.”

Donald Miller – Building A Story Brand

I promise you, you’ll be making notes in the margins of the pages, and rearranging your website throughout your read through this book. As a result you’ll see improved analytics from your website visitors and increased conversions.

Where to buy Building A Story Brand

Amazon UKPaperback from £18.49
Amazon USHardcover book from $18.95

Best Book For Conversion Rate Optimisation

Making Websites Win – Karl Blanks & Ben Jesson

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) may seem like the most tedious subject for a book! Admittedly it’s not as sexy or as exciting as product creation and facebook ads. But if you run an Ecommerce site for long enough and see that over 98% of your visitors leave without buying anything, CRO is the thing that keeps you awake at night.

The fact is even if you can ‘improve’ your conversion rate by 1 or 2% your Cost per acquisition will halve. Previously failing ad campaigns become winning campaigns. And a potentially failing business becomes a profitable one!

Making Websites Win - Dr Karl Blanks & Ben Jesson
Making Websites Win – Dr Karl Blanks & Ben Jesson

Warning this book discusses nerdy subjects, analytics, split testing, survey tools, session recordings etc etc. It’s not about getting instant improvements, but developing a process for consistent incremental gains in conversion.

Quote from Making Websites Win:

“CRO unlocks marketing opportunities that were previously prohibitively expensive, allowing them to get loads of new customers”

Karl Blanks & Ben Jesson – Making Websites Win

Written by the guys who literally invented the concepts of CRO. Whilst you might need to find the help of some technical folk, this is still a book worth getting to act as your guide for optimisation over the coming years.

Where to buy Making Websites Win

Amazon UKBuy from £18.95
Amazon USPaperback from $18.99


So that’s my list, I hope you can grab 1 or 2 at least, or buy them all and binge read!

What books have I missed, add them in the comments below?

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