What are some resources for learning about lifestyle-brand ecommerce businesses? [more answers welcome!]


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I'm digging in to this industry and would love insight into what's unique about lifestyle ecommerce businesses / the consumer path to purchase in businesses like Holstee, Ministry of Supply, Turnstone Furniture, Karmaloop, etc.

Businesses selling products that aren't / aren't just targeted at a consumer need or existing purchase intent, but targeted at a consumer's identification with a particular lifestyle or interest.

What are some articles or sources you'd recommend? Insights of your own are also welcome.

Ecommerce Resources Business Model Branding Lifestyle

asked Jun 26 '15 at 19:46
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Jay Neely
6,050 points

3 Answers


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It's all starts from the positioning. Think of your audience as a friend of yours that you've known for years. What interests someone with his/her personality traits.

The more you think of your target audience as one individual, the easier it is to identify with them.

A valuable resource for this is Shopify's blog. They have a ton of great content on there:

Some more:

In terms of the business model, there is big uptrend in curated monthly subscription boxes. People have created little niches for everything from socks to doggy treats. Dollar Shave Club is unarguable the most profitable in this segment. Bark Box is another great example. Noah Kagan started SumoJerky based on this model and was able to get $1000/month in subscriptions from just a Paypal landing page before even starting anything.

The biggest key to success will always be how you position the marketing message. Dollar Shave Club did it with their humor. ThinkGeek is all about wacky gizmos for nerds. Rather than needs, you're looking for what will make your target audience tick.

A little off-topic but related to this:

A good way to get insight first-hand on what products would interest your audience is dropshipping. It'll require little to no capital to understand your target audience and see which products make them tick. That's how I started in nootropics, dropshipping others' branded products on Amazon marketplace. Read Shopify's Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping. There's a chapter in there on how to pick which products to sell.

Sometimes you'll discover that the products you decided on end up attracting a completely different audience than you had planned to target! With nootropics I was targeting entrepreneurs but the bulk of the sales end up coming from college students instead.

After seeing any success from dropshipping, your options will basically come down to:

  1. Buy from wholesalers (and use Fulfillment by Amazon for logistics -- it's a huge distraction to do this yourself).
  2. White-label products manufactured by someone else (this is the sweet spot between dropshipping and manufacturing it yourself).
  3. Manufacture the product yourself (I wouldn't recommend this unless it's something that doesn't require much capital like T-Shirts).

With both (2) and (3) you're able to tap into larger distribution channels to push your product (apart from selling directly to the consumer yourself).

answered Jun 26 '15 at 22:46
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Nishank Khanna
4,253 points
  • Thanks Nishank. Upvoted this answer but still very interested in hearing from others! – Jay Neely 1 year ago
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I agree with Nishank on the Shopify blog. They put out a lot of great content on building lifestyle businesses. Here's one on starting a brand solo from the ground up: How To Build a $120K per Month Ecommerce Brand in Less Than A Year

Others that I check regularly:

answered Jun 28 '15 at 05:58
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Chrissie Gray
1,067 points
  • Thanks Chrissie; I think maybe I wasn't clear about what I mean by lifestyle, though. I don't mean it in the sense of "a business to suit my lifestyle" (e.g. working part-time or from abroad) -- I'm talking about a business that sells products specific to people who identify with a particular lifestyle. Check out the examples I mentioned, Holstee and Karmaloop in particular. Beardbrand is similar, I'd just love to find some articles that talk about their customer funnel / path to conversion, or more about the role of content in their marketing. – Jay Neely 1 year ago
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Read Justin Winter's article here: 7 Shortcuts for Building an E-Commerce Startup to $1M in 12 Months

Guy Kawasaki's The Macintosh Way is also a great primer into how to build a brand that your customers evangelize.

Eric Bandholz built a brand around the lifestyle of his audience: BeardBrand. Read his case study here: How One Man Listened to His Community, Then Built a $40k Per Month Ecommerce Business in Under a Year. He later appeared on SharkTank and that skyrocketed his sales as he reached more of his audience.

From the BeardBrand case study:

I had actually launched Beardbrand as a blog / community in February 2012. I talked a bit about beard care, the lifestyle, and always had a vision to build the business.

Beardbrand was formed after I attended the 2012 West Coast Beard & Mustache Championships in Portland, OR. I had an absolute blast and I realized there is a community of like minded individuals that wasn't being serviced.

Not one to wait; I created Beardbrand. I didn't do any formal market research other than becoming immersed in the community. We are entirely bootstrapped, and our startup costs have been extremely low. We are growing organically and because the risk for loss is so low the need for market research isn't needed. I suppose that our entire business is the market research.

Because I have been blogging about beard care products for a while I have had access to products on the market. I contacted a manufacturer of beard oil and mustache wax and asked if he was interested in wholesaling his product and he was. We made a very small initial investment and grew from there.
answered Jul 1 '15 at 05:53
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Joe Gilbert
31 points
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