Books For Ecommerce Beginners

If you’re new to the world of ecommerce, the titles below are the best place to start. They’ll walk you through the steps necessary to start your own business, without getting too in-depth or technical. The main thing that prevents most people from starting their own businesses is having no idea where to start – these books will give you a solid starting point and help you focus on what actually matters for a new business.

The Startup Owner’s Manual

Steve Blank’s book The Startup Owner’s Manual is probably the best book available for someone entirely new to the world of ecommerce. The title says it all – Blank provides an excellent framework for those who are wanting to begin their own startup. By following the Customer Development and Business Model frameworks, even a complete beginner can be confident that they’ve put together a solid plan for their startup. Not only that, but this book inspired the Lean Startup movement (see below), and thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs have used his teachings to begin successful businesses. If you’ve got an idea for a business but have no idea how to start building it, read this.  

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup has been read by pretty much everyone in the ecommerce/startup world. Focusing on the principles of validating your product BEFORE you invest a lot of time or money into it, it helps you answer the single most important question when starting a new business – is my product something that people can and will use? The Lean Startup walks readers through the process of making sure that your product is viable, collecting feedback, and doing small-scale testing before you sink your time and money into it. An excellent follow-up to The Startup Owner’s Manual, this book will save you a ton of time, money, and heartbreak.

The 4 Hour Work Week

Of all of the books on this list, this is the one you’re most likely to have already heard of. The legendary 4-hour Work Week is responsible for an entire generation of ecommerce-focused entrepreneurs. This book focuses on automation and making sure that your effort is as impactful as possible. While it contains some great principles (such as automating everything that you can), it paints a rosy picture of the ecommerce/entrepreneurial lifestyle and tends to convince people that they can get a lot of reward for very little work. If you’re just starting out, that’s simply not true – those approaching an ecommerce store with the goal of putting as little work into it as possible aren’t likely to see much success. That being said, the principles in this book are still sound, and it helps ecommerce beginners manage their time and effort much more efficiently.


Unfortunately, skipping straight to the branding stage is where most online merchants go wrong – for my first few stores, I made this exact same mistake. But not you – now that you’ve read some of the books in the Beginner section, have built a solid business plan and validated your products, and know who you’re selling to, it’s time to start working on your branding. (If you haven’t done any of this yet, scroll back up to the Beginners section and get reading!)

Lead With A Story

When thinking about your store branding, this is the place to start. It’s likely that there’s already competition for your product or business, so you’ll need to give customers a reason to shop at your small, unknown store instead of your larger (and more boring) competitors. This is a lot easier than most people think – the internet is a market disruptor’s paradise, and the right story can steal customers away from your larger, more boring competitors.

By thinking about why you’re selling what you’re selling, what you offer that your competitors don’t, and telling a story that resonates with your audience, you’ll build a loyal customer base in no time. By harnessing the universally-relatable power of the story, you’ll be able to stick in your customers’ hearts and minds long after they’ve forgotten the boring stuff.

Don’t Make Me Think

It’s a universal law of marketing that the more effort a customer has to put into a purchase, the less likely they are to actually buy anything. This book focuses on building simple, clean designs that your customers intuitively understand, as well as on providing the customer with what information they need, when they need it – and nothing more. Backed up with tons of examples of design and user-experience mistakes (some of which you might not even know you’re making), this book focuses on making it as easy as possible for the customer to convert – which will do wonders for your sales. If you’re in the process of designing your website, this is definitely a book you should have at hand.