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14 min read

How to Stand Out in the Crowded World of eCommerce

How to Stand Out in the Crowded World of eCommerce

chloe thomasBest selling Author, International Speaker, and host of both the Award-winning eCommerce MasterPlan AND Keep Optimising Podcasts.

Chloë is one of the Top 30 eCommerce Influencers 2021 (Scurri), and her podcasts are regularly included in lists of the top eCommerce & marketing podcasts in the world.

Chloë Thomas has been in eCommerce since 2003, she’s worked client-side, agency-side, and adviser-side. Over the years she’s helped retailers and brands large and small, and there’s barely a part of the eCommerce landscape she’s not got involved with. One thing she’s always done is solve eCommerce Marketing Problems.

What you'll learn in this episode

  • The most important things a solopreneur needs to think about when starting an eCommerce business
  • Whether or not one-person business owners need to be approaching eCommerce differently than larger businesses 
  • Where the majority of mistakes happen for solopreneurs running an eCommerce business
  • What solopreneurs can do to stand out from the crowd
  • How eCommerce brands can strive for Net Zero

And so much more!

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Favorite Quote: 

"Keep Optimising." - Chloe Thomas

Want to share your experiences and learn from other one-person business? Be sure to join our community! It's free :)

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on Apple Podcasts Thanks!

Full Episode Transcript:

Chloe Thomas (00:00):

The whole place has gotten more competitive, which means if you want to cut through and you want to get in front of customers, you need to have a creativity about what you are doing.

Intro (00:10):

Bigger doesn't always mean better. Welcome to the One-Person business podcast where people who are flying solo in business come for specific tips and advice to find success as a company of one. Here are your hosts, Joe Rando and Carly Ries.

Carly Ries (00:29):

Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Carly Ries.

Joe Rando (00:33):

And I'm Joe Rando.

Carly Ries (00:35):

I am personally so excited for today because it covers a topic that I've been actively trying to educate myself in, which is eCommerce. So we thought, who better to discuss this than Chloe Thomas. Chloe is a bestselling author, international speaker, and host of both the award-winning eCommerce Master Plan and Keep Optimizing podcast. She's one of the top 30 eCommerce influencers 2021, according to Scurri. Her podcasts are regularly included in lists of the top eCommerce and marketing podcasts in the world. She's been in eCommerce since 2003 and there's barely a part of the eCommerce landscape she's not familiar with. One thing she's always done is solve eCommerce marketing problems, which I know a lot of you listeners face. So Chloe, welcome to the show.

Chloe Thomas (01:21):

Hey Carly. Hi Joe. Great to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me on.

Carly Ries (01:26):

Well, as mentioned, I really am so excited and I feel like there's a lot I want to cover today. So I think we should just dive right in, if that works for you.

Chloe Thomas (01:33):

Fine by me.

Carly Ries (01:35):

So what are the most important things a solopreneur needs to think about when starting an eCommerce business?

Chloe Thomas (01:41):

That's a big old question, but a super important one because I think if we went back five years, it was an awful lot easier to start an eCommerce business because there was a lot less competition. Now there's very little you can't get online. Someone somewhere is selling it. So if you want to start an eCommerce business, you almost need to start a step before that with having a product or a problem or an idea that it just so happens that eCommerce is one of the best ways to turn it into a moneymaking venture. So it's kind of idea first, eCommerce second if you want to go down the eCommerce route. Because if you're just going, I need an eCommerce store, but I've got no idea what I'm gonna sell, then you are not setting yourself up for success.

Carly Ries (02:30):

Is that a pretty common problem? Do people just go straight to eCommerce, where do they plan to go from there? What do you see?

Chloe Thomas (02:38):

I think you get a lot of people kind of getting on the supposed gravy train of drop shipping or white labeling or you know, FBAing for fulfillment by Amazon which has been a good place in the past. But I think now you really need a clear idea of what your product is for if you want to make it work.

Joe Rando (03:02):

So when you say product, do you mean just the product that you're selling via eCommerce? Or does product include more like the way you position the eCommerce site in terms of who your target market is and that kind of thing?

Chloe Thomas (03:16):

Yeah, it's that whole piece. I guess one of the reasons why I say you need the product is because the whole place has gotten more competitive, which means if you want to cut through and you want to get in front of customers, you need to have a creativity about what you are doing in terms of your story, the problems you solve, the angles you are hitting, the missions that you are on. All of that has to come to play if you're gonna cut through in the busy advertising spaces, in the big busy inboxes, because customers want a level of connection with you. And because the competition levels are so high, if you just go, Hey, I've created a shampoo, it's not enough. It's got to be, I've created a shampoo because this is why. This is the problem I was happening, this is how I've created it and so forth. It's something which as a solopreneur, as a small business, as a startup, you are better placed than a lot of the big businesses to retrofit this. But you also do need to have it.

Carly Ries (04:19):

So Chloe, that actually covered some of the questions that I, I was gonna ask. So I guess I want to dive a little bit further. What are some tactics that people can actually do to stand out from the crowd? Have you seen any that work more than others?

Chloe Thomas (04:32):

I think first and foremost, it's getting clear on what your story is and what the USPs of your brand are and who your target market are. I find one of the best ways to be building all that is to create a really solid about us page on the website. Not because you are gonna drive ad traffic to your about Us page. You're not gonna send lots of emails saying Look at our About Us page, but it's a great way of forcing yourself to actually work out what your About Us is, what's your founding story, what's your product for, what are those key messages? The other thing I should say about About US pages is they're never finished. So don't worry, you will be revisiting it every few months to tweak it and change it.

Carly Ries (05:19):

So true.

Chloe Thomas (05:20):

It's never finished. You just have to do something. But it will help you think through the process and then you can start turning that into videos for social media, content for your advertising, content for your email welcome campaigns, putting the key messages onto your homepage. So to get really clear on that is crucial.

Carly Ries (05:43):

The other thing I wanted to circle back on that you and Joe were talking about a little bit is you were saying that in some ways solopreneurs, one-person businesses are better positioned in larger companies when it comes to eCommerce. But are there certain things they should be thinking differently compared to larger businesses when they're setting up their eCommerce site?

Chloe Thomas (06:01):

I think eCommerce is a great place if your desire is to, you know, not to have any staff and be that one-person business cause you've got that scalability built in. But if you're planning on scaling without bringing people on board, employees on board, then you really need to make sure you're getting the systems and the processes in place on day one and getting very clear about what it's worth spending your time on and what it isn't. Because in eCommerce, there is a massive list of things you could be doing, just in the social media space, you could be doing TikTok, you could be doing Twitter, you could be doing Facebook, you could be doing Instagram, you could be doing Reddit. You know, that's five things. It's a full-time job trying to do all five if you want to do them well.


So success comes from working out what you should be doing. So finding ways to automate. Tools like Zapier and solid CRM systems like Klaviyo or Omnisend are gonna be your friend. They enable you to create automated pieces, to integrate with other tools and to make the whole thing work together. Anything which saves you time is a good idea, but you also need to be getting really close to your numbers and really close to understanding where you are adding value and the areas which are giving you the best impact.

Carly Ries (07:21):

I'm actually gonna flip that question on its head a little bit. This is probably the part of the interview where you may be able to talk for hours on end about but you were just saying what people could be doing for solopreneurs, but what mistakes do you see happen often with one-person businesses running an eCommerce business that just make you cringe?

Chloe Thomas (07:41):

Oh, this could be about eight episodes, Carly. I guess the very first one is getting very tied up in making the website perfect and never doing any marketing. If all you ever do is work on the website and work on the website and work on the website, you're not gonna get any sales. You have to be trying some ad marketing, you have to be doing some social media, building a community, doing your email. You have to be spending your time across all of these to grow your business. I don't know whether it's the procrastination that stops you from launching or imposter syndrome, but often it's, "I just need to add one more plugin to the website. I just need to tweak the homepage font again." And those things really prevent people from moving their business forward.

Carly Ries (08:33):

Being a marketer myself, obviously advertising is a great idea. Are there benefits of building an e email list for eCommerce businesses compared to other types of businesses? Or how would you recommend people approach that for marketing efforts?

Chloe Thomas (08:49):

Growing an email list is essential. It's interesting, eCommerce, it's something which has become slightly unsexy, unfashionable to do in some areas. There are a few businesses who've gone all out on the Facebook ads and haven't done anything on email, which is just madness to me because if you're gonna succeed, you need to be nurturing relationships with those customers and you need to be driving conversations with them that are relevant to the product and encouraging them to come back and buy again. An email is hands down one of the cheapest best return on investment methods you can do. Plus it's a channel via which you can create automated activity. You can have someone sign up to your email and you can send them a series of emails, which we call a welcome sequence where you are telling them what you'd tell them if they walked into your physical store.


You're turning them into a great buyer, getting them ready to come and buy from you. Then you can have great sequences, post-purchase. You get them excited about the product before it arrives. You get them to leave a review on the site. You can also have automations such as abandoned baskets or abandoned browse, where when someone has come to your website and they've done something, we'll follow up with them and bring them back if they got distracted. So there's all this stuff that could just happen in the background and increase your sales. It's essential. Almost the first thing I would do if I was setting up a new eCommerce site would be add an email, sign up and build a single welcome email before I did anything else so there was some kind of follow up happening.

Carly Ries (10:25):

The nice thing with eCommerce sites too is I imagine it'd be a great place to do discounts and everything too. The eCommerce businesses wouldn't necessarily be able to promote. So it's almost like you're part of an exclusive club, joining these email lists. I'm glad we're talking about this cause I do hear some marketers say, "my email inboxes get so filled up", " you're not breaking through the noise", but if you have a catchy subject line, good content, you will still break through that noise.

Chloe Thomas (10:50):

Yeah, if you are sending good content, you're not just saying, here's our new product, 20% off and nothing else. If you're sending an email that's, here's our new product and here's how we created it and this is why we think you'll really love it and other times you're sending messages about your content, about what's going on in the store, what the missions are and all that, that kind of softer piece. People are like, yeah, I want to see what's going on. I want more knowledge, I want to connect with this brand. Then your emails will be opened The numbers don't lie. It still remains an impressive sales generating channel.

Carly Ries (11:27):

And now a quick word from our sponsor,.




You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes running a one-person business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures? Lifestarr has created a one-person business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations at


Carly Ries


You definitely know what you're talking about in terms of breaking through the noise. At the end of this episode, I want to drive people to your website so that they can see all of the content information you have. I kind of want to pivot for a second because there's another side of your business and the eCommerce Master Plan that I find fascinating and I feel like it's very unique to you. That is you're so dedicated to helping people grow their eCommerce businesses, but you're trying to get people on the path to Net Zero. Can you explain what Net Zero is and the steps you're taking to achieve it and how others can do the same?

Chloe Thomas (12:29):

Sure. So Net Zero is one part of the sustainability thing that's going on in the world these days. Net Zero means getting to the point where you as a person, a town, a country, a business are using no carbon. You've switched your energy to renewable sources like tidal or wind or solar. You have switched your car to electric, you are limiting travel and any carbon which you are using your offsetting by using one of the the brilliant tools that are out there to plant trees around the world or other ways of dealing with carbon because we are killing the planet or, we're not necessarily killing the planet, the planet will undoubtedly survive. But we are creating a planet that is gonna be unfit for human habitation and there are multiple problems.


One of the biggest problems is that we are using up the carbon and that is not a good thing for the carbon not being where it should be. I'm putting it very in very basic terms. That is something which we've turned into a kind of dual focus that an eCommerce success since about December last year because it's just such a big issue. It's such a space where we, as the retail world, one of the key things to use less carbon as individuals is to buy less stuff, which is a bit tricky in the eCommerce world. The retail world is a problem in the quest for Net Zero. So, I figure there are so many creative people doing so many creative things in this industry that if we can all start taking the steps towards Net Zero, start re-educating consumers about how to buy better, then we can become a force for good rather than a problem.

Carly Ries (14:23):

Yeah, I just think that's so fascinating and I wanted to bring it up because a lot of times people go towards eCommerce for the money, or, I mean they're passionate about their business obviously, but people often forget that there could be a mission behind the business too, or that once you've made it a business and are successful, you can give back in certain ways. And I think some solopreneurs forget that aspect of it. I not only thought it was amazing that you're doing that on your end, but you're doing it with an industry that you wouldn't likely think would have that at the forefront of their minds.

Chloe Thomas (14:53):

It's amazing because we are now on my eCommerce Master Plan podcast where we interview retailers. We're only interviewing those who've got a Net Zero angle to their business and some of the solutions that people are coming up with are just amazing. Clothes made from recycled materials. We've got apps to encourage customers to resell clothes to each other, but the retailer gets a kickback off it. Just so much cool and exciting stuff. It's actually I think, one of the most exciting and interesting areas of eCommerce now anyway. Even if we hadn't changed our focus, we probably accidentally end up doing it because those are the businesses which are doing the exciting, interesting things. It's also a big marketing opportunity at the moment. A recent study by Klaviyo was that 89% of consumers want to buy better, they want to buy more sustainably, but only 27% are. And yes, part of that's the old gap between what we say we do and what we actually do. But a 50 percentage point difference is such that actually a lot of consumers are just really confused about what the right buying decision is. So the more we can do to put the right products in front of them and to educate them about how to buy better, the better for all of us.

Carly Ries (16:11):

What's so great is that the people that already have the eCommerce businesses, they can rethink their strategy a bit. And for people that want to get into it just from the get go, they can take the right path to try to help efforts forward. I think that's really cool. I think it's great that you are doing this with your company. For listeners, I also follow Chloe's podcast and it's really fascinating to listen to. Again, I want to share some more information about you in a second, but before we do, something we ask all of our experts is what is their favorite quote about success? And I'm gonna ask you the same thing.

Chloe Thomas (16:43):

This was such a difficult question for me, Carly, because I'm not a big quotes person basically. I struggled and I struggled and then I figured I would fall back on my own personal mantra. So I hope this is okay.


My personal mantra is the phrase "Keep optimizing", which is for a couple of reasons. One, it's because historically I've been a bit of a perfectionist. I've been the person who's been tweaking the font on that website rather than putting it live. So having that phrase around me reminds me that nothing is ever finished, you've just gotta get it live and then you'll get the data back to enable you to make it more successful. The flip side of it is just a reminder to actually go back and improve things because everything we do in the first iteration is rarely as good as it could be until we get the feedback of our customers, of our audience, of our listeners. We don't really know whether we're on the right track or not. You have to keep going back, reviewing the data and working out what the right way forward is. So I'm gonna put up my own personal mantra. Keep optimizing.

Joe Rando (17:54):

Hashtag solopreneur success cycle, which is our thing. That idea of coming back and looping back around and reviewing and adjusting is kind of what we talk about too. So there's an alignment here.

Chloe Thomas (18:07):

There certainly is.

Carly Ries (18:09):

And Chloe, even though you didn't take that from anybody else, I have a feeling people might be taking your quote and putting your name under it to create credit too. So maybe we'll see you on some inspirational quote board someday,

Chloe Thomas (18:20):

That would be very cool. I have this vague idea on the list of things I could do is to create an Etsy shop with some downloadable posters that people can get with my various quotes, but I have still not quite got around to that one.

Carly Ries (18:34):

Oh yeah, that's a great idea though. Well you have the first one.

Chloe Thomas (18:39):

Yeah, we've got one.

Carly Ries (18:40):

Chloe, I've referred to your podcast a few times, the website, can you tell our listeners where they can find you? And whether it's social, website and all the above.

Chloe Thomas (18:50):

You can find everything I'm up to at Now, if you go there and you scroll to the bottom, you'll find the links in our footer where you'll find two particularly interesting links. One to startup podcast episodes, which is where we've gathered together all the interviews we've done with businesses who are startups. They're eCommerce brands who've only been around for a year or less. And then there is another one, which is one-person business podcast episodes who are people who've come on the show who are one-person businesses. So those two links are particularly interesting, I think, for your audience.

Carly Ries (19:29):

Absolutely. And, as predicted, I got a lot out of this episode, Joe, I'm sure you did too. We cannot thank you enough for coming on the show today.

Chloe Thomas (19:39):

Oh, it's been a pleasure to be chatting with you guys and I hope this has helped the listener. Thanks so much for letting me come on.

Carly Ries (19:43):

Absolutely. I think that's it for today. To listen to other episodes and subscribe to the show, be sure to visit Or you can find us anywhere you subscribe to your shows. We'll see you next time.




You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes running a one-person business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures? Lifestarr has created a one-person business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations at