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10 Of The Leading Ecommerce Sites And What You Can Learn From Them

If you’re committed to bold originality, the ecommerce world is not your rightful domain. The billions of pounds being exchanged are wholly indifferent to your level of creativity, after all, and to ensnare them you don’t need to be first – you just need to be best.

And being best is 90% curation. Thoroughly outperforming the competition is mostly about casting a critical eye over the top dogs and cherry-picking parts to assemble Frankenstein’s online store. A Frankenline store (disregard that).

To that end, in this piece we’re going to take a brisk jog through 10 outstanding ecommerce stores to see what we can learn (or steal) from them. By the end, you’ll have a neat set of tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to setting up an online shop. Let’s begin!



Screenshot of Bittermilk website

1. Bittermilk

Bittermilk is a store all about jazzy cocktail mixer components. I’m no alcohol or history aficionado, but I can intuitively recognise the old-timey flair of the labels, colours, fonts, and shapes (complete with a page frame). The classy blend of throwback elements with modern functionality gives this pocket-sized page a powerful punch.

What can you learn from Bittermilk, aside from how to throw a dynamite kegger? How to go all-in with your artistic license. It’s not the idea that matters, it’s the execution – got an unusual concept for your ecommerce store? You can probably make it work.



Screenshot of Great George Watches website

2. Great George Watches

Great George Watches is, as the name suggests, timepiece-centric. And like any good watch company, Great George Watches clearly respects the visitor’s time, getting straight to business with a nice clean layout and value propositions so simple you’d need an active effort to miss them. “Think outside the circle” introduces you to the signature square design, then “Strap into greatness” gives you the second of your two (yes, just two) product choices.

What can you learn from Great George Watches, aside from the current time? How to trim down your product offer. The more complex you make a decision (particularly in the style world), the harder it becomes to make. Keep it simple!



Screenshot of Firebox website

3. Firebox

Firebox is a wonderful company of strange people, and they should give me a call if they’re hiring. What you’ll find on the Firebox site is a magical assortment of segments that ooze personality and sheer joy (see above). Goofy cartoons, puns, and madcap zaniness of the variety that could get very grating if not executed to perfection.

What can you learn from Firebox, aside from how much fun it can be to write product descriptions? How to get your visitors on your side. It’s really hard not to identify with the Firebox team and thus want to buy their products, because they go about everything they do with such gusto and fearlessness. It’s almost infuriating.



Screenshot of Bliss website

4. Bliss

If you’ve ever had a fever dream about a land made entirely of confectionery (or you’ve seen, say, any iteration of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), then you’ll get a kick (or sugar rush) out of the Bliss store. The pastel blues and pinks make the entire screen look delicious, and given the sensory overlap between taste and smell, that’s a great approach for a beauty product site.

What can you learn from Bliss, aside from how much you’d like digital scratch-and-sniff technology? How to capture a mood with colour. Makeup and beauty products are all about the joy of experimentation, sensation, and relaxation, and that’s all carried across exceptionally well by the theme of the site.



Screenshot of Pencil website

5. Pencil

It may be a bit of a cheat that I’m using Pencil, actually a landing page of a broader ecommerce site, but I’m the author so I’m citing artistic license — if only because I like this page so much. While it’s really good in general, I had to include it because of two flourishes in particular: the extension of the battery as you scroll down the screen, and the subsequent twist of the item.

What can you learn from Pencil, aside from how hugely Apple’s design concepts have carried across the industry? How effective subtle motion can be. Even if you don’t really notice the pencil twist as you scroll down, some part of your brain will, and it’ll lend that bit of pop that can put a product page over the edge.

Business-to-consumer ecommerce turnover in the UK grew to £13.7 billion in 2017, a 13.6% increase. 

United Kingdom 2018 Ecommerce Report Ecommerce Foundation

Screenshot of TruBrain website

6. TruBrain

Opening disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I wish to promote the efficacy of TruBrain. I haven’t tried it, I likely never will, and it’s fair to say I’m sceptical about products like this. But I’m not here to comment on the product, I’m here to comment on the site – and it’s quality fare. There are two things that I really like about this page: the delightful illustrations, and the all-important authority references.

What can you learn from TruBrain, aside from the term “nootropics”? How to tastefully appeal to authority. Not only are the big clients left to peek over the bottom of the panel, but the real-world taste tests are left to the last panel, ensuring that the social proof is present but doesn’t overplay its hand.



Screenshot of Califa Farms website

7. Califa Farms

I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional yoghurt, so the Califia Farms range holds a lot of appeal for me. The website has a classic layout with minimalist copy, and what I really like about it is the nigh-omnipresent branding and sense of location. You can’t really go anywhere without passing the Califia Farms logo, and despite having a worldwide presence, the California vibe (no, not that anti-corporate one) is a central element of the business.

What can you learn from Califia Farms, aside from where they’re from (the San Joaquin Valley, apparently)? How to make your origin a branding element. In the end, it’s an irreplaceable token of authenticity – you can buy a skeleton So-Cal business from the LA business listings, but you won’t have that San Joaquin history, and that’s a core narrative component.



Screenshot of Legend Tees website

8. Legend Tees

Few things connect the Western world like the classic T-shirt. This makes it a very stable industry, but it also makes it tough to excel in, so a hit T-shirt manufacturer needs a bit of magic to beat out the competition. Legend Tees depicts its categories as T-shirt logos, instantly and seamlessly communicating its expertise. It’s a great touch.

What can you learn from Legend Tees, aside from how to undermine your inclusion with broken links (two of the above links are currently down, presumably in an effort to make me look bad)? How to show and tell at the same time. By implementing your unique selling points (USPs) wherever possible in your promotional materials, you can showcase them much more powerfully than you ever could through text alone.



Screenshot of Tessemaes's website

9. Tessemae’s

Not to be confused with haircare company TRESemmé, Tessemae’s is a condiment extravaganza, selling everything from the spiciest of sauces to the mildest of mustards. And if you’re unclear from the image above what Tessemae’s does so well, I’ll give you a clue in the form of a question: what is the subject of the screengrab? Yes, the answer is SAUCE.

What can you learn from Tessemae’s, aside from how many instances of the word “yum” you can get away with on one page? How to use contrast effectively. The intense orange of this slide and the powerful contrast with the white of the text makes the text of the menu barely noticeable in comparison yet still readily available when needed. That’s excellent design work.



Screenshot of Good Start Packaging website

10. Good Start Packaging

Food: we need to keep it in clean packaging or it gets covered in dirt and germs and various unpleasant things. But we also don’t want to clutter up the planet with any more rubbish than is strictly necessary. Good Start Packaging is all about solving that problem with sustainable recyclable packaging, and its store page does an excellent job of achieving a heady rhetorical density towards the end.

What can you learn from Good Start Packaging? How to masterfully offer social proof. There’s no branding recommendation here, probably because it would seem odd in the context of an environmentally-friendly product. Instead, you have an affecting story, a video with small clients, a range of assorted reviews (showing honesty), and a set of social media images with a homemade appeal. All of this in just one panel.



Phew, we made it through the whole piece without falling back on Amazon or the Apple store. These 10 ecommerce stores are all really great at what they do (barring the odd broken link), and each one has a lesson to impart about how you can configure your ecommerce site to achieve optimal results. See what improvements you can make!

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Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who impressively made it through a lot of terrific ecommerce sites for research without placing any orders. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.

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