It only takes one good idea to hit it big. Just ask Casper, which became a $555-million company practically overnight with a mattress-in-a-box that delivered a loud wakeup call to the entire “sleep” industry. Or Spanx, whose inventor Sarah Blakely is now the youngest self-made female billionaire in America. Or even Crocs, which, against all odds, made a killing off of garish foam clogs.
While most retailers sell more than just one product, a massive catalogue is not a prerequisite for success—especially in ecommerce. In fact, selling only one product can be an advantage. Without the distractions of building, managing, and marketing multiple products, you can focus on innovation, iteration, and making your product better than any other on the market. In short, you can give your One Good Idea the attention it deserves.
But where to start? With single-product ecommerce themes in short supply and a dearth of information about how to set up and maintain an online store with just one product, it can be tough to know what the path to success looks like.
That’s where we come in. Having worked with numerous single-product success stories and designed themes like Launch and Startup specifically for small catalogues, we’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to single-product ecommerce. In this post, we’ll cover some things you can do to turn your small store into a big success, and share some inspiration from companies that have done just that.
Embrace the oversized hero trend
Larger-than-life hero images and full-screen backgrounds may be everywhere these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re a trend you can dismiss along with lame preloaders and unwarranted autoplay. On the contrary, oversized hero images offer up a precious opportunity to single-product stores—extra space to build your brand, highlight your promotions, and bring your flagship product to life.
But a truly “heroic” hero image is a tall order. According to Andrei Baicus from ThemeIsle, “What most people seem to miss when it comes to hero images is that they’re a double-edged sword… The best case scenario is when your image tells a story and makes the visitor a part of it. The image should never be picked randomly just because ‘I like it.’”
Communicating your brand or product’s story in a single, standalone image can be tough, but you don’t have to look far to find examples of companies doing it well. Take TaskRabbit, which connects busy people with “taskers” to help them with simple but neglected tasks. Their full-screen hero points to a common problem and positions their service as an easy, accessible solution, all in an aesthetically pleasing frame of visual cues.
Likewise, white-noise specialist Snooz does a great job of explaining their product using copy (“Sound. Sleep.”—a satisfying play on words) and visuals (a couple sleeping serenely thanks to their Snooz machine). Also notice how they cut to the chase, letting customers order straight from the hero image. This is an excellent tactic for single-product stores to get customers to the checkout—no browsing or dilly-dallying necessary.
Get creative with your homepage content
Without a prominent product taking up space on your homepage, you might wonder how to fill all that real estate. Rather than going nuts with white space, consider creative ways to convey how your product works, what its features are, and why people love it.
There are many ways to do this, from describing your process with icons and text to showing a gif of your product in action to calling out testimonials and press mentions. Just look at mobile payment provider Square. They sell a single, pocket-sized product, but their homepage is brimming with informative content. At a glance, customers can see the product’s features, technical specifications, and pricing, with multiple opportunities to “learn more,” “sign up,” and “buy online” throughout the page.
The folks at Seattle Cider also do an awesome job of creating a dynamic and eye-catching homepage without relying on a heap of product images. Their homepage reads like a story, beginning with a scene-setting hero image, followed by a cool, interactive display of how their cider is made, finishing with an invitation to their tasting room. It’s an unexpected and enjoyable experience that doesn’t simply display the product, but explains where the ingredients come from and how they combine to make a product that is “anything but standard.”
Don’t stagnate, animate!
Producing quality product videos is expensive. For many smaller merchants, one glance at a videographer’s price tag can be enough to send them running. Standard photography and graphics will still get the job done, right?
Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. According to a recent survey by Invodo, 71% of customers think video is the best way to bring product features to life. Add in the finding that 73% are more likely to buy after watching a video, and it seems like video might actually be an investment worth making—especially for single-product stores not faced with the prospect of producing dozens of videos.
Take wallet-maker Bellroy, which uses short videos on its homepage to showcase product benefits (“less leather, less bulk”) and on its product pages to exhibit hidden features (pull tabs and a three-year warranty). They’ve also interspersed brief video clips in a traditional product grid to shake things up and visually explain their product—proof that you don’t need professional actors and soft focus to create videos that make an impact.
Get in on the crowdfunding craze
Soylent. Oculus rift. Exploding Kittens. You know these products, but do you know how they got their start? Crowdfunding, that’s how. Also known as asking strangers for money on the internet, crowdfunding raised an incredible $34 billion last year, a number that’s predicted to blow up in 2017 as more and more companies try to emulate the wild success of Kickstarter campaigns.
Crowdfunding tends to work best for single products that appeal to a specific, narrow, and passionate audience. As Shopify puts it, “Your product has to be something they can’t pick up at Walmart, and not easily found online. There has to be a community that craves your product for a problem that’s not being solved right now.”
If that describes your product, crowdfunding might be a good fit. Dedicated platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and RocketHub are obvious solutions, but if you want to customize the look and feel of your store, you’re better off with Shopify. Some themes come with built-in pre-ordering and goal-tracking features, or you can use an app to add functionality to another theme, as Taylor Stitch has done in the “Workshop” section of their store.
Do one thing well
That’s all you need: one thing. Nothing more. No distractions. No kidding yourself that you can be the master of everything. By focusing on just one product, you’ll be able to hone in on the details that make it unique and interesting, without the noise of “options” and “variety” in your ear. You can focus on creative enhancements, attentive customer service, effective marketing, and you can do your one thing better than anyone else.