How to Grow a Multi-Million Dollar Ecommerce Business: 10 Keys Direct from a CEO Who Did & 28 Resources to Dig Even Deeper

How to Grow a Multi-Million Dollar Ecommerce Business: 10 Keys Direct from a CEO Who Did & 28 Resources to Dig Even Deeper

After graduating with a marketing degree from San Diego State University in 2010, Griffin Thall and his friend Paul Goodman traveled to Costa Rica for five weeks and stumbled upon a pair of talented bracelet vendors on the beach. 

Upon returning to the states, Pura Vida Bracelets was born. The company rapidly grew to a multi-million dollar business through a customer-centric mix of irresistible products and innovative ecommerce tools.

In his recent AMA with Shopify Plus Head of Marketing Hana Abaza, Thall — a Forbes 30 Under 30 Winner and Pura Vida’s CEO — dives deep on his social-media strategies, his biggest marketing wins and losses, and even how he runs his company day-to-day …


Did you miss the AMA?

How To Grow A Multi-Million Dollar Ecommerce Business: 10 Keys Direct From A Ceo Who Did & 28 Resources To Dig Even Deeper

That’s okay. You can still access the full recording of Griffin Thall — CEO and co-founder at Pura Vida — exclusive AMA with Shopify Plus right here …

Watch the AMA now

1. Start at the End with a Customized Checkout

While Pura Vida was born on a regular Shopify plan, they didn’t stay there long. In addition to working with a dedicated Merchant Success Manager, Thall says a major benefit to Shopify Plus is the ability to customize Pura Vida’s checkout process.

“The biggest piece for us was being able to customize the checkout: how people process payments, what kind of messaging we have in the checkout, whether it’s utilizing balance exchange, to fire a coupon or an exit offer, customizing the look and feel of the checkout so it matches our brand style.”

“If you feel that you’re not getting enough orders where an extra push on a percent or two is really going to move the needle, then maybe it’s not for you. But if you need to aggressively A/B test the checkout and push it to the next level, then Shopify Plus is the best.”

For more on customizing your checkout experience:

2. How to Plan a Social Media Strategy

The essence of strategy, says Harvard professor Michael Porter, is choosing what not to do. For Pura Vida, this means choosing their social media efforts carefully. For example, they don’t invest time or focus on Facebook because the platform nerfed its pages organic reach:

“If you have a couple of people in your office doing social media, don’t put them on building the Facebook page. But if you have a Facebook marketer or Facebook agency that’s focusing on paid acquisition, that’s a different strategy.”

“On the organic side, we only focus on Instagram and Facebook Likes. Engagement just comes from the ads and the traffic. In terms of where we allocate resources, it’s specifically on Instagram outreach to influencers, getting content, making sure they post about us, tag us appropriately, and repeat that process day in and day out.”

Thall had also experimented with Pinterest ads but gave up because the tracking wasn’t set up well yet. Thall also observed that Pinterest isn’t so much a social network as it is a discovery network, essentially being a search engine for photos.

If you have a set amount of resources on your staff, focus it on Instagram.

For more on Instagram ecommerce, check out:

3. The Key to Emotional Purchases Is Scarcity

“On our website, when a product has less than a certain amount of items in stock, it says ‘Only 47 left, only 46 left…’ Those are actually real numbers.”

This type of countdown makes visitors want to buy right away before Pura Vida runs out of stock. It also helps that Pura Vida has always operated in this way.

“Our products sell out so fast that [regular customers] know that if they don’t go to our site and buy when an item is available, it’s going to be sold out. These products are hand-made, there’s not always a consistent, ‘It’s always in stock every Monday’-type of pattern.”

“I think scarcity is the number one factor that lets people know that they need to make a move. Scarcity is the number one driver of emotional commitment to make a purchase.”

For more on persuasion and scarcity, check out:

4. How to Keep Your Team Focused on Growth

Keeping a company focused on growth can be difficult, especially when there are dozens of initiatives, features, and projects going on simultaneously. Thall uses specific key performance indicators to maintain his team’s focus on growth:

“We look at order volume, we look at how many subscribers we have on our [email list]. We look at how many emails we’re getting, Instagram followers, and if you base them month over month, you can see what you did in the past month. That’s the most important way we view growth.”

Thall also recommends that merchants look into working with a reliable and trustworthy accounting team or bookkeeper if they’re not doing so already.

For more fostering growth, check out:

How To Grow A Multi-Million Dollar Ecommerce Business: 10 Keys Direct From A Ceo Who Did & 28 Resources To Dig Even Deeper

5. Pura Vida’s Best Performing Marketing Efforts

For a company that’s gained millions of customers, Thall has a surprisingly simple method to his madness:

Paid Facebook and Instagram [are] definitely the number one drivers. But on the organic side, email is the number one in terms of trackable revenue.

For more on ecommerce marketing, check out:

6. Pura Vida’s Largest Traffic Driver

Although Pura Vida is active with its social media strategy, paid acquisition, and a bunch of other methods, Thall calls out a more traditional form of marketing to be his business’s most reliable and largest traffic driver. He says:

“Email is really strong for us. We have a ton of emails, and when we send out a good email that has an enticing subject line, or a sales offer, or a super limited-edition exclusive bracelet, it sparks interest really fast.”

“When people get that email in their inbox on a Tuesday morning, they click on it. So for us, we see instant clicks with a good email and a good offer.”

Pura Vida has worked with email marketing agency Email Aptitude for over three years.

For more on email marketing, check out:

7. Pura Vida’s Biggest Advertising Mistake

The road to Pura Vida’s rapid growth is their team’s willingness to experiment. And Thall pulls no punches with his biggest mistake:

“Our biggest mistake is doing display advertising. There’s a bunch of services out there that will blast your ads on a ton of big websites.”

“[The problem is] there’s so much overlap with your organic, your email traffic, and your Facebook ads and your Instagram ads, that it just creates a bunch of noise.Sometimes, the reporting is not as accurate as it is on Facebook or Google.”

Our biggest failure in paid media was definitely display advertising.

For more on overcoming mistakes, check out:

How To Grow A Multi-Million Dollar Ecommerce Business: 10 Keys Direct From A Ceo Who Did & 28 Resources To Dig Even Deeper

8. How to Entice New Customers

Thall sees two types of potential customers. The first is a recent new buyer who has only bought one item with Pura Vida:

“Once someone makes a purchase, our biggest challenge is how do we get that person to make another purchase within sixty days. And there’s 5-7 emails we send them, whether it’s brand building, social media, check out our new stuff, sale items, and maybe the last one is the kicker. Like, ‘Hey, get 25% off today only.’”

The second is someone who has only subscribed to Pura Vida’s mailing list but hasn’t bought anything yet. He describes his processes for these visitors:

“They’re in a 5-7 email series and right off the bat we say ‘Welcome to Pura Vida, here’s 10% off, and then we get a social media hit. After that, it’s a 25% off coupon. After 60 days if the new subscriber came to our website, gave us their email address, browse products, but they’ve still not made a purchase, we give them a 50% off code. At that point, we really hope they bite, and convert into a first time customer.”

For more on acquiring new online customers, check out:

9. How to Create Team Culture

Pura Vida’s approach to team culture is aligned with its products and brand.

As Thall says:

“Everyone has an ocean view. We value this beach culture of our brand. We do catered lunches three days a week, people can choose their favorite restaurant, pick anything on the menu. We do monthly happy hours, we have a sushi chef in our office come out and make fresh rolls for everyone.”

It’s about creating that fun, creating that vibe.

For more on creating the right culture, check out:

10. The Role of A CEO

Thall sees his role as Pura Vida’s CEO as two-fold. He starts by saying, “As the CEO of any company you need to be creative, you need to be the engine of the idea. You need to be the fire moving the brand forward.”

Then he dives into details:

“In terms of day-to-day operations, I focus on the appearance of the website, how it looks, what A/B tests we’re currently running, how our Facebook ads are performing, what our Instagram strategy is for the week and what influencers we’re working with, who we’re sending for the next trip, what videos we’re coming out with.”

Basically, anything where the customer can see the product or see the brand, that’s what I focus on.”

“Being a CEO of a company, you’ve gotta have a positive vibe in your office. People should want to look up to you, they should want to work with you, they should view you as a friend and mentor, someone they think they can ask for advice on anything in the office.”

Of course, every company is different — and so might require different approaches and guidance from its leaders.

For more on leadership, check out:

Still want more?

Perfect! Griffin Thall’s exclusive AMA with Shopify Plus is available right here …

Watch the full AMA now

Final Thoughts

Amidst all these answers, Thall urges merchants to stay ambitious and vigilant. He says, “At any point of the business you’re in, whether you’re doing one order a day or thousands of orders a day, there’s always a way to improve.

“Never feel like you hit the jackpot. Never feel like you’ve figured it all out because you definitely haven’t figured it out. Know there’s opportunity for growth. There are more people going on mobile, more people checking in on social media every day, more people building up their Instagram followers.”

Build up your talent, build up your brand, be consistent with your brand image, don’t try to make quick cash because that’ll never work. Focus on content. Put your head down and get to work. There’s really no other excuse.

About the Author

Herbert Lui is the creative director of Wonder Shuttle. He was a staff writer for Lifehacker, and his writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the New York Observer, and Fast Company.