Doffing our hat to Abraham Maslow, we routinely see eCommerce brands follow a similar hierarchy of growth. Brands come alive and start having a life of their own, with their “needs” getting fulfilled along the path. Enough thought is given on what it takes for Brands to deliver to their customers. However, very little gets discussed about Brand’s intrinsic needs.
Phase I – Survival
As a Brand you don’t have the luxury of a slow start. 85-90% of online brands shut shop within the first 6-9 months of inception. The odds are clearly not in favour.
With planning, forward vision, and enough staying power, Brands can and do thrive in this phase. For successful Brands, Phase I starts almost a year before the actual launch of the website or the app. Experimenting with sourcing & logistics partners, payment options, product mix, marketing USPs – all these POCs can be piloted before actual launch. This is also the phase to have a closer understanding of your customer and product mix – Tier I/II/III cities, age group, gender, price points, buying frequency. With the data arsenal already in place, we are ready to launch.
The “launch” should announce your brand to your audience. If you are a strong Tier II/III Brand, a regional language newspaper front page or a local radio station Ad will deliver better ROI vs a national TOI Ad. USPs have to come out strongly, on why the consumer should be excited about interacting with your Brand.
I have seen the targeting strategy work amazingly well at RosettaStone, where in the early days and years, the only advertising the company did was on the last page of in-flight Skymall magazine. The product-audience-messaging could not get any better.
Beyond the initial launch, you will need staying power in terms of continuing marketing budgets and sustaining the ongoing operations including manufacturing /inventory costs, salaries and vendor payments.
Phase II – Growth
Congratulations, you have come over the hardest phase, and are now ready to take on the next challenge – growing your brand.
Your journey will evolve from a paid-heavy traffic in initial stages, eventually leading to 50% of your traffic and revenues coming in from non-paid channels including Direct and Organic. When acquiring traffic through paid channels, closer understanding of the options on hand – Online (Search, Social including Display, Shopping, Remarketing, Emailers, SMS)) vs Offline (Newspaper, Radio, TV) – is critical. Within each of these options, you have multiple vendors.
Restricting the discussion to online channels, here are some of the options available for you in the space.
Search & Shopping (highest consumer intent) – Google, Bing
Social & Display (Impulse buys with audience clusters) – Facebook including Instagram, Tiktok, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter
Retargeting existing visitor / buyer base (lifetime value) – All of the Search and Display inventories
Influencer marketing and growth hacks – Celebrity tweets, Infomercials, Blogs
To add, across the clients we have worked with, this is a proven correlation between Paid traffic and higher Direct and Organic sales revenues.
Zivame, Lenskart are examples for Brands which have successfully made this transition from early stage growth fuelled by paid marketing, to highly sustainable Organic growth businesses.
Phase III – Top of Mind Awareness
At this phase, you are approaching the higher altitudes, where your Brand can sustain beyond usual market/industry shocks. Your markets are established, customers have given a strong thumbs-up and PnL metrics are in place.
The key in this phase is to remain fresh in the minds of the customers. Online E-commerce is fast moving and you will need to be consolidating within your category, while experimenting with newer product offerings, geographies and Brand messaging. This is a crucial phase for the business where the attraction is always there to venture out. Amazon is the trendsetter, venturing into new business lines every year or two years, with successful expansion across the globe. Marketplace, Kindle, AWS, Prime, Pantry – are all successful Amazon online brands, that have shaped the definition for each of their categories.
In this phase, display channels including Youtube, Facebook and for higher budget brands (> Rs. 70L – USD 100K), TV, can significantly bump up the Brand reach, maximizing Brand recall.
Closer home, overcoming the clutter from other look alike Brands, Bigbasket has created this niche in the customers minds as the leader in Online groceries. Celebrities and Influencers (through Tweets and Instagram posts) are great case studies within themselves on how to sustain their Brand online.
Phase IV – Recognition
The hard work is in, now is the time to collect those awards. Your Brand is recognized as the market leader, routinely appears in the Magic quadrants, is awarded at industry events, and competition is eyeing every move you make. You are the firm eight-thousander, but one-step away from the Everester tag!
It is a great ride to have come this far. Strategic partnerships, omni channel presence, acquisitions are round the corner, and you need to be ready to embrace the change. Your Brand also needs to change from the Hunter to the Hunted mindset.
This is a critical phase where if agility of the earlier years is not maintained, many brands can start on their downward spiral. In digital space disruption can spring up very fast, and knock you from your pedestal in no time.
The conflicting journeys of two of the most popular apparel and accessories brands – Jabong and Myntra
Courtesy Google trends: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&q=JAbong,Myntra
Phase V – Dictionary
You are now a verb or noun in the dictionary – “Google” it, “PayTM” karoo, Give me a “Bisleri”. Your vision is rewarded and you are looked upon as an icon. You have climbed the Everest, enjoy the view that very few have the opportunity to enjoy.
Ohh wait, the weather will change soon enough, and you need to get back to the base camp and reboot to start the next climb.
About the author: Rohit brings in over 7 years of eCommerce and Marketing experience with his work at Shoptimize and Merkle|Sokrati. At Shoptimize, Rohit is the Brand custodian for over 90 eCommerce brands, with direct ownership for their online P&L, brand recall and ongoing growth. He is leading a team of data scientists, UX designers and E-commerce industry category champions, in partnering on the path to profitability for Brands.
About Shoptimize: Shoptimize is an AI powered brand eCommerce platform that provides the ideal end-to-end eCommerce solution that helps you grow online revenues from your own brand website. The platform includes creation of the online store, integration with payment gateways, logistics and backend systems, generating traffic to the online store and driving conversion to actual orders. A “mobile-first” company focused on designing and developing eCommerce technology of the future, we partner with brands and help them realize the true potential of online commerce.