Level 2 – The Underdog


There is an inherent strength to being seen as an underdog. In a crowded category you may find that shoppers prefer your brand to other, more prestigious brands, based solely on the fact that there is a “coolness” factor to being the first-adopter to a new product or service others in their social groups have never heard of.

A Level 2 ecommerce site maximizes their spend and focuses on low-hanging-fruit – the types of initiatives that accomplish a lot with very little capital or operational investment. The Underdog decides that investing in automation and complex systems are time-consuming and require technology know-how; and while you may have talent you find yourself short on time. This inherently always keeps you focused on the types of customer-facing investments that make consumers fall in love with you and keep you coming back for more.


Your greatest strength – being nimble and decisive – can be your greatest weakness. You tend to try a lot of one-off programs and campaigns and that can result in confusing messaging to the customer. In any given month they may get emails that offer dozens of different promotions – holiday, clearance, final sale, product launch, national donut day, etc. – and these peak times of engagement may dilute your otherwise rich product or founder story. Take care to plan out campaigns and be intentional when it comes to messaging, copy, promotions, and brand voice.


Paid search, social, can be costly investments and your competitors who have more mature businesses are probably outspending you. There are clear ways to lower your costs, though, such as investment in website content that is frequently published and updated. An investment in landing pages with focused content will drive up your quality scores, which means you’ll be able to save a little bit of money on customer acquisition. If you’re not tracking Customer Lifetime Value yet, you should be. Not having clear, measurable goals, and doing the right things to meet those goals, is the biggest hurdle to reaching Level 3.


When you’re a young brand pretty much everything represents an opportunity – your total addressable market is unaware of you and so your early investments into paid search, social, and retention marketing, may all prove incredibly fruitful. Customers eager to learn more will spend more time at the beginning of the customer relationship learning about your brand story and so this is a fantastic time to begin investment in brand marketing. Invest in the who, what, when, where, why, and how, about your brand, and remember every one of those stories has two sides to it your brand’s message, and your customer’s perspective.

If your primary source of success is through marketplaces (Jet, Etsy, Amazon) think intently about your owned channels – such as email, SMS, and web; and invest in those early on. What are you doing to encourage those customers to switch to purchasing direct, and is there a benefit to doing so?


The Underdog has gained ground, but sometimes feels outgunned. This can be a powerful place to be when growing because loyalists to other products, brands, and services are usually eager to seek out smaller, more capable brands. This allows the underdog to “punch up”, publicly criticizing larger competitors who will be reluctant to dignify criticism with a response.

Level 1

You are implementing basic ecommerce and marketing strategies. Your customers can navigate the site, enter the checkout funnel, and securely purchase products. But you have the potential to drive even more traffic and conversions, with some expert guidance.

Level 2

You are implementing more ecommerce and marketing strategies. You are actively acquiring new customers and streamlining checkout.

Level 3

You are improving the customer experience by incorporating personalization and allowing for user generated content. You are actively monitoring and improving performance.

Level 4

You are providing more services to your customers inside and outside of ecommerce. Even more marketing and UX improvements are also paramount.

Level 5

You have optimized your store throughout. You are innovating and offering better customer experiences than most.

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