Level 5 - The Leader


There are very few Level Ss in the world of ecommerce. Most Level Ss are digitally native teams or are companies who have spent years and years implementing digital transformation strategies. You enjoy higher margins due to your market dominance with suppliers in supply chain and logistics, and your customers are loyal to the end.

Relentlessly forward-looking, your brand has become nimble again despite its size. You own your data, you own your customer, you’re vertically integrated and own the product creation and delivery. Your brand has taken great care to retain control over every customer experience.


For a Level 5 Leader, your strengths become weaknesses: company culture can be weaponized to create teams that are resistant to change, often saying “that’s not how we do things.” Fanaticism inside the brand can create an insulating effect so as to lose touch with what competitor brands are doing. Dogfooding your own products and ideals have created an echo chamber, and you’re unable to see your own faults.

You tend to hire and retain employees that could be described as cult members: fanatics in their own right, they closely guard the company culture to a point that shuns outsiders. This can have long-term detrimental effects in choices of technology and investment in new channels, growth areas. Oftentimes Level 5 brands will rely on outside hires to get a “dose of reality”.


When you’re king of the hill, everyone’s trying to bring you down. As we’ve seen with Amazon, to maintain absolute dominance you’ll need to be sufficiently scaled horizontally, meaning your brand may mean a lot of things to a lot of different buyer personas. You likely operate in B2B, B2C, own Direct to Consumer offerings. Your brand appeals to children and families as well as singles and divorcees. You have to be all things to all people, at all times.

This means your messaging has to be very thoughtful, but not generic. College students need to have a uniquely different affinity to your brand than a retiree. Most brands may attempt to overcome this kind of messaging challenge by employing sophisticated technology, citing it as “personalization”. Take caution – this isn’t a technology solution. This is an exercise of brand, and culture.

If you do approach this problem with a technology solution, take care that the project owners aren’t purely IT resources: not all problems have software solutions, while many solutions have software problems!


You get preferential treatment, and tech vendors are eager to work with you. You’re able to negotiate terms which are unfair to your advantage. You dominate technology with your own capability to deliver groundbreaking advancements internally.

In the best of ways, the market follows your lead.


Standing at the apex, The Leader is the clear winner in their category, and, more broadly, in retail. They are seen as a brand that excels at everything, invests in research and development, and is guiding the rest of the industry. They excel in experience and prioritize brand equity over quarter-to-quarter gains.

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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