Businesses are not one-size-fits-all. The same cannot be said for the eCommerce strategy life cycle. To succeed, you must understand the importance of adapting your eCommerce strategy to each phase in its life cycle.

In the beginning phases of a business’s life, their focus is usually on gaining traction and recognition. Once they have done this, their next goal will be reaching more customers by expanding into new markets or finding innovative ways to increase revenue.

But before we get too far into the life cycle itself, it is important to understand that your eCommerce strategy should evolve throughout its life cycle. The different phases of the life cycle are filled with ups and downs, trying times, and successes. Each phase may require drastic changes to stay afloat and make progress.

It’s hard enough running a business but if you do not adapt as necessary during each phase of the eCommerce strategy life cycle, you will find yourself floundering or even worse – out of business altogether. Coming to terms with the fact that change is inevitable and required to continue to grow and adapt is a fundamental starting point and getting used to the idea of change will make the planning easier, allowing you to adapt the strategy to each phase of the eCommerce life cycle.

Now back to the life cycle itself. At Eclipse we’ve done a bunch of research and distilled it down to three phases, which are an adaption and amalgamation of the lifecycle growth phases for all businesses and align to what we’ve seen for eCommerce companies, as they move along their journeys. These are:

 

Phase 1 – Launch to market & rapid growth

Phase 2 – Slowing growth

Phase 3 – Renewed growth

 

Each phase may take vastly different amounts of time and within each phase, you may have multiple versions of your strategies to align to outward forces such as the economy shifting and unprecedented situations like the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve all been facing. The goal is to understand where you are and what you need to do to achieve the next phase.

 

Phase 1. Launch to market & rapid growth

Almost all new eCommerce businesses will be subject to an early period of rapid and in some cases unanticipated growth. This is usually due to the popularity of the product being sold or market demand rather than the implementation of their eCommerce platforms.

Many businesses will choose a platform from a group of the most popular for start-ups such as BigCommerce, Shopify or Adobe Magento Commerce. It’s important that your business stays agile and responds quickly to change but also think a little to the future and builds in the ability to grow with the chosen platform and not create a handbrake for yourself.

The phase is filled with experimentation and making adjustments to stay afloat. If you’re in this phase, your company is most likely a start-up or experiencing fast growth. However, you may be a long-established ‘traditional’ business, but that experience won’t always equate to eCommerce success. This venture should be treated as a start-up and with that mindset, you’ll be prepared for the fluctuating environment and need to adapt quickly.

Often times it’s necessary to pivot, completely change your product offering or adopt a new customer experience methodology to stay on top of trends within eCommerce. Sometimes these changes are drastic and take time, but they must be made if you want success later on down the line.

You don’t want to get too deep into creating overly complex processes. You and your business could take advantage of this quick impact in this early phase, before you start to see your growth slow, being restricted by an unseen force. This sees you moving into the second phase of the eCommerce lifecycle, slowing growth.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 1.

When it comes to developing the strategy in this phase it is about building brand profile, experimenting with the way you sell your product, working toward building a unique customer experience, working to build trust with customers developing them into brand ambassadors.

This is the time for experimentation. Mistakes can be easily forgiven at this phase and you need to use them to learn as much as you can.

 

Phase 2. Slowing growth

Many businesses reaching this second phase of the eCommerce lifecycle head straight for panic and look for quick-fix solutions to perceived issues. It’s important to understand that it’s natural for there to be a levelling off of growth after the early spike.

All growth has to slow down eventually. You need to figure out how you’re going to stop it from turning into decline and have a conversation with your customers about what you plan on doing next.

Your business will have made inroads in your market space, people are starting to recognise your brand and are hopefully sharing it with others. It’s time to reflect on your progress. Now it is time to go through an evaluate your earned data and gather insights so that you can start to implement well thought out and deliberate enhancements to your eCommerce store and your marketing efforts. This may be through user research, implementation of conversion rate optimisation programmes for your eCommerce store and looking to use the loyalty you have developed from your customers through referral programmes.

It’s important for you as a business owner to assign plentiful time and resources to research. None of this time will be wasted and it is the best way to figure out what is required to reach the next level and start growing again.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 2.

You’ll want to maintain the work great work you’ve done with your original strategy’s that have gotten you to this point and it is now time to ‘grow up’ and mature the operation.

As we’ve mentioned above it is about analysis and making measured movements but staying true to what got you to where you are in the first place. It’s moving beyond just going by your gut and backing it up with real-world data that can be the difference between luck and deliberate success.

 

Phase 3. Renewed growth

Business owners think that the solution to the issue of slowing growth is a quick fix or a huge swing and change of direction, which could be a new eCommerce platform, the recruitment of an in-house specialist or throwing a huge budget at risky and potentially untested advertising paths. This is not necessarily thinking strategically.

A shift of platform might indeed be the answer – perhaps to a more advanced or modern eCommerce platform, but you need to make a clear business case before deciding to migrate platforms. It is never as quick, easy or perhaps as cheap as you might think it is.

The challenge is how to kick start the renewed growth and come out fighting, which means creating an action plan beforehand and implementing this carefully – considering both product range and marketing strategies, along with customer service or financial decisions.

In this third phase of the eCommerce lifecycle, it is so important that any and all attempts to reinvigorate your company’s momentum and growth should always be strategic.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 3.

A solution to slowing growth will most likely require realigning your business goals with changing customer trends, keeping up to date with new technology and channel strategies. It will need you to double down on the initiatives first started in phase 2.

Research and analysis are required to optimise processes and improve the customer experience. This will steer your strategy. This means more user testing on the customer experience, further optimisation of your conversion mechanics to make sure that you’re taking advantage of every visitor and continuing to spread the message of what makes you different and what customers should pick you.

Research may reveal issues and you could find you need to re-platform, but there needs to be comprehensive analysis behind decisions to implement technology and tools.

 

Putting it into action

Getting to know these phases of the eCommerce lifecycle is key for your strategic planning and will help you visualise your brand’s growth as a recurring process, identify critical questions to ask at each phase and understand why an agile approach to eCommerce strategy is so vital to lasting success. This eCommerce process deters you from attempting to solve issues with quick fixes and quick wins, instead focusing on regularly revisiting and refreshing your eCommerce strategy for long-term success.