B2B eCommerce is forecast to reach 3 trillion USD by 2027. To thrive in this digital space, firms need to seek every competitive advantage across customer experience, technology, people and internal operations. Since it can be difficult for leaders to know where to focus their investments and energy first, commercetools partnered with Andy Hoar and Brian Beck, the co-founders of Master B2B, to create a B2B-specific digital maturity assessment that provides leaders with a baseline on which to grow. Not only does it serve as a tool to help you identify your current level of digital maturity, but it also offers insight into where your peers and competitors are and presents strategies to help you get to the next level.
It’s no secret that digital adoption in the B2B market has been slow, and both corporate leaders and commerce experts can offer a multitude of reasons that explain why. However, at this point in the evolution of commerce, providing buyers with a robust, modern online experience isn’t an optional decision anymore, it’s an imperative. And, it seems that most B2B leaders are recognizing this fact — according to a 2023 Master B2B survey, 60% of executives said they’ll be looking for a new eCommerce platform in the next 24 months.
Regardless of where you are in your digital journey, or whether or not you’re in the market for a new commerce solution, you can benefit from having a clear understanding of the different stages of digital maturity, where your business currently is and what’s required to get to the next level. To help form a picture of what digital maturity looks like in the B2B market, Andy and Brian surveyed over 100 sellers along with 100 buyers, and using research from additional Master B2B studies and events, developed a four-stage model which assesses the maturity of a B2B firm’s digital efforts across four dimensions.
Digital Tools: Assessment of how you use technology to streamline operations and improve the customer experience.
Team Culture: Assessment of how much your organization has embraced digital commerce, which includes the number of digitally-focused team members and the level of digital engagement of the sales team.
Customer Experience: Assessment of how much effort has been put into delivering functionality and experiences that meet the expectations of your customers.
Data and Insights: Assessment of the organization’s investments in data hygiene and analytics that enable your team to make better data-driven decisions.
It’s important to note that, with the Master B2B model, you may discover that your company is in one stage in one dimension and in a different stage in another dimension. So, if your teams have been pushing for digital transformation and your leaders are well-versed in composable technologies yet your eCommerce is still running on a legacy platform, your Team Culture could be in Stage 4 while your Digital Tools are still in Stage 2. With this knowledge, you can leverage the attributes assigned to each dimension at each stage to move your maturity forward.
We firmly believe taking the digital maturity assessment will help you navigate your digital future. Below, we’ve summarized what each stage looks like, providing examples to illustrate how partnering with commercetools gets you past roadblocks and challenges you face, giving you the flexibility and freedom to grow.
Digital Maturity: Stage 1
In the Master B2B maturity model, firms in Stage 1 either have no digital presence at all or only provide a simple site offering a limited number of capabilities and/or products. By focusing on identifying and overcoming specific obstacles such as fear of change, budget concerns and/or lack of expertise that are standing in the way, leaders of these firms can start to push their maturity forward.
The good news for organizations at this level is that starting from scratch can actually be beneficial, as it means your whole team can focus on building a system that fits your exact vision. That said, Master B2B highly recommends you do a deep dive to ensure that your plan will deliver an experience that meets the expectations of your buyers. As the report points out, “IT teams are often focused on internal needs, while effective eCommerce organizations must be obsessively customer-focused.”
commercetools has helped multiple B2B companies that previously had no digital presence launch robust eCommerce sites. After convincing senior leaders to invest in digital, both Normet and Dawn Foods were able to deliver the functionality their customers were asking for and recognize tangible results. For example, today, 25% of Dawn Foods’ sales come from online orders and the average order is 2x bigger, and nearly every customer order includes a product they hadn’t tried before.
Digital Maturity: Stage 2
Firms that are in Stage 2 typically have a legacy commerce platform in place. They acknowledge that continually improving the buyer experience is critical to growing sales, and have integrated some modern software to allow them to add new features. While they see their data as an asset, they don’t currently have the ability to fully leverage it. In addition, they’re aware that growing their digital maturity will require additional expertise.
The key to moving forward in Stage 2, according to the report, is hiring talent from the outside to spearhead digital advancement. Leaders should be aware that navigating this step can be tricky. Not only because it often requires implementing change management strategies to gain buy-in from the existing team, but also because the salary and work-from-home/hybrid expectations of candidates in digital roles have gotten tougher to negotiate. That said, research done by Master B2B this year found that 62% of sellers pointed to the lack of qualified eCommerce team members as a significant barrier to digital growth.
With the right leadership in place, B2B firms can begin to integrate more modern, flexible tools that can help them deliver a richer customer experience and scale with them as they grow.
Digital Maturity: Stage 3
If your firm is currently crediting a significant amount of revenue to digital commerce, most likely you’ve achieved Stage 3. You’ve already implemented a wide set of eCommerce best practices, expanded into new channels and created a culture that believes in a digital future that enhances the traditional offline business. While it's a good position to be in, it doesn’t mean you should be resting on your laurels. With additional channels continually emerging and new technologies such as AI offering opportunities to enhance commerce experiences, it’s essential you strive to advance to Stage 4.
At this stage, your focus can be on delivering innovation. You should have processes in place to collect feedback from customers, as well as from your customer service and sales representatives. These individuals are often your best sources of information to spur ideas for new features and functionality.
At Modern Commerce Day 2022, both Jason Thomstatter, Head of Digital Commerce at Mars Wrigley, and Jozef Stawarz, Head of Engineering, International, Alcon shared with the audience that interviewing customers helped ensure the commerce experience they ultimately delivered truly supported the needs of B2B buyers.
Jason explained that while Mars customers asked for many of the most common D2C capabilities, including easy-to-use product information, pricing and order status, they also requested multiple B2B-specific features such as requisition lists and reordering capabilities, as well as the ability to ship to multiple warehouses and choose specific delivery dates. He said that after Mars launched its improved experience, “One of the most exciting things I heard…customers basically stated, ‘We went from the worst ordering experience to the best.'”
Digital Maturity: Stage 4
According to the report, firms that are in Stage 4 of digital maturity, have “aligned the technology and the team to meet the needs of the customer, and take an agile approach to delivering ongoing customer value.” At this point, digital and physical channels are working together seamlessly to provide experiences that engage customers and build loyalty.
If you’ve reached this stage, most likely it’s because your CEO and C-suite leadership have taken an active role in aligning and executing a digital-first strategy that includes a modern technology infrastructure built on composable architecture. By doing so, your business has been able to flexibly scale, introduce new functionality quickly and easily and fully leverage your data.
The digital transformation of Zoro.com provides a perfect example of how critical leadership is in turning strategic vision into reality. As Timothy Daneliuk, Senior Director and Chief Architect of the company shared in an interview, the CTO and president played a key role in enabling him and his team to successfully migrate Zoro’s original eCommerce system (built on hybrid legacy/homegrown technology) to a composable commerce solution.
Tim said leadership was clear in setting expectations — they wanted a system that could handle an infinite number of SKUs and thousands of suppliers. At the same time, they were also supportive and realistic. “I remember the president saying to me, ‘I know you're going to break some things. There's no way we can do this without doing so, just go break 'em fast and go fix 'em fast.’”
In presenting the traits of B2B firms in Stage 4, the report stresses that it's critical to strategically resist letting any complacency seep into your team. It recommends continually encouraging innovation, enabling experimentation and celebrating victories, pointing out that you want “team members at every level to feel empowered to try something small in the search for something big.”
B2B commerce isn’t going to slow down anytime soon and the impact your digital maturity can have on the overall health of your business is profound. B2B leaders who are actively implementing strategies to take it to the next level are reaping the benefits, which is extra-critical in today’s fast-changing market and digital landscape. Taking the time to assess where your organization is now so you can get a clear picture of what you need to do to grow may just be the catalyst you need. To get started, download the full report, Establishing Your Baseline: Assessing B2B Digital Maturity.