You may think your ecommerce company is ready to move out of the house and get out on your own, but are you sure? The ecommerce space is filled with stories of companies that felt they were ready for prime time, but in reality, were not.
That’s why it’s important to take a realistic view of yourself and determine how mature your company is. The ecommerce maturity model helps here by giving structure to this process, identifying actionable insights and providing a clear list of requirements to determine where a business is.
The model is used across the ecommerce industry and typically consists of several stages, with each based on various factors such as technology adoption, customer experience, operational efficiency and revenue growth. It can be applied to many differing business models as well.
Roughly only 10 percent of online businesses actually succeed. That’s a lot of attempts to graduate to a higher maturity model that didn’t work out. Understanding what the maturity model is and what goes into it will increase your chances of not falling by the wayside.
Stages of Ecommerce Maturity Models
Much like a career, the ecommerce maturity model starts small and then grows exponentially.
You’re not expected to know everything from the start, but you are expected to make incremental improvements as you progress. Having an online retail benchmark to start from and creating your own case study are good first steps.
You have ambition — and you even have a product or service There’s a fully functioning online store that can receive orders and payments and your pricing is done. You’ve got the foundation of a successful ecommerce site, although you may still only have one sales channel and not much in the way of marketing.
Simple templates are used and many new sellers to Amazon or eBay may fall under this title.
You may expand your offerings to sell across borders. Product descriptions and pages are optimized for SEO and the checkout process meets industry standards. You may include automated logistics and may even expand product offerings.
You now not only have a website, you also have website optimization and feel good about the user experience. You start to leverage data to make better decisions and become an omnichannel operation. Many customer interactions are self-service and there are personalized experiences.
Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are implemented. Most common tasks are automated and marketing efforts are highly segmented and customized. Virtually all major decisions are supported by data.
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Using an Ecommerce Maturity Model to Scale
Scaling a company up is hard and is inherently unclear. There’s no single way to do it that works across all industries, so ecommerce companies are left with a certain level of guess work.
Here, the ecommerce maturity model provides guideposts to at least add some level of clarity.
Lays out a roadmap for growth.
How one company scales is not always the same as another. However, the ecommerce maturity model brings some standardization to the process, making it easier to understand what the future may hold.
The maturity model clearly defines what happens at each stage, so ecommerce companies have a better understanding of where they are on their journey.
Allows for better decision making.
Knowing what to do and when to do it is not always clear, especially for companies looking to grow. The maturity model adds some guidance on what needs to happen and when, removing some of the complexity that comes with scaling up.
Creates a competitive advantage.
Not every one of your competitors is going to be following this model. That’s an opportunity for companies that do, who have a natural advantage by just understanding what the model includes.
Ecommerce Maturity Model Limitations to Know
While the maturity model is effective at pointing ecommerce businesses in the right direction, it does not include every answer. Understanding the methodology and its limitations will help companies know when to deviate from the model.
Doesn’t account for economic, social or technological factors.
The maturity model views the world as black and white, with little room for gray. For ecommerce companies, this gray could be any number of factors that could increase or restrict growth, many of which will be out of their control.
Things such as a global pandemic or a banking crisis may impact the global economy, which the model does not account for.
Relies solely on quantitative data.
Related to the above, the ecommerce maturity model is based on numbers only. There is little wiggle room with it, making it fairly limited and strictly defined.
In reality, there are so many other factors (see above) that play into decision making that the model doesn’t consider. It looks at customer data and metrics like conversion rates, but it doesn’t get into why numbers are what they are.
Not all businesses fit into a model.
The ecommerce maturity model requires, well, a heavy ecommerce component. For companies with a heavier brick-and-mortar presence, for example, the model may have reduced relevance.
Assessing Your Ecommerce Maturity Model
The first step in the ecommerce maturity assessment is to determine where you currently are in it. Taking an inventory of your current situation and understanding strengths and weaknesses is a good first start.
Identify current roadblocks.
Start with determining what’s holding you back. Is it a lack of resources? Talent? Strategy? Take a long and holistic look at your business internally and the customer journey externally and see where you’re being blocked.
How efficient are you? Are processes in place that use available resources well and don’t bleed money unnecessarily. Determine where you make money, where you spend money and focus on the former while minimizing the later. Data analytics can be key here.
Analyze inventory management.
This relates directly to profitability. Are you keeping enough product on hand or are you keeping too much? Both can impact profitability. You may want to consider an automated inventory management solution to help ensure the logistics of product delivery are smooth and efficient.
Measure current marketing strategies.
Are you getting your message in front of enough people? Are you using the right channels, like social media? Complete a deep dive into your marketing strategy with stakeholders to determine what’s working and what isn’t. Have clear, data-driven metrics to align to to help define how you’re doing.
Understand your tech stack.
Have a full understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your tech stack. Can it handle an ecommerce platform like BigCommerce, which may help your business move to the next maturity level? Can you handle automation? If not, what upgrades need to be done in order to go to the next level?
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The Final Word
The ecommerce maturity model is a useful tool for determining where you’ve been, where you are and where you want to go next.
Building an ecommerce company isn’t easy and is full of potentially disastrous roadblocks. The maturity model helps identify them and how to avoid them.