For many years now, BearingPoint has been assessing companies on their digital maturity in BearingPoint’s Digital Leaders Study. The study is conducted yearly in multiple European countries in parallel and evaluates prominent companies from various industries along four comprehensive dimensions of digital maturity. As in previous years, we have acquired interesting insights that add to our understanding of long-term digital trends, leading digital companies and their best practices, and areas of improvement.

In last year’s study, we concluded that when it comes to digital performance, the gap is increasing between companies that have ‘the basics right’ and companies that truly excel in digital. Some firms seemed to be lost in complexity of the digital transformation, while we saw the leaders accelerating by using an agile ‘test and learn’ approach to slice their digital transformation into several smaller innovations.

The COVID crisis forced all companies to step-up the game in their eCommerce developments and to safeguard the performance of their digital channels. And since consumer behavior has probably changed permanently and less digital-savvy customer groups got used to the online journey next to using their physical touch points, the Unified Commerce play is there to stay.

Comparing this year’s results to the results of previous years, no major shifts were seen in the industry ranking, but rather in the performance dimensions. Retail Electronics and Fashion are still the digital pioneers when it comes to implementing new functionalities for their customers. In the research, the biggest overall improvement has been noticed on the dimension ‘Digital Marketing’, with for instance major increases in Affiliate Marketing and Social Marketing. When we look at the individual performance of the companies, the overall trend is that last year’s digital leaders are not stagnating in growth, in fact, their performance is still increasing.

This year we noticed two specific trends amongst the leaders, which could be interesting to look at for firms that haven’t implemented those innovations yet: Sustainability in eCommerce and the more dominant and innovative use of Social Commerce, next to operating own channels.

Sustainability in eCommerce

Whereas companies are increasingly successful in providing the customer with information on their sustainability practices, sustainability in eCommerce is still lacking behind. It seems to be the new game only used by some pioneers at this point in time, but we think this trend will progress, pushed by a new form of consumer expectations next to for instance price and convenience. We already knew the option offered by airlines to opt-in for a climate compensation at the checkout, but other industries where delivery takes place, could enable conscious consumers to tick this box as well. Another dimension we assessed companies on in this category, was whether it is possible to ‘choose mode of delivery based on environmental impact’. For instance, in the Dutch market we found out that Albert Heijn is one of the few companies offering that option. During checkout, the company allows customers to choose between different time slots for delivery, where some time slots are highlighted as being the most environmentally friendly.

Social Commerce

Though already a trend for a while, we have seen the attention shifting further from building excellent own channels to increasing the brand presence and commercial interactions at social platforms. In general, companies are already integrating social commerce well: 61% offers it today. In fact, all companies in the research within the fashion, interior/department stores and outdoor/sports industries facilitate transactions through Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest shops. The challenge now is for companies outside these industry groups to find meaningful cases for customers.

As a common practice we see the ‘tagged’ products in Instagram pictures, allowing customers to click-through and finish the purchase when directed to the web shop. But some digital leaders are offering an even stronger level of integration. Leading examples from the study, like Scotch & Soda and Hunkemӧller, are integrating their products in their IG TV videos and are posting pictures of influencers wearing their products while using the product-tag function to redirect to the Instagram shop.

So, a lot of new opportunities are arising in this digital field, with the platforms offering new functionalities and the community and influencers playing a large part in brand building and product endorsement. The area of in-game advertising is another fast-growing channel not to forget in the complete channel strategy. It’s a matter of staying focused on these new innovations and knowing where your (potential) customers are. And, to come back to the important learning of last year: don’t put all your efforts at it at once, but start with small experiments to investigate whether it’s commercially effective and provides the desired customer experience and interaction.

This year’s research shows again that digital maturity isn’t something static, but the digital bar is continuously being raised. Again, with the increased relative European scoring, our innovative Dutch brands showed to be able to keep up with these new demands.

Would you like more information?

If you want to get more information about this insight please get in touch with our experts who would be pleased to hear from you.