However, today's B2B environment is more complex, crowded, and competitive than it was in 2013. B2B buyers now insist on an "Amazon-like" customer experience with real-time interaction, extensive price and inventory transparency, and robust guided selling. B2B companies are still plagued by both internal and external channel conflict, which in many cases is impeding their forward progress with digital. And not only are offline companies moving online, but omnichannel competitors in adjacent categories and pure-play online sites are entering select markets as well.
It was against this backdrop that Peter and I evaluated several top B2B Commerce vendors. We found once again that hybris (an SAP company), IBM, Oracle Commerce, and Intershop led the pack. But this time around, Insite joined their ranks. NetSuite returned as a strong contender and was joined in that category by eBay Enterprise (Magento). New to both the B2B commerce space and our Wave evaluation is CloudCraze, a company offering eCommerce as a native application within the Salesforce environment.
As Peter Sheldon outlines in detail in his blog post:
I’d like to capture your perspectives in this year’s study on digital business.
Last year we started a detailed research study into digital business and published numerous reports on our findings and insights for business executives. This year we have partnered with Odgers Berndtson to help field our digital business survey to business executives. And as we did last year, we’re also extending the survey to our clients and social media followers.
The survey only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete … the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea! (OK that may be a stretch … but you can easily complete it while enjoying a cuppa.)
“Once you scale beyond a couple contributors and teams, it gets messy.”
– Content marketing leader at Intel
That’s as succinct a summary as you’ll get for the pains of contemporary content marketing. Even as marketers flock to it, experienced practitioners know of content marketing’s side effect: An unmitigated mess, with lots of people producing piles of content all at the same time, all over the world.
Cue the Content Marketing Platform, or CMP. CMPs emerged to bring order to this cross-channel, cross-organizational, cross-brand, cross-geography, cross-everything content mess, by putting all the people working on content in to a common and shared space.
[Editorial note: Forrester publishes approx. 50-60 wave reports per year, or about one per week on average. Of those, only about a dozen each year are entirely new. This is one of the latter.]
The CMPs assessed in this report – Contently, DivvyHQ, Kapost, NewsCred, Oracle, Percolate, PublishThis, RebelMouse, and Skyword – can cite content marketing giants as part of their client list like: GE, Pepsi, Marriott, BlackRock, IBM, Dell, Diageo, Unilever, MasterCard, and Colgate-Palmolive. And they are picking up new ones relentlessly; as a group, they’re doubling software revenue year after year.
To pin down exactly what CMPs do, here is Forrester’s definition:
Today Amazon launched full force in Mexico with items ranging from baby products to electronics to sporting goods—for the past two years, the company has sold only eBooks on its localized site in the country. Why Mexico now?
Mexico’s eCommerce market has risen on global brands’ priority lists. When it comes to eCommerce, Mexico is the India of Latin America: a small, early-stage market that has been overshadowed by rapid eCommerce growth in a much larger neighbor (Brazil in the case of Latin America, China in Asia). However, Mexico’s time has come. As Brazil’s economy has slowed to a halt, Mexico’s continues to grow—at the same time, the cost and complexity of operating in the Brazilian market has become apparent, leading many US and European brands to turn their attention north to the region’s second largest economy. In 2014 alone, Orange, Zara, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Williams-Sonoma all rolled out eCommerce offerings in Mexico.
Driven by a variety of different categories, the online retail market is growing rapidly. We often talk about eCommerce markets evolving in four phases (see graphic below). Mexico has very much followed this trajectory. Early-stage online purchases were largely in the travel sector—then as consumers started to make physical product purchases online, they gravitated to categories such as consumer electronics and computer hardware. Going forward, these categories will continue to grow but they will be augmented by later-stage categories like apparel, beauty and grocery. We expect Mexico’s total online retail market to grow by a CAGR of 19% between 2014-2019, reaching almost $7 billion by 2019.
Each Congress considers over 10,000 bills, and virtually none of them ever explicitly focus on customer experience (CX). However, some bills do have implications for federal CX. And although just 3% of bills ever become law, federal CX advocates should stay informed of proposals from the start. That way, we can suggest improvements, help good ideas become law, and plan for what happens when they do.
That’s why I’m starting this new weekly blog series. Every week while Congress is in session, I’ll take a look at a few new bills that could affect federal CX and offer my initial thoughts on each. I hope my views start a weekly conversation about which bills seem most promising for federal CX and the overall role Congress should play in improving the federal customer experience.
Let’s begin by taking a look at two bills that House leadership recently assigned to committee:
A few months ago, I had a horrible customer experience around test-driving a new luxury car. The company's marketing department invested a lot of money on different campaigns to get me to make an appointment for a test drive. They succeeded, But once I got to the showroom for the appointment, the experience was a complete 180-degree turn from the red-carpet marketing experience. In fact, I was told they were too busy for a test drive and they requested I come back in two weeks. Needless to say, the experience was a #BIGFAIL on the part of the carmaker.
Contrast this with the experience I had while visiting a Tesla Motors store recently. While I was in the store browsing different car models and speaking with a Tesla spokesperson, a steady stream of existing Tesla owners popped into the store to rave about how great the brand was and how much they loved driving their cars.
Twenty months have passed since Forrester last published our Wave evaluation of the leading B2B commerce suite vendors. During that time much has changed. B2B eCommerce transactions in the US have grown 40% from $559b in 2013 to reach an estimated $780b by the end of 2015. Furthermore, 74% of B2B buyers now research and 30% now buy at least one-half of their work purchases online. Manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers alike are investing heavily in next generation enterprise B2B commerce technology to ensure they are delivering world-class online buying experiences that are able to scale for anticipated growth. As a result of this wave of investment, manufacturing and wholesale trade firms will spend more on commerce technology by the end of the decade than their peers in B2C retail.
As eBusiness teams look for solutions in the market, not only are they benchmarking their future state online buying experience against B2B peers like Grainger, but also against B2C leaders like Amazon and Wal-Mart. This means they need solutions with a best-in-class foundation of B2C features such as robust marketing, merchandising and experience management tools upon which unique B2B capabilities such as contract pricing, quotes pricing lists, eProcurement, product configuration and customization, guided selling, bulk order entry, dealer management, and account, contract, and budget management are then layered on top.
I saw it coming last year. Big data isn’t what it used to be. Not because firms are disillusioned with the technology, but rather because the term is no longer helpful. With nearly two-thirds of firms having implemented or planning to implement some big data capability by the end of 2015, the wave has definitely hit. People have bought in.
But that doesn’t mean we find many firms extolling the benefits they should be seeing by now; even early adopters still have problems across the customer lifecycle. Can your firm understand customers as individuals, not segments? Are analytics driving consistent, insightful experiences across channels? Does all that customer insight developed by marketing make a bit of difference to your contact center agents? If you're like most firms, the answer is, “Not yet, but we're working on it.”
What’s more, firms expect that big data will deliver the goods. In fact, about three in four leaders tell us that they expect big data analytics to help improve and optimize customer experiences. That's a huge expectation!
I think big data is going to be a big letdown when it comes to customer engagementand experience optimization.
Here's why – big data is about turning more data into insight. In fact, our latest data and analytics survey tells me that big data plans are still overwhelmingly an IT department thing. As such, they have fallen victim to supply side thinking – just furnish the data and the technology, “the business” will do the rest. Really?
Big data will not help you:
Ensure insights are tested for value against business outcomes.
Deliver insights at the point of decision in software.
Close the loop between actions, digital reactions, and learning.
We just published my latest research, the Forrester Wave: SaaS Web Content Security, Q2 2015. Forrester categorizes web gateways/forward proxies into this web content security category. I did something different with this evaluation, instead of looking at on-premise appliances; I only evaluated the SaaS deployment model. If a vendor didn't have a SaaS delivery model, we didn't include them in the Wave.
The decision to focus this wave on the SaaS model, wasn't popular with some of the vendors we evaluated. The majority of vendors who sell web proxies lead with the on-premises delivery model and relegate SaaS to a niche deployment option. As users, their endpoints, and their applications move outside the perimeter and into the cloud, the traditional web gateway model is being disrupted; yet many vendors are still very attached to their appliances. Instead of evaluating a very mature on-premise market, I wanted to focus this Wave on the future.
“Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.”
Most B2B marketers need to position their firms as thought leaders on the issues their buyers face. This is easier said than done, because marketing mindsets focused primarily on brands, products, and offerings makes it difficult for marketers to develop interesting content that captures their buyers’ attention.
A lack of skills and experience in developing customer-focused content make it difficult to produce engaging content. Our benchmark study showed 87% of marketers struggle to produce engaging content. (subscription required) And most firms don’t have a process or framework for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives, so they push out product brochures and white papers thinly disguised as thought leadership content.
As a result, buyers don’t find B2B content engaging because the digital world gives them more power to form buying decisions alone. To intercept these buyers when they begin to discover issues and start to explore options; marketing and sales teams need to put your firm’s points of view out there for prospects and customers to see. Really provocative or forward-leaning points of view help to not only attract an audience, but build interactions. Doing this is thought leadership marketing.