It's Here...The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015

I’m pleased to announce the release of "The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015." Peter Sheldon and I last took a deep dive into the space in 2013, and since then we've seen B2B grow both in size and importance.  

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:

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Death of a (B2B) Salesman

Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. B2B buyers now favor do-it-yourself online options for researching and buying products and services, and they are demanding that B2B sellers fully enable those digital paths to purchase.

Yet too many of today’s B2B companies still insist that B2B buyers interact with sales reps in order to complete a purchase. For a minority of customers who are buying complex and expensive products and services, talking to a sales rep can be a value-added experience.  But for the majority of B2B buyers who are self-educating online about products and services, or who already know what they want, the diversion is inconvenient and unwelcome.

B2B companies that want to stay ahead of the curve must reshape their channel sales strategies and fundamentally rethink the role of their salespeople by:

  • Expanding the role of self-service eCommerce.  The evidence is clear.  Nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.  Further, 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson when they’ve decided what to buy.  B2B companies that wait too long to create self-serve eCommerce websites risk losing share to pure plays and omnichannel competitors. 
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US B2B eCommerce To Reach $1.1 Trillion By 2020

I’m pleased to announce the release of Forrester’s US B2B eCommerce Forecast: 2015 to 2020.  In this first-of-its-kind report, Forrester forecasts that US B2B eCommerce will grow from $780 billion in 2015 to $1.13 trillion in 2020 – at which time it will constitute 12.1% of the total $9.39 trillion US B2B commerce market.

What's behind our 2020 $1.13 trillion US B2B eCommerce forecast?

  • Changes to B2B buyer preferences. Today, 74% of B2B buyers research at least one-half of their work purchases online. In addition, 30% of today's B2B buyers complete at least half of their work purchases online. With that percentage nearly doubling to 56% by 2017, B2B sellers will see a significant volume of offline business move online in the next few years.
  • The opportunity for B2B firms to reduce the cost to serve customers. B2B companies report cutting their cost to serve dramatically by migrating customers online.  In addition, in a 2013 Forrester survey, 56% of B2B eCommerce executives said that they have certain customers that they can only profitably support online.
  • The value of building loyal multichannel B2B customers. Omnichannel customers spend more than single-channel, offline-only customers. For example, 60% of B2B companies report that their B2B buyers spend more overall when those customers interact with multiple channels. Omnichannel B2B customers are also more likely to become repeat and long-term customers.
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The Rapidly Changing Role Of B2B Salespeople In A Digital-First Environment

With B2B buyers rapidly shifting their behavior from researching and buying offline to researching and buying both offline and online, B2B companies are radically reshaping their channel sales strategies. Most notably, B2B sellers are shifting resources and capabilities online as well as fundamentally redefining the role of their salespeople.

Join us for the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum on March 2-3, 2015 in Phoenix to hear Forrester’s latest thinking about the future of B2B selling.  At 11:30a on March 3, we’ll be revealing first-ever research in the space about the number of B2B salespeople who will be displaced in the next several years. In addition, we'll be talking about what B2B companies must do to prepare for a global, digitally-driven, real-time buying environment where software -- as opposed to salespeople -- will dynamically set prices, personalize products and services, and process and service orders 24/7/365.  

Hope to see you there.

Benchmarking B2B eCommerce

Forrester recently partnered with Internet Retailer magazine to survey business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce professionals and produce first-of-its-kind sell-side B2B eCommerce benchmarks. The joint survey developed detailed insights related to B2B budget/spending plans, customer experience comparisons with business-to-consumer (B2C) retailers, feature/function/site component priorities, site measurement/metrics, and mobile and tablet plans.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of two reports that analyze and discuss B2B eCommerce sales and marketing benchmarks and technology spending benchmarks. In “Benchmarking B2B eCommerce Sales and Marketing Initiatives” and “Benchmarking B2B eCommerce Technology Investment Initiatives,” Forrester found that B2B companies are:

  • Increasing customer channel-shift and seeing improved year-over-year metrics. A significant percentage of offline customers are moving online.  In fact, 86% of the B2B companies we surveyed said that they had recently migrated offline customers online, while only 14% said that they’d moved online customers offline. B2B eCommerce companies also report that they’re seeing improved Average Order Values (AOVs), conversion rates, and number of lines per order in 2013 versus 2012.  Moreover, B2B eCommerce professionals indicate that they are generally maintaining their margins year over year.
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The New And Emerging World Of B2B Commerce

Consider this. The iPad is not yet four years old...and 69% of B2B companies expect to stop publishing print catalogs entirely within the next three to five years.  In a world driven by such profound change, one cannot help but ask, “What will B2B eCommerce look like in the years to come?”

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of a report that peers over the horizon and begins to address the important question of where B2B eCommerce is heading in the next few years.  In “The New And Emerging World Of B2B Commerce,” Forrester finds that B2B companies are:

  • Calibrating for a shift in B2B buyer behavior.  B2B companies are responding to B2B customers researching and buying online and on mobile devices by creating digital assets where they once only had print and human assets.  Further, they are actively preparing for a reality where 50% or more of their total customer base will be buying online from them within three years.
  • Developing content-enabled commerce.  B2B buyers are looking for detailed product specifications, how-to videos, deep and broad FAQs, etc. to satisfy their insatiable appetite for content. In response, B2B companies are increasingly producing and syndicating targeted content aimed at driving purchase interest across multiple channels and preventing B2B customers from abandoning shopping carts.
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A First-Of-Its-Kind Piece Of Research: The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013

For years, customers have asked Forrester to publish a Forrester Wave evaluation specific to B2B commerce solutions. Well, that day has finally arrived! Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of our very first Forrester Wave dedicated exclusively to B2B commerce suites.

In “The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013,” we found that IBM, hybris (an SAP company), Oracle Commerce, and Intershop lead the pack. Additionally, we found that Insite Software and NetSuite offer competitive options. In a separate blog post, coauthor Peter Sheldon explains in more detail how we ranked the vendors.

What’s at stake overall for B2B companies is no less than a piece of the $559 billion US B2B eCommerce market. To earn a share, B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals at all levels of maturity require a world-class B2B commerce suite that:

  • Offers a customer experience standard comparable to leading B2C sites. We frequently hear from our B2B clients that the technology should deliver an “Amazon-like experience.” Fortunately, several of the solutions we evaluated possess the functionality to deliver robust search and navigation, value-added recommendations and reviews, and 24x7x365 ordering and servicing — both online and on mobile devices. In addition, most come ready out of the box to integrate with back-office systems and complex order orchestration and fulfillment workflows.
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What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.” So whether you’re a B2B company just starting to sell online, or a world-class B2B eCommerce website managing billions of dollars in sales, you need to know which metrics to track and how to benchmark your efforts against your competitors. Your business depends on it.

Last week, Forrester published three reports focused on helping B2B eCommerce professionals measure and benchmark the impact that digital channels have on both their online and offline sales. The reports, new additions to Forrester’s B2B eCommerce playbook, are designed to guide insiders through the process of defining, prioritizing, and optimizing key measures – both for internal purposes and external comparisons.   

  • Measuring The Fundamentals Of B2B eCommerce.  Understand the value that B2B eCommerce metrics can have across all channels and lines of business, and what roadblocks have historically stood in the way of B2B eCommerce professionals’ measurement strategies.  Learn how to define critical B2B eCommerce metrics and align them with your most important B2B business objectives.
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B2B eCommerce Has Arrived

Last month, IRCE hosted its first-ever B2B eCommerce content track at its big show in Chicago.   500+ attended my keynote session in the morning...and Grainger’s VP of eCommerce, Paul Miller, saw similar turnout for his presentation later in the day.  All in all, impressive numbers for an inaugural session series.

In 2012, Oracle hosted the lone B2B eCommerce event.  But by my count, 2013 will see at least six exclusively B2B eCommerce shows: IRCE B2B eCommerce track, Oracle B2B Commerce Summit, hybris Gameplan Chicago, hybris Gameplan Berlin, B2B eCommerce Congress, and B2B Multichannel. In short, B2B eCommerce has arrived. 

To that end, I’m happy to report that I’ve published two pieces of research in the last few months that explore how and why B2B companies are delivering high quality eCommerce online (and on mobile devices as well):   

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The Art and Science of Building a World-Class B2B eCommerce Business

B2B eCommerce executives today don’t lack for data. What they’re screaming for is insight. With our new playbooks framework, busy executives can go to one place to dip their toes in a subject matter, or fully immerse themselves for deeper insight. Either way, they can move up to speed quickly and smartly about a specific subject. 

Today I’m pleased to announce that Forrester is officially releasing its very first playbook dedicated to B2B eCommerce. Inside you’ll find key insights and critical information specific to the rapidly-emerging B2B eCommerce space. This playbook is designed to help you:

  • Discover the opportunity. Study the fertile landscape that is B2B eCommerce and learn about what Forrester defines as a customer-facing front-end B2B eCommerce market. One that will reach $559 billion by the end of 2013. See how high-performers have developed a compelling vision for the space and a clear business case to prove an always critical return on investment (both documents to be released in the coming months). 
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