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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US B2B eCommerce Sales To Reach $559 Billion By The End Of 2013

Today Forrester is releasing a report entitled “Key Trends in B2B eCommerce for 2013” that, for the first time in over 10 years, sizes the US business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce market in the US.  Forrester estimates that by the end of 2013, customer-facing front-end B2B eCommerce will reach $559 billion.  This figure includes transactions placed online (independent of whether payment is taken online or not), but does exclude EDI-based commerce.

By comparison, US B2C eCommerce will be a $252B market--which would make B2B eCommerce fully twice the size of B2C eCommerce. In addition to sizing the US B2B eCommerce market, “Key Trends in B2B eCommerce for 2013” explores three important trends in B2B eCommerce for the coming year:

  • Ever-Growing Demand For B2C-like B2B eCommerce Experiences. With key B2C sites having set a high standard for what constitutes a compelling online customer experience, B2B eCommerce companies are now actively retooling their existing B2B sites or building whole new sites to deliver B2C-like eCommerce experiences.
  • Increasing Channel Conflict Between Direct Sales Organizations and eCommerce Operations. As the eCommerce option becomes a more viable alternative to a traditional direct sales model, companies are increasingly migrating their offline customers to more cost-effective, self-serve, online-only environments.  In addition, they’re now focusing their sales reps exclusively on acquiring and retaining higher-margin and higher-volume key account customers.
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15 Minutes Into The Future

I often tell audiences that if you want to see the future of B2B eCommerce, look to the present and recent past of B2C eCommerce. Be it personalization, robust search, or targeted pricing, B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals today are closely studying B2C eCommerce for proven opportunities to drive more business online.   

On October 25 at the Forrester eBusiness and Channel Strategy Forum in Chicago, I’ll be highlighting how the best and most innovative B2B eCommerce organizations are incorporating B2C best practices into their plans, processes, and platforms. At the Forum, I’ll be discussing: 

  •  The impact consumerization is having on B2B eCommerce. Because all B2B customers are also B2C consumers, they’re comparing their B2B eCommerce experiences with gold-standard B2C eCommerce experiences from the likes of Amazon. And like B2C consumers these days, B2B customers demand that products and services be delivered faster, less expensively, and more conveniently than ever before. The bar has been raised . . . and B2B companies must deliver.
  • How successful B2B eCommerce organizations are leveraging classic B2C eCommerce principles. Early winners in the B2B eCommerce space have successfully incorporated B2C-like personalization, recommendations, interactivity, search, self-help, and ratings/reviews into their B2B eCommerce shopping experiences. Not everything from B2C will translate perfectly, or even at all, into B2B. But much will. And much already has.  
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Lessons Learned: What B2C eCommerce Can Teach B2B

In our new report, B2B eCommerce: Going from Surviving to Thriving By Adopting Proven B2C Principles, we assess the current state of B2B eCommerce, what impact B2C has had on customers’ expectations for B2B eCommerce, and how B2B eCommerce professionals are leveraging lessons learned from B2C to drive more business online. 

We conclude that B2B eCommerce enterprises have something to learn from their more experienced B2C brethren who have set a standard for customer expectations and established a series of eCommerce best practices. A few key findings:   

  • B2B eCommerce is still in its infancy but making impressive gains. In 2009, the latest year for which data was available, the US Census Bureau reported that US B2B eCommerce (net of EDI) totaled $352 billion. By comparison, that’s over twice the size of the $145B market for US B2C eCommerce. Further, a growing number of companies now report that B2B eCommerce will represent nearly 50% of their total sales within a few short years.    
  • Consumerization is driving the B2B eCommerce experience.  All B2B customers are also B2C consumers. And like it or not, they’re comparing their B2B eCommerce experiences with gold-standard B2C eCommerce experiences from Amazon and others. And like B2C consumers these days, B2B customers demand products faster, less expensively, and more conveniently than ever before.
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AmazonSupply . . . Amazon's Camel's Nose Under The B2B eCommerce Tent?

For years the cognoscenti have speculated that Amazon would make an official move into B2B eCommerce. Well . . . they’re finally right. Just a few days ago, Amazon launched their first purpose-built B2B eCommerce site called AmazonSupply.

And yes . . . the entrenched and established e-distributers in the B2B space should be worried.  Here’s why:

  • B2C core assets are very leveragable into B2B. Online merchandising is online merchandising. Logistical support is logistical support.  World-class customer service is world-class customer service. And don’t forget about economies of scale and low prices. It can all be extended into this new space. And Amazon’sB2C infrastructure is similar enough to the infrastructure required to sell B2B that Amazon can do it -- and with relative ease.
  • Integration with Amazon’s buying process is inherently powerful. By bringing their universal login and one-click checkout to the table, Amazon’s vaunted ease-of-use and frictionless eCommerce will now live fully within AmazonSupply’s B2B offering. Customer behavior will not have to change and the user experience will remain second-to-none. Both are powerful influences. 
  • Amazon Marketplace is a force multiplier. Now accounting for nearly 1/3 of Amazon’s unit shipment volume, Amazon Marketplace has clearly established itself as a force to be reckoned with.  AmazonSupply nicely complements the already compelling Amazon Marketplace value proposition for B2B companies and further expands Amazon's B2B eCommerce story.
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