I’ve recently been studying what a customer-obsessed operating model means for Purchasing functions and the software they use. I've concluded that Purchasing needs to transform its approach to visibility and control, due to the tradical impact that Mobility has on procure-to-pay (P2P) processes. I've been warning ePurchasing software companies for years about the potential impact of Mobility, but while a few visionaries have heard and acted on the message, most are lagging behind. That may be OK while their customers – mostly Finance and Procurement professionals – are similarly behind the times, but they may be unable to catch up when the market finally starts to demand fully mobile solutions. And customer-obsessed organizations will demand mobile P2P solutions, because they need to enable employees to quickly and easily buy the goods and services they need, so that those employees can get on with their main job, which is winning and serving customers.
What the laggard vendors miss is that Mobility is not about a user interface that works on iOS and Android; its about making the software so smart that it works well in a mobile context. Many product managers tell me proudly “our software works the same on a mobile as it does on a PC”, but that completely misses the point; mobile apps needs to work completely differently from the way traditional PC-based software works.
Take requisition and invoice approval as an example. One leading P2P vendor claims that over 70% of approvals are either performed in its mobile app or via its email response feature. I would argue that few of these approvals are worth the paper on which they are rubber-stamped. A manager can check many aspects of a transaction on a PC because they can see a lot of information on their screen and can drill down to investigate potential problems. They can’t do that on a phone, because:
If you’re trying to use e-commerce in a B2B context, it is no longer safe to ignore the procurement role within your customers’ organization. At the moment you may be able to market and sell successfully direct to end-user customers, but not for long. The growing imperative for chief procurement officers (CPOs) to guarantee compliance with various external laws and internal policies is driving a much tougher stance on so-called rogue buying.
I’ve been studying the customer’s side of B2B e-commerce for a number of years. The clients I speak with work in procurement, finance, and the part of I.T. that supports those two functions. One of their most common questions is: “how can I prevent employees buying stuff directly from sell-side websites?” This used to be purely due to concerns about cost—they assumed that their e-procurement application would direct employees to approved suppliers who would, they believed, be the cheapest. Now, however, the bigger issue is supplier risk. Issues such as corporate social responsibility, conflict minerals, corrupt practices, data security, and so on, are forcing CPOs to be much tougher in preventing purchases from unapproved suppliers.
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.
2015 is upon us: in Forrester’s just-released “Predictions 2015: US B2C And B2B eCommerce Players Will Struggle To Keep Up With Customers” report, we predict a number of key issues will challenge B2C eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals in the coming year, while a number of new and exciting—but not pressing—topics will circulate. B2C eBusiness & channel strategy professionals ought to know which key issues to watch and which over-hyped trends to ignore.
What Will Happen: Flexible Fulfillment is the new term for omnichannel
Two months ago, SAP announced their intention to acquire Hybris and back then I blogged about the potential implications for Forrester’s clients. Today, SAP has formally completed the acquisition, which brings further clarity for the road ahead:
Hybris will operate as an independent business unit. Hybris will operate as an "SAP Company" rather than a "Product of SAP” and will retain its existing sales and development teams. This is a positive move for existing and future Hybris customers and ensures that the Hybris solution will continue to remain agnostic of other SAP products and technology. For now there will be no bundling of products, Hybris will not become part of the ERP or CRM suites or vice versa, however on the SAP side of the house there will be development in building lightweight ‘connector’ integrations for those customers that want to run Hybris alongside an existing SAP ERP or CRM infrastructure.
Customers will be able to buy from SAP or Hybris. In the near future, the on-premise edition of Hybris will become available on the SAP price list. For existing SAP customers looking at Hybris, this will give them the flexibility to contract directly with SAP and leverage their existing master service agreement. Given that Hybris will be available through both the SAP and Hybris sales channel, customers should expect price parity - it is unlikely that SAP reps will have much leeway to apply deep corporate discounting when selling Hybris.
With growth comes investment, so given that eBusinesses across the globe continue to experience double-digit compound annual online sales growth, it should come as little surprise that 66% of these same firms are planning to increase their investment in commerce technology in 2014. In my latest research report “Commerce Technology Investment And Platform Trends — 2013”, Forrester polled 49 eBusiness leaders to understand their investment and technology implementation plans for the next 12 months. Here’s what the top of the investment priority list looks like:
Omnichannel Execution. Omnichannel initiatives have become a major focus for every retailer and brand with a physical brick-and-mortar presence. eBusiness teams (and their counterparts in store operations) are rushing to implement the following programs among others: pickup-in/ship-to store, store inventory visibility, ship from store, and associate enablement.
eCommerce Replatforming. eCommerce platforms are the backbone of any digital channel, and replacing legacy home-grown systems or outdated (and often unsupported) platforms remains a top priority. With these platforms now supporting omnichannel programs such as “buy-online, pick-up in-store”, having a scalable and flexible platform that can support future growth is an imperative.
Our clients continue to realize sustained online revenue growth which means many eBusiness leaders have both the funds and backing to continue to invest heavily in commerce technology. Across the board, retailers, consumer brands, and industrial suppliers alike are significantly bolstering their capital investment programs to ensure they stay at the forefront of digital innovation while ensuring that their online, fulfillment, and back-office systems are ready to scale for anticipated growth over the next five years. Subsequently Forrester is hiring for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area.
After repeated false starts of trying to build its way into the enterprise eCommerce space, SAP has finally decided to do a U-turn on its strategy and buy its way in. For years there has been intense speculation that SAP might acquire hybris, and behind the scenes there has certainly been much umming and ahing over the enterprise software giant’s commerce strategy. Hybris has been on a tear recently, and until today was widely expected to file for an IPO in 2014; however, the firm’s destiny has for some time been in the hands of its VC investors (Huntsman Gay Global Capital, Meritech Capital Partners and Greylock Israel). The decision to sell to SAP was likely influenced by these VC firms who, between them, have a controlling state in the firm. The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed, but given hybris’ strong earnings over the past four quarters (the bulk of which was directly from license revenues) and with the looming path of an IPO, we can speculate that SAP paid a substantial price tag — although the terms of the transaction are likely complicated.
So the big surprise is not why, but why now? There is no single answer to this question — but we can look at the factors that have increasingly piled on the pressure for SAP to change direction and pull the trigger on this acquisition:
Today hybris announced it has secured an additional $30M in funding from two Silicon Valley VC giants (Meritech Capital Partners and Greylock Israel). This funding comes only 18 months after hybris took a significant funding round from Huntsman Gay Global Capital to secure their acquisition of iCongo in August 2011. Despite an unprecedented period of growth over the past two years the firm has remained profitable. So why has hybris taken this additional round of funding and what does it mean for customers, prospects and partners?
It allows hybris to retain independence while growing credibility and market share. This additional round of funding buys hybris a window of security to maintain their independence in the market, allowing them to focus on R&D and scalable expansion without the distractions of the need to do an IPO or the threat of acquisition. By adding two leading VC firms as investors, the firm is clearly signaling to the market their intent to solidify their position as a global leader in the commerce technology market.
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).