Today, we released our inaugural Forrester Wave evaluation of B2B commerce suites. In a sister blog post, my colleague Andy Hoar, with whom I coauthored this report, explains why client demand for this research has exploded over the past 12 months, with manufacturers and distributors grappling with how to better serve their sales channels through digital experiences. In writing this report, Andy and I have spent the past six months evaluating the B2B commerce capabilities of dozens of vendors. Despite casting the net wide, our research found that although it’s common for vendors to provide “B2B lite” functionality for their clients — such as supporting unique pricing for employees — only a subset of the broader commerce platform vendor community can truly cater for complex B2B business models with support for distributors, resellers, partner networks, employees, retail stores, and direct B2C all from a single platform. To differentiate the wannabes from the bona fide leaders, Forrester rejigged its established B2C commerce suite scoring criteria to emphasize:
B2B commerce features. We added all-new criteria to evaluate how these solutions solve unique B2B problems, such as quotes; complex pricing lists; eProcurement; product configuration and customization; guided selling; bulk order entry; dealer management; and account, contract, and budget management, to name a few.
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.
eCommerce is becoming more globally pervasive. Therefore, retailers must continually adapt their expansion strategies to reflect changing retail consumption behaviors. But what makes a country ready for eCommerce? When making investment decisions, it's certainly important to get the facts about macroeconomic conditions, Internet access, and consumer market size. However, there is much more driving the eCommerce market.
In order for firms to get a full view of a country’s online retail readiness, they must also consider its online activity, consumer payment behavior, and postal courier infrastructure. In a recent study conducted by Forrester's ForecastView team, we investigated 55 global economies to discern the readiness of each eCommerce market. The underlying quantitative framework captures 25 variables under four pillars: consumer behavior, merchant adoption, macroeconomic conditions, and the retail opportunity. The analysis is distilled in the Forrester Readiness Index: eCommerce (FRI).
Get ready for the barrage of bad speculation about Twitter and its imminent dominance of online retail. If you didn’t hear already, Twitter hired Nathan Hubbard, a former Ticketmaster exec, to figure out its commerce revenue stream. Interesting yes, but game-changing, no. Here’s why: startups tend to look for smart people first and figure out their jobs later. The mentality often goes like this: “We need to figure out what we’re going to do in X, this guy has a rock star background in it, let him build a team and see what happens.” And even if the person doesn't succeed, it's OK. They move on. These people have great resumes. That said, here are the biggest reasons for my question marks around Twitter’s success in commerce:
What works best in commerce is something Twitter already gives away for free, which is its tweets. For example, some of the most successful users of Twitter in a retail context are companies looking to liquidate inventory or send notes about limited supply of promotions, like the Dell Outlet or Groupon — all done effectively via a tweet. In many ways, a tweet is like an email title — it draws people into a click with a few sexy words. The challenge is that tweets have the same problem as emails: they don’t make their technology parents any money because everyone gets to use the tools for free.
I recently published a report on The European eCommerce Landscape; it shows that more than two-thirds of European online consumers are shopping online, but there are big differences among the different countries. The top categories bought online are travel, clothing and accessories, leisure and entertainment, and consumer electronics. Forrester’s European Technographics® data also reveals that European consumers increasingly prefer the Internet to high-street shops for purchases of music, computer software, event tickets, and videos:
In recent years, the Internet has become the leading channel for media products. In 2012, more European online consumers bought videos/DVDs, music, event tickets, and computer software online than offline. These online media purchases fall into two categories:
1. Digital (sold direct as a download).
2. Physical (a product that an Internet retailer delivers).
I recently received a direct mail piece from one of my favorite retailers with a massive ad in that proclaimed "We Beat Internet Prices." Now, I am a big fan of straightforward and robust value propositions, but these types of brand exclamations are antiquated and add little value to customers, mainly because they simply reward customers for being good bargain hunters. Instead of simply stating you beat your competitor’s prices, employing strategic pricing and customer engagement initiatives creates real distinct value to your customers by:
Showing them you can execute on your low price promise and not just talk about it. Employing a holistic pricing strategy meets your customer’s price expectations can indicate to your customers that you are truly ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to offering the lowest price.
Building your credibility. Understanding your customers’ needs and offering solutions that facilitate decisions and generate engagement builds credibility. Simply shouting that you match Internet prices does little to build credibility with your customers.
Helping them with real problems. Shoppers don’t need guidance on finding the lowest price -- they need to understand how your brand and solution help them compared to your competition.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with NetSuite in San Jose at its customer forum — SuiteWorld. The event gave me a long, overdue deep-dive into their current strategy and the chance to speak with many of their customers one-on-one.
The big announcement from the event was the availability of its manufacturing solution. The evening before the event started I had a good conversation with our Sourcing Analyst Liz Herbert — who spends a lot of her life focused on the SaaS providers — and asked her why NetSuite was not growing more quickly. Her response was that its lack of a manufacturing solution is partly to blame. So when it was announced by CEO Zach Nelson the next morning, it certainly helped to fill me with confidence about its future.
This is a guest post from Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals
Today, eBusiness professionals are struggling with how to engage their clients around the globe via a website that meets varying language and cultural needs. Additionally, they’re faced with deciding between the different technical implementation methods with language service providers. Forrester has recently published a report to help eBusiness professionals navigate the maze of solutions and vendors at hand to help implement their translation and localization strategy.
Before evaluating solutions and signing contracts, eBusiness professionals must consider these important questions:
What is the right mix of translation methods? There is no replacement for translation done by a professional translator in terms of quality output, but the sheer volume of website content, the increasing demand for quick turnaround, and the number of languages needed far exceed the capacity of using all human translation. Many enterprises use a combination of translation methods (e.g., human translation, machine translation, human-aided machine translation, crowdsourcing) to execute on their international initiatives and fulfill their translation needs while keeping project costs under control.
Coca-Cola recently announced that it is jumping into the red-hot Indian online retail arena by selling directly to consumers and small businesses, a first for a FMCG (CPG) company in India. While the Indian online retail story is still being written and Forrester is bullish about the long-term prospects for this channel, the immediate challenges need to be managed effectively.
Logistics and fulfillment are the largest challenges of them all in India, with more than half of all online retail sales being done using cash on delivery (COD). While COD is essential in a nascent eCommerce market, it can have a large negative impact on business margins. This is exacerbated in a nascent market where consumers are testing this new medium of ordering goods, as the return rates can be quite high. In India, reportedly, the return rates can vary from 5% to more than 25%, depending on the category, the demographics of the online buyers, and their online tenure (experience with the Internet).
Is Jon Stewart’s recent online success in China a sign of new opportunities for non-Chinese brands? In China, the demand for global brands and content continues to grow - to the point that it has spread into new industries like comedy shows, where cultural cues are paramount to success. Jon Stewart is just one of many western icons with newfound success in China, all in part to the accessibility of new consumers through the internet.
Online businesses selling anything from humor, makeup, or shoes to baby formula can’t ignore these demands for their products in China: More and more consumers are exposed to global brands of all kinds through online offerings and travel. There are huge advantages to being one of the first brands to be noticed in the market, but just showing up isn’t enough. To be successful, learn from Jon Stewart and:
Localize your offering. Give your consumers things they can relate to and use. Jon Stewart did this by coming up with culturally relevant jokes about China’s culture. For retailers this could mean offering products that respond to needs specific to consumers in China, like Godiva’s Chinese New Year Chocolates.
Develop a fan base online. By giving your very social Chinese consumers a platform to talk about your brand, you can generate free marketing and new insights. Jon Stewart’s fans aggregate his videos in one place and work together to translate and upload subtitles on his video clips.