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.
This is a guest post from Rachel Roizen, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.
Gamification, which Forrester defines as the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior, has rightfully been a hot topic of debate in many roles and many industries. We’ve blogged about it here, and written reports on success stories ranging from Club Psych on the USA Network to the use of games in education.
The banking industry has been using some features of gaming for years, such as by offering redeemable points based on credit card purchases, but some remain wary of combining games with finances. Forrester’s view is that game mechanics can be used to draw in new and existing digitally connected customers. Digital teams at financial firms that have begun experimenting with gamification are seeing positive results, including increases to online engagement, online banking use, product sales, and social influence. Here are four leading firms that are betting on gamification and implementing it in innovative ways:
Over the past few years, extensive media coverage has been dedicated to the billions of dollars that tourists spend while shopping in the US and what retailers are doing to cater to these foreign buyers. Coverage of this trend has often focused on Brazilian and Chinese shoppers in major US cities (with travelers from both Brazil and China having been dubbed “walking stimulus packages”), but tourist shopping is not just relegated to large urban centers. Retailers in a variety of areas are looking to tap into the rising middle class of consumers abroad, many of whom are taking advantage of relaxed visa restrictions or circumventing sky-high prices in their home countries.
Increasingly, retailers are looking at ways to engage these shoppers, with some turning to the online channel:
One of the most common themes we hear from firms looking to invest in pushing their digital agenda forwards is “show me the money.” It's not that eBusiness professionals don’t believe us when we say that investing in a customer-centric, flexible future vision is a good thing. In fact, most of the time they are absolutely on board and nod sagely, frowning while we describe this bright and shiny vision. They then scratch their heads and ask that trickiest of questions, “how?”
In just a few short days — six, to be precise — the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate will kick in to high gear as the doors swing wide into the public exchanges for open enrollment. And if Americans were only dimly aware that healthcare reform was indeed happening, a lot more are paying attention now, thanks to splashy efforts to hold the stop-gap spending bill hostage to language de-funding the ACA. Further fueling awareness is all the ongoing news about employers that will now no longer cover spouses eligible for insurance through their own employers, and large group employers like Walgreens that will push employees to a private exchange, essentially getting out of the business of health insurance.
So, if there’s one word that describes the emotion among health plans and group and voluntary benefits insurers, it’s “uncertainty.” That uncertainly extends to what the customer experience will be like on the public and private exchanges. And as I called out in a recent blog, if the website experience we recently scored is any indication, there will be some pretty unhappy shoppers, because the exchanges and health plan websites haven’t made the shopping and buying journey easy.
But while a consumer in 2013 might suck it up because they just gotta have health insurance this year, they won’t put up with it at renewal time. We expect a lot of churn, especially among the customers the plans most want to retain. Of course, we’re talking about the:
Good — healthy and wellness-minded, and very likely younger.
I spent several days in Buenos Aires last week which was fantastic – great fun and really helpful in terms of understanding what’s happening in the eCommerce market. Wednesday was the annual eCommerce Day event: It was packed with well over a thousand people in the audience. I presented on global eCommerce trends that are set to impact the market in Argentina, and also met with a number of online retailers.
A handful of takeaways from these conversations:
eCommerce in Argentina is still at an early stage. There is tremendous interest in driving eCommerce in Argentina, but the real growth is yet to come. Today’s roughly $2B online retail market is dominated by MercadoLibre, with traditional retailers like Falabella, Garbarino and Walmart increasingly making the online channel a priority. Newer entrants like Dafiti are also carving out a niche in categories such as apparel.
Intra-regional cross-border eCommerce is very limited today. There was much discussion about cross-border eCommerce with China, but today little cross-border eCommerce exists within Latin America itself. Online retailers are anxious to tap into consumers in other countries in the region, but few have made concerted efforts in this area.
Most mobile initiatives are relatively new and focused exclusively on smartphones. Most online retailers’ mobile initiatives are in their infancy in Argentina. Many larger retailers are just rolling out mobile offerings (both apps and websites), and virtually all are focused on smartphones rather than tablets.
Mobile is fundamentally changing how businesses need to think about customer and employee engagement. Why? Consumers and employees expect anywhere anytime access to information and services in their moment of need. They expect highly contextual or relevant experiences that allow them to complete tasks quickly.
Mobile strategies have moved well beyond shrinking desktop experiences down to small screens.
I get asked a lot, “Well, who is doing this well?” My answer: “Very few companies.” Sophistication in mobile services has become less obvious. Companies with a solid vision are working hard in the background to put infrastructure in place – to create a services layer and APIs – that allows access to their core. As Scott Wilson of United so eloquently said, “We needed a single source of truth.” I would add that you need one ready to deliver real-time information in a consumer's or employee’s context. Expect it to handle a lot of volume as well.
When it comes to benchmarking, too many business professionals are sitting in their inflatable kayaks on the surface of the Gulf of Alaska. They can’t see below the surface to see what their competitors are doing. They treat mobile as a project rather than a product.
Last week Forrester published a report highlighting the benefits and challenges of rolling out a mobile point of service (mPOS) solution. Increasingly, retail professionals are turning to mPOS technology to help bolster customer engagement, lower store expenses, and improve the efficiency of sales-related functions. It’s clear that retailers are eager to implement this capability, but realizing a solid return on investment is not guaranteed.
Ensure your mPOS solution meets core needs. Tailor your mPOS integration to the needs of your customers and associates while leveraging the strengths of your business model. One-size mPOS does not fit all, and strategically creating a solution that exceeds your customers’ needs while bolstering your existing business model will yield the best results.
Expose your data in a scalable way. mPOS will improve customer engagement by combining the benefits of a physical interaction with the robust data of the digital experience if data is exposed correctly.
Focus on simplifying tasks first. Deploy initiatives that create efficiencies in store operations first, and then focus on developing strategies and solutions that bolster the customer experience. Today, measurable ROI is easier to define through store efficiencies than through improvements in customer experience.
Back in July, I wrote about our upcoming report on tools and technology for eCommerce globalization. We’ve just posted the report (clients can view it here) – in it, we dive into the types of eCommerce solutions that brands are turning to as they expand globally and highlight some of the vendors that excel in these areas.
Overall, brands expanding internationally are looking for their technology partners to help them:
Launch international offerings quickly and efficiently. It’s common for companies to ponder global online expansion for years, then decide to build and launch new offerings in a matter of a few months. It’s generally up to the eBusiness leader to manage these rollouts, often with a limited budget. eBusiness leaders who know that global expansion is on the horizon must plan ahead and select technology partners that can help them meet these (often highly ambitious) goals.
Reach consumers through more than just the website. Global eCommerce expansion used to mean launching a series of new websites in different countries, perhaps with a mobile offering following several months or even years after the initial rollout. Today, however, eBusiness leaders need to plan for nearly simultaneous offerings across a variety of devices and touchpoints. eBusiness leaders are also increasingly relying on their technology partners to assist with additional channels such as marketplaces.