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.
Over the past four years, the commerce technology market has undergone significant consolidation. Commerce technology is now table stakes for any enterprise software vendor with a focus on systems of engagement. Consequently, Forrester has observed an unprecedented chain of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in this space over the past four years with eBay, IBM, Oracle and SAP alone, having spent in aggregate over $10 billion on commerce related acquisitions. Furthermore venture capital and private equity firms have been making big bets in this space. Between them, Shopify, Volusion and Big Commerce have accumulated $337 million in funding in the past few years, while Siris Capital Group are set to shortly complete their acquisition of Digital River for $840 million. Beyond these headline transactions, dozens of smaller deals have been done, with vendors including Demandware and NetSuite both having been on acquisition binges’ in the past 12 months.
Over the past 3 days some 30,000 retail attendees from across the globe gathered in New York’s Javits Center for the annual National Retail Federation Big Show. This year there was a visible increase in both the number of commerce technology vendors exhibiting and the size of their respective booths. For the eBusiness, omni-channel, merchandising, digital and business technology teams in attendance, 2015 will represent another year of robust investment in commerce suite technology. However, retailers face a daunting task differentiating between the vendors in what is an increasingly mature solution space. As luck would have it, Forrester has just released our 2015 Commerce Suite Platforms Wave update to help you. We spent the last 4 months putting eleven of the leading commerce technology vendors through a grueling process of due diligence, product demos, capability assessments and customer reference checks. We looked beyond features to examine toolset usability, extensibility, integration of suite modules, and innovation strategy. Here’s what we found:
Demandware, hybris, IBM, and Oracle Commerce lead the pack. These four vendors represent the best of the best and reflect a solution space that has been maturing since its inception 15 years ago. These vendors go head-to-head in almost every midmarket and enterprise commerce deal and for the buyers of these solutions, the ultimate selection decision often comes down to price, vision, and alliances more than functionality and features. When it comes to the core capabilities (such as pricing, offers, site search, promotion, carts, and checkout), these vendors all pack a heavy punch, with extensive, mature capabilities that, frankly, go beyond the needs of many of their clients.
In the first season of the hugely popular CBS Undercover Boss series, GSI Commerce founder and CEO Michael Rubin went undercover for a week in one of his firm’s eCommerce distribution centers to find out what it was really like to work on the front lines. Last week, SucharitaMulpuru and I were invited by eBay Enterprise to follow in Michael's footsteps and go work the floor in one of eBay Enterprise’s (formerly GSI Commerce) largest eCommerce distribution centers at the peak of the holiday shopping season. Now luckily we didn’t have to wear any stick on facial hair as we weren’t actually undercover, but we did put in a grueling four hour shift: picking, sorting and packing online orders (yes they made us work).
The experience was fascinating, humbling and a reminder that you can have the best eCommerce website in the world, but it means nothing on Cyber Monday unless you can get those orders out to your customers in time. So what did we observe from our brief career change?
This week Google started promoting mobile optimized websites in their search results:
Frankly I'm amazed it's taken Google this long to implement, however for mobile users it's a welcome addition to the search experience that alleviates the pain of clicking on a link only to find a desktop site at the other end. Now the consumer is in control and armed upfront with a Google endorsement of mobile readiness. This strategy is part of an evolution of preemptive warnings for mobile search users. Earlier this year Google started warning mobile users of destinations using Flash or destinations with broken links that would result in a re-direction to the destination homepage.
Order management systems (OMS’s) typically haven’t garnered the same attention as other commerce technology. Orchestrating online orders from the point of purchase through to the point of fulfillment was viewed (through the eyes of eBusiness professionals) as a back-office process. In fact, eBusiness professionals have historically paid little attention to these systems and were happy for them to be developed and minded by supply chain or enterprise architecture professionals. But like the awkward kid at school, Omnichannel OMS systems have blossomed and turned into the must-have technology for almost every eBusiness leader.
Have you ever stopped to think where your last online order came from and how it got to your house? We might assume that the package on our doorstep has probably just made a lengthy and complex journey across the country (courtesy of the belly of a UPS freighter, a handful of trucks, a few miles of conveyor belts and some good old human muscle) from a large, nondescript distribution center located in the suburbs of a city we've barely heard of. You may be surprised to learn then, that today it is increasingly likely that the package at your door came no further than a few miles down the road from a locally based store of the retailer you ordered online from. Of course, as consumers, we don’t really care where our purchases came from or how they found their way to our doorstep - as long the right merchandise arrives damage-free and on time.
I’m delighted to announce that Forrester has hired a new Principal Analyst, Brendan Witcher, to bolster our coverage of commerce technology. Brendan joins Forrester from a retail background, having most recently held several leadership positions in eCommerce, CRM and strategic planning at Guitar Center. Prior to Guitar Center, Brendan also held senior eCommerce and direct marketing roles at Harry & David. Brendan will be based in Forrester’s headquarters in Cambridge, MA.
With the addition of Brendan to the team, Forrester is making an investment to grow our coverage of commerce technology across the four stages of the customer lifecycle (discover, explore, buy and engage). Vendors and clients alike have already been asking how we’ll be dividing research coverage across our ever growing team. The answer is that we will intentionally be collaborating on much of the research, so expect to see some or all of us on inquiries, briefings as well as authors of much of our respective research. Each of us on the team will also be specializing in certain areas in addition to collaborating on core commerce technology research. The 1000 ft view looks like this:
I will continue to lead Forrester’s research on commerce platform, mobile commerce, digital experience management (DXM) and order management technology.
Adam continues to research and write about the digital retail store and will lead our research on the commerce service provider landscape in addition to order management, site merchandising, and omnichannel logistics and fulfillment.
This is a guest post by Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.
The breakneck pace of technology innovation and changing consumer behavior is having a profound impact on business. To keep up with business growth plans, competitive threats, and consumer demands, online companies must support global markets, digitally empowered customers, and evolving sales and service channels, putting ever-more stress on the eCommerce engine.
eBusiness professionals are taking stock of their legacy or incumbent eCommerce technology and finding that the solutions aren’t tactically functional, aren’t omnichannel-ready, and/or aren’t leveraging sophisticated enough data insights to deliver on the demands in the age of the customer.
The technology powering eCommerce is becoming more complicated, too. There are more stakeholders than ever, more data, more integrations, and so on. In many cases, replatforming projects run over budget and are delivered late. Talk to any eBusiness leader who has been through the process, and you're bound to hear a war story or two. These projects are never easy, but as eCommerce technology — and the market that drives it — evolves, replatforming initiatives are inevitable.
Selecting the right commerce platform for your business is important. But a car needs more than an engine to both function and be used to its full potential. eBusiness professionals must understand the following before embarking on an eCommerce replatforming program: