People (analysts) are finally talking about B2B e-commerce. It may have taken a while, but most B2B executives are starting to wake up and feel the winds of change. According to many industry analysts, this e-commerce breeze is going to quickly turn into a gust that could propel or destroy many long-standing customer relationships.
To better understand the near future, we should look at the (not-so-distant) past. In the past ten years, major disruptive players won the B2C/Retail market — Amazon and eBay offered a better way to find, research, and buy online. Retailers either did not have the online tools, or their online tools did not meet buyer expectations, so they often lost the more progressive customer to the online alternative. Many retailers did not have the content, experience or fulfillment savvy to compete, and, for some retailers, they got lost in the wind.
The B2B gusts will be more intense than B2C…
Today we are seeing a repeat of this phenomenon, but in the B2B space. According to many analysts, these winds of change will be much stronger, more complicated and last longer than B2C. As consumers, we may not see it, but there are 3x as many B2B transactions as B2C. This estimate makes sense if you consider the fact that stores, dealers, distributors and suppliers also need a better way to find and procure goods — online. Bottom line? B2B is NOT a niche. It makes up a bulk of the market.
The Analyst Predictions are in…
Analyst firms are taking the evolution of B2B e-commerce more seriously, with blog posts, whitepapers and research reports emerging on the topic. Some analysts believe the change will be rapid, while others feel it may be more drawn out and complicated. Then there are those analysts who believe that B2B and B2C are coming together, while others recognize major differences and requirements between the two. While there may not always be agreement, they all seem to recognize that B2B commerce is going to change. Let’s take a look at some of the research out there today.
Forrester was one of the first to dig into the trends and key differences in the B2B e-commerce market. Analyst Andy Hoar has published a combination of papers and reports that have highlighted key B2B needs like negotiated pricing, unique buyer expectations, and complexities of selling highly-configured products, all of which are key to driving a strong B2B experience. Forrester’s research also offers the breakdown of features needed by each type of unique B2B buyer. Engineers and specifiers need very different online tools than more traditional buyers, like procurement. Forrester highlights this, and even publishes a separate Wave focusing on these features, highlighting the complexities of B2B versus B2C.
Below you will find links to a number of reports published by Forrester on the topic of B2B e-commerce:
- Download The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015 from Insite
- B2B eCommerce: A Trillion Dollars For The Taking
- The B2B eCommerce Playbook For 2016
Gartner is often considered a key source of technology advice for larger enterprise companies. While Gartner still focuses heavily on B2C and retail features for their Magic Quadrant, they have published other very interesting papers. Penny, Gene and Chris have even penned papers that are more targeted toward mid-market organizations to help them with the online transition. Here are a few papers to consider:
- CMO Insight: Why Every B2B CMO Should Pursue Digital Commerce
- Drive B2B Revenue Growth With B2C Digital Commerce Best Practices
The Aberdeen Group has been covering the B2B space for many years. Not necessarily B2B commerce, but they have been a source of research for many manufacturing and distribution companies over the years. Also, Justin King from e-commerce & B2B has published a document that outlines a number of the platforms and their strengths. We are excited to update Justin on our cloud offering and value-based pricing for his next report update.
Many of the resources I suggested may require an email or registration. Some of them require a subscription or are sold at a fee. While it may seem expensive, keep in mind that the opportunity to lead in e-commerce is significant. Research and evaluate your options with B2B e-commerce. Insite also offers a significant amount of research and reading on the topic, which can be found here www.insitesoft.com/resources.