Welcome to the third and final post in our B2B E-Commerce series. Over the past two posts we have been exploring the pressures that B2B professionals currently face to create B2C Amazon-like e-commerce experiences for their customers who purchase from their websites. In a world where everybody is an e-consumer first – including B2B professionals – the surprising lag that B2B companies are currently displaying when it comes to offering a satisfying digital experience for their customers needs to be addressed (see B2B E-Commerce – The B2C Influence).
However, for many such B2B companies, despite the fact that they recognize the need to bring their digital sales processes up-to-date to mimic B2C sites, there nonetheless remains many complications to the adoption process that are proving at least in part to be responsible for the delay in implementation (see B2B E-Commerce – The Changing Needs Of The Market).
In efforts to address this issue, Forrester have recently released a report that evaluates eight of the largest vendors of B2B e-commerce suites – The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015 – which B2B companies will be able to use to identify if a solution exists to solve their e-commerce problems, and we bring to you the findings below.
The Forrester Wave B2B Commerce Suite Evaluation Overview
- eBay Enterprise (Magento)
- hybris (an SAP company)
- Insite Software
To assess how well the B2B commerce suite vendors meet the evolving needs of the market and to determine how the vendors stack up against each other, Forrester evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of these eight leading B2B commerce platform vendors across a range of 88 business and technology criteria.
As we have outlined in our previous blog posts in this series, one of the most important indicators of a successful B2B e-commerce suite is how well the associated sites compare with well-known and well-used B2C sites. The Forrester report acknowledges this in its evaluation criteria: “ Today’s B2B firms benchmark themselves not only against B2B peers like Grainger but also against B2C leaders like Amazon and Wal-Mart, which means B2B commerce platforms must have a best-in-class foundation of B2C features such as robust marketing, merchandising, and experience management tools upon which unique B2B capabilities are then layered on top.”
With regards to this, Forrester Wave added important elements from the following criteria against which each of the eight vendors were evaluated:
Unique B2B-commerce Focused Functionality
“We added all-new criteria to evaluate how these solutions solve unique B2B problems. Added were criteria for 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. These unique B2B features account for 25% of the criteria weighting.”
Solution Architecture and Platform Functionality
“B2B commerce projects are inherently more complex than their B2C peers. Complex, bidirectional integrations between the system of engagement (the B2B commerce platform) and enterprise systems of record (ERP, CRM, manufacturing, and PIM systems) are the norm, while agile workflow capabilities are required to allow B2B firms to design custom business processes that conform to existing operating practices.”
Product Information Management Capabilities
“Foundational for manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors is the management of hundreds of thousands of parts, many [of] which have complex dependencies or compatibly relationships with one another. In order to improve their governance of product content, Forrester commonly finds that our clients choose to implement (or replatform) PIM as part of their broader B2B commerce program.”
The set of 88 criteria that the vendors were evaluated against were grouped into three “high-level buckets”. These were:
1. Current Offering – Forrester evaluated each suite’s “end user-facing digital touchpoints, solution architecture, experience management, product information management, B2B commerce management, order management, and marketing tools.”
2. Strategy – Forrester compared the market strategies of each company with the existing needs of B2B commerce executives, industry trends, and Forrester’s forward-looking vision of the B2B commerce market to asses how well each vendor is positioned for future success. “We examined each vendor’s B2B commerce vision, planned B2B enhancements, target market and B2B focus, key technology partners, commerce service providers, professional services capability, typical implementation time frames, and cost of ownership.”
3. Market Presence – To determine the current market presence of the respective vendors, Forrester took into account each vendor’s installed base, new customers, revenue growth, and financial resources to support their stated B2B product and market strategy.
IBM, Insite Software, Intershop, hybris and Oracle come out as the leaders of the market, all with proven, mature B2B e-commerce capabilities, an existing large base of B2B customers, and a focused strategy for supporting B2B channels.
CloudCraze, eBay Enterprise (Magento), and NetSuite also perform well as attractive alternatives – though all come with noteworthy caveats.
“CloudCraze is a native Salesforce application and as such appeals to B2B firms standardizing their cloud infrastructure and applications on Salesforce.com or those who have standardized their B2B quoting and ordering processes on Salesforce’s CRM platform. Magento offers a low-cost, highly customizable solution for firms that want to develop a B2B engagement platform without being beholden to complex solutions from the “big 3” software firms. NetSuite’s is a true multitenant SaaS solution, which will appeal to midmarket B2B firms who want to avoid the ownership headaches of hosting and future platform upgrades and is the only solution that wraps B2B commerce, ERP, and CRM into a single architecture and solution set. The product is, however, best suited for midmarket firms that have already made or are considering a broader investment in NetSuite’s ERP or CRM solutions.”
This concludes our summary of The Forrester Wave report. Forrester emphasizes that the findings should be taken as a starting guide only, and that B2B professionals are encouraged to view detailed product evaluations of each vendor, and to adapt criteria weightings to fit their individual business needs.