B2B professionals are consumers first. What is more, they are e-consumers of wares that are being sold on the B2C e-commerce market. eBay, Amazon, even app stores – the consumer market the world over is increasingly becoming dominated by e-commerce.
A recent report by Criteo cites the industry’s remarkable achievements last year:
“The global e-commerce industry saw impressive growth in 2014 with goods and services worth $1.5 trillion bought by shoppers via desktops, tablets and smartphones.”
The world, it seems, has become very confident and very happy to spend money online for all manner of consumer goods. And a lot of this, of course, comes down to the convenience that only technology and the internet can provide. Online ‘window shopping’ couldn’t be simpler. A quick search on Google, Pinterest, Amazon, or eBay and we are instantaneously presented with catalogues of the goods that we are after. We browse them quickly, read a few customer reviews, and then purchase what we want with perhaps just two or three clicks of a mouse button – a credit or debit card having already been assigned to the respective account for convenience.
Smartphones and mobile apps also account for a great deal of this online activity, too, of course. To cite the Criteo report once more:
“Mobile share of online sales grew steadily in 2014. This year we expect mobile devices to account for 40% of e-commerce transactions globally, and more than 50% in the developed markets including the US, UK and Japan.”
Without doubt, B2C e-commerce has arrived, the market is mature and thriving, and, as consumers, we are all very confident and comfortable with using it.
When it comes to B2B e-commerce, however, the landscape is a little different – although the expectation remains the same.
The high bar that has been set by the highly polished B2C e-commerce experience is now in high demand from B2B e-business professionals, who expect an “Amazon-like” experience when sourcing business goods online.
Forrester have recently published a report that takes an in-depth look into the state of the current B2B e-commerce market, and forms an evaluation of B2B commerce suites that are available from various vendors as of Q2 2015 – The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015.
This first chapter of the report draws the following analysis:
“U.S. B2B e-commerce is on pace to reach $1.13 trillion by the year 2020 (see Figure 1). However, despite the fact that the B2B market is twice the size of B2C and growing rapidly, B2B companies still lag far behind their B2C brethren in terms of their level of digital maturity and the quality of the customer experience they offer. In addition, many B2B companies must contend with new and unexpected competition both from within and outside of their traditional industry (see Figure 2).”
The B2C Influence
B2B buyers are consumers first. And, as such, they want and expect the eBay and Amazon-like customer experience that they enjoy as online consumers. What is more, they want and expect all of the interface functionality from the B2B sites that they engage with to perform and behave just as intuitively on their mobile devices, as they do on their PC and laptop. They, according to the Forrester report, “expect real-time interaction, extensive price and inventory transparency, and robust guided selling as a condition for them to engage in purchase channel shift.”
The business case is extremely clear for B2B companies – with the expectation mounting all the time for a B2C-like online consumer experience, they must make the move to deliver such a platform immediately, before their competitors beat them to it. Indeed, according to the report, 74% of today’s B2B buyers research at least half of their work purchases online. In addition, “the number of B2B buyers expected to complete at least half of their work purchases online will nearly double from 30% today to 56% by 2017.”
The need for B2B companies to start building and investing world-class B2B e-commerce suite has never been more prominent. The Forrester Wave report evaluates eight of the most significant vendors of such technology – CloudCraze, eBay Enterprise (Magento), hybris (an SAP company), IBM, Insite Software, Intershop, NetSuite, and Oracle – and we will be bringing you the summary of the findings over the remaining blogs in this series.