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B-to-b e-commerce to take no prisoners in 2013

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For b-to-b companies, 2013 promises to be the declarative, no-more-dissenters year of e-commerce. It's simply not enough to launch an e-commerce site—which just 25% have done, according to a 2012 survey by Oracle. With Forrester Research predicting b-to-b e-commerce sales to reach $559 billion by the end of 2013, the future for the remaining 75% promises to be a game of catch-up.

Forrester's latest report, "Key Trends in B2B eCommerce for 2013," provides the first snapshot of the market in more than a decade. A couple of the trends cited in the report include increased demand for both a b-to-c-like b-to-b e-commerce experience, and scarce b-to-b e-commerce talent.

Today, consumers all over the world have become accustomed to sophisticated online buying experiences for b-to-c transactions; and they're not lowering their standards when it comes to making purchases for business. Purchasing agents at b-to-b companies want e-commerce sites that deliver superior customer service, functionality, customization, ease of use, even exclusive Web-only specials. Essentially, they want everything a b-to-c site delivers and more. And because there are often multiple decision-makers at b-to-b companies, testing and complex customization is often necessary, requiring innovation and expertise. Simply finding the talent to execute will be a huge challenge for many b-to-b companies.

Just like customers in the b-to-c space, b-to-b customers want to compare products more quickly and easily—for quality and price. Companies don't just want speed; they need it to compete.

Just over 85% of b-to-b purchasers surveyed in the "2012 State of B2B E-Commerce study," by hybris Corp. said they enjoyed the e-commerce option because it saves time. In the same study, 94% of b-to-b purchasers said they needed an online buying experience that was just as easy as using a b-to-c site.

Designing and implementing a robust b-to-b e-commerce solution is just the beginning. It's both a logical and critical first step in meeting b-to-b purchasers' demands. But if you look around the room—whether at home or at the office—it should become apparent very quickly where the market will take us next. B-to-c purchasers serve as an excellent barometer for what's to come for b-to-b. And that, b-to-b friends, is mobile. It's charging up behind b-to-b e-commerce websites, and will be a requirement to remain competitive (for now).

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