For b2b 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 b2b 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 b2b e-commerce experience, and scarce b2b 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 b2b 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 b2b 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 b2b companies.
Just like customers in the b-to-c space, b2b 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 b2b 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 b2b 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 b2b e-commerce solution is just the beginning. It's both a logical and critical first step in meeting b2b 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 b2b. And that, b2b friends, is mobile. It's charging up behind b2b e-commerce websites, and will be a requirement to remain competitive (for now).