If you are in the process of upgrading your customer portal or eCommerce site, the latest Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q1 2017 is a great resource to help you begin the process.
Now that this report has been out for a few weeks, I thought it might be good to get some reactions from some of the more experienced eCommerce executives and consultants in the space. Below is some of the feedback and key points shared after reading the report. I would invite you to also share your observations once you have had a chance to read it by connecting with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
B2B is not B2C
First off, kudos to Forrester for separating the B2C and B2B platform reports. They recognize that a platform chosen to run a global retailer cannot be the same platform used to run online customer experience for a manufacturer or distributor. The products, channels, pricing and features are all very different and the wide range of user types are all looking for vastly different experiences. This most recent B2B report published by Forrester did a great job of ranking the platforms according to the features requested by B2B users. There is more information here on the key differences between B2B and B2C. Click here for more information.
Platform Maturity Varies
The list of platforms moving into the B2B space has grown since the report was first published in 2013. Most of the platforms started out in retail (B2C) and slowly added B2B features to try and expand their market. Very few of the platforms can claim that they were originally “built for B2B”. This could easily be compared to the ERP market where some platforms are designed for retail while others are designed for product manufacturers. It takes significant experience and a dedicated roadmap to provide a robust solution for B2B. With over 12 years of core B2B experience, Insite was certainly proud to be recognized as one of the more mature and longer-term players in this category.
Platform Costs Vary
This one did not come as a surprise to many of the consultants in the space, especially those who have worked with B2C platforms requiring significant customization to fit the B2B requirements. One example was shared of a team who decided to try and use their B2C platform for their B2B site. The final costs ended up 3x the original budget and the site launch was delayed by six months because of the customizations. It was also noted that the software vendors in this report had quite a range of required investment. Software and implementation services could easily climb into the millions of dollars with the enterprise software vendors. This year’s report did a nice job of digging into some of these TCO (total-cost-of-ownership) factors and differences between the vendors.
Picking the Right Team
Forrester recognizes that it takes more than just great tools to deliver an industry-leading site. The agencies, system integrators and internal team members need to have strong B2B experience. This experience needs to span from the creation of strong UX and front-end experience to a scalable back-end solution which is integrated with your ERP. I heard a number of comments that too many B2B companies call up the agency who designed their corporate site and ask them to bid on the B2B site. Far too often, this has led to a failed project or significant time and budget overages. While there are thousands of companies who can design a website there are far fewer who have helped launch complex B2B portals and commerce sites. Make sure you do your homework here and even ask for references within your industry.
It’s More than “Just a Website”
Today the leaders in B2B eCommerce are doing more than just launching another website. Their online initiative is more about providing an industry-leading customer experience. Anyone can launch a website, but if you are looking for a way to provide true digital transformation for your employees and customers, it will take a dedicated team, a longer view and a strong B2B roadmap.
Again, I would encourage you to download this report and feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter with questions. Have a comment or opinion to add? Feel free to comment on my LinkedIn article, here.