B2B e-commerce in the U.S. alone is on course to reach $9 trillion this year, including through business networks and EDI as well as suppliers’ e-commerce sites, Forrester Research says.

Business-to-business online commerce in the United States will reach $9 trillion in total sales this year, Forrester Research Inc. says in a report released this week.

Chief information officers need to support all the channels through which their firms’ sales and purchases flow.

That’s nine times the often-mentioned trillion-dollar figure for U.S. B2B e-commerce that will be reached next year, according to projections Forrester has made in recent years. Why the humongous gap? It’s all in how you define e-commerce in the B2B world.

The $1 trillion-dollar market—Forrester projects it will reach $954 billion this year and surpass $1 trillion next year, more than twice U.S. retail online sales—represents only transactions generated by what Forrester calls “employee-initiated” commerce conducted on suppliers’ websites.

Now Forrester is taking a broader look at B2B e-commerce conducted through business networks and electronic procurement systems, in addition to the employee-initiated transactions on supplier sites.

In a report released this week, “Mapping the $9 Trillion US B2B Online Commerce Market,” Forrester breaks out projected 2018 commerce figures for six channels of B2B online commerce that companies use to buy and sell with trading partners. Chief information officers “need to support all the channels through which their firms’ sales and purchases flow,” Forrester says in the report, which was authored by Forrester analysts Andrew Bartels and John Bruno, along with other Forrester analysts.

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The report estimates that EDI networks—through which companies exchange purchase orders, invoices and other business documents in a standardized format, often through cloud-based systems—will account for just over half of U.S. B2B online commerce this year, or about $4.70 trillion out of a total $8.96 trillion. But it notes that EDI—with a compound annual growth rate estimated at 7.1% from 2012 to 2018—is on course to lose market share, primarily to faster growing business networks and procurement systems.

It makes the following projections for 2018 e-commerce transaction volumes and compound annual growth rates (2012–2018) across the six channels of B2B online commerce:

  • Employees on suppliers’ websites, $954 billion, 7.9% CAGR;
  • SaaS e-procurement systems, outside of a network, $834 billion, 37.7% CAGR;
  • E-procurement of services, outside of a network, $185 billion, 15.6% CAGR;
  • Purchase order/invoice networks, $2.71 trillion, 13.0% CAGR;
  • EDI networks, connecting buyer’s ERP to supplier’s order management, $4.70 trillion, 7.1% CAGR;
  • Travel and entertainment services purchased through an employee T&E app, $218 billion, 6.2% CAGR.

(Forrester notes that the combined total adds up to $9.6 trillion, because about $600 billion is double-counted in sales transacted through “punchout” systems that link procurement systems and suppliers’ e-commerce sites.)

In a related report Forrester released last fall—“Vendor Landscape: B2B Business Networks, 2017-2018”—Forrester provides information on many of the procurement systems and business networks, including EDI, that handle electronic transactions.

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In that earlier report, Forrester notes that buyers and suppliers often view online business networks differently—with buyers viewing them positively as good ways to send orders and receive invoices, and suppliers often considering them “necessary evils” that require them to pay fees. Forrester adds, however, that both groups often stand to benefit from networks that emphasize collaboration among buyers and suppliers through such means as managing accurate product data, invoice financing and dynamic discounting, and resolving delivery and other logistics issues.

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