In a review of 12 B2B e-commerce software providers, Forrester Research finds most platforms offer the best features of user-friendly retail sites while also meeting the more complex demands of the B2B buyer.

John Bruno, senior analyst,
Forrester Research

The notion that business-to-business e-commerce sites are far behind their retail counterparts in terms of ease of use has come to an end, Forrester Research Inc. says. B2B commerce suites have “grown up,” John Bruno, Forrester senior analyst for B2B e-commerce, says.

“Commerce suites finally have caught up to the complex needs of B2B businesses,” Forrester says in a report released last week, “The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q3 2018,” by lead authors Bruno and senior analyst Bruce Eppinger, along with other Forrester analysts.

The report, which provides detailed reviews of 12 B2B e-commerce software suites, says that “commerce suites have finally caught up to the complex needs of B2B businesses.” It recommends that companies in the market for B2B e-commerce software look for providers that offer the following software characteristics:

  • Strong flexibility for website access and purchasing permissions. “Businesses need to model the relationships they have with their customers, understanding who can purchase, what those roles and positions can purchase, how much they can purchase, and what guardrails can be put in place to prevent out-of-policy spending,” Forrester says.
  • Detailed control over buying and selling workflows: In B2B buying and selling, request-for-quote, purchasing approvals and return merchandise authorization processes, among others, are pervasive, and should be included as features in e-commerce software, Forrester says.
  • B2C-like personalization and experience capabilities: “To win over B2B customers, it’s not enough to simply execute on complex transactions with even more complex products and services,” Forrester says. “B2B customers are the same individuals who buy online from Amazon and other retailers in their personal lives. From that experience, they expect contextually relevant and personalized buying, even when it’s for engine parts and agricultural supplies.” Responsive software vendors, it adds, are focusing on features like A/B testing to develop “B2C-like personalization” and content tailored to segments of customers.

Although B2B businesses may have historically had “a wealth of explicit data” on their customers—“something many B2C companies are starving for”—they haven’t always had the tools to put that data to use on an e-commerce site that caters to customers’ needs, Bruno says in a blog commenting on the report. “Now businesses can leverage these deep relationships to personalize the entire B2B digital buying experience, from content and product recommendations to search, promotions and coupons. B2B firms can now deliver B2C-like shopping experiences.”

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A separate report by Bruno and Eppinger is cited in a B2BecNews report on B2B e-commerce platforms released this week. In addition, Bruno will participate as a workshop leader at next week’s B2B Next conference in Chicago.

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