Online B2B sellers and marketers will move toward more widespread use of a new breed of online marketplaces and more flexible digital commerce and marketing operations, Forrester Research says in a new series of reports.

Thanks to more and newer types of digital marketplaces and wider use of API-driven flexible ecommerce systems, online B2B buyers have never had more choices for making purchases, Forrester Research Inc. says.

But online sellers face an increasingly complex world of B2B commerce, and those that take advantage of the latest trends in such areas as online marketplaces and flexible ecommerce platforms will have more opportunity to stand out among the rest, Forrester notes in a new series of reports on 2020 predictions for business-to-business commerce.

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Joe Cicman, senior analyst, Forrester Research

“Buyers have never had more choice thanks to marketplaces, mobile apps, and kiosks,” Forrester says in the report, “Predictions: B2B Commerce and Marketplaces,” by digital commerce analysts Joe Cicman and Allen Bonde, along with other Forrester analysts. “Yet, old and new sources of friction remain. Many corners of B2B commerce remain untouched by digital, and few firms have reached a digitally advanced state.”

Among several predictions Forrester makes in that report, it notes that buyers “will begin to prefer marketplace buying” for a wide range of products ranging from equipment used for maintenance, repair and operations, to networking equipment and scientific supplies. “Modern buyers will make price transparency/low cost a must-have versus a nice-to-have,” Forrester says.

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‘Headless’ commerce, the default technology

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Allen Bonde, vice president and research director, Forrester Research

It adds that manufacturers will “double-down on signing up new non-transactional partners” and work with more affinity- and affiliate-marketing firms who can be influential in directing traffic among likely purchasers to the ecommerce sites operated by a manufacturer or its distributors and resellers.

Among its other predictions for B2B ecommerce: “Headless commerce will become the default” as providers of ecommerce platforms use APIs, or application programming interfaces, to connect their ecommerce transaction engines to customized software suites that address the particular ways online sellers want to interact with their customers. Many sellers will need to do their homework, Forrester adds, to decide whether they need the flexibility of such “headless” commerce platforms or go with more traditional ecommerce platforms bundled with a ready-made customer-facing front end.

In the complementary report, “Predictions 2020: Digital Business,” Forrester says more B2B companies will discover new ways to improve their overall operations. As B2B commerce “becomes a new driver for profits,” it says, companies will “start to deploy connectivity technology (APIs, cloud, and even internet of things) at scale, they will discover new opportunities for operational improvement. Beyond thinking of digital touchpoints as just a consumer channel, companies will look for new efficiencies in their interactions with suppliers and distributors.”

More automated marketing

“Indeed,” Forrester adds, “many companies will start to expect their tech providers to offer their services through a marketplace approach. Driven by this focus, we expect Amazon Marketplace to double its sales in 2019.” (Amazon Business said last year that it had surpassed $10 billion in annualized sales, and analysts from Forrester and other firms have projected it will surpass $20 billion this year.)

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In a third report, “Predictions 2020: B2B Marketing and Sales,” Forrester says B2B marketers will expand their use of data management tools, including artificial intelligence, to improve how they reach customers. “With 62% of global B2B marketing decision makers planning to increase their data management investments in 2019, customer data platforms (CDPs) will be the Trojan horse that gives programmatic omnichannel marketing processes a foothold in B2B marketing,” Forrester days, adding: “CDP adopters will move beyond core data integration use cases to build more precise audiences for activation, leveraging AI-powered decisioning and broad integrations to begin automating and orchestrating buyer journeys.”

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