B2B eCommerce is growing, and it’s growing quickly. In fact, at Forrester we estimate that it will reach more than $1 trillion in the US by 2020, double the size of B2C eCommerce. B2B buyers are rapidly gearing their researching and purchasing activities toward true digital platforms. B2B sellers are similarly shifting their resources toward providing an eCommerce portal to better reach and engage with their customers. 

Forrester's ForecastView team recently conducted a pioneering study on the B2B eCommerce market where we explored nine product categories and their evolution toward online buying. We define B2B eCommerce as a digital, transactional exchange between companies that takes place over a website. We exclude spending that flows through traditional electronic data interchange (EDI) channels or back channels.  The majority of B2B spending takes place through wholesaler and distributor channels, which provide a varying array of value-added services such as storage, packaging, sorting, and labeling. The future landscape of B2B commerce is changing on several fronts that could potentially impact how wholesalers and distributors traditionally do business, especially online: 

  • There’s an increased need for automation. As independent establishments continue to merge and give way to larger firms, companies seek to cut distribution costs through their increasing purchase power and economies of scale (see figure below). This alleviates the need for distributors and wholesalers but requires a more automated mechanism to handle larger volumes.
  • Marketplaces are becoming more common. Retailers looking to provide a catered assortment of products turn to distributors and wholesalers to access products across multiple manufacturers and to save on bundling costs. Distributors’ and wholesalers’ product and industry expertise is valuable to more specialized retailers without a vast reach in terms of contacts.


US Firm Sizes Are Getting Larger Through Mergers

*Sales are the revenue for goods produced or distributed or services provided. The latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau is from 2007.


If you are interested in learning more about the B2B eCommerce forecast, as well as which product categories are most relevant for your firm, contact me at data@forrester.com.