Twenty months have passed since Forrester last published our Wave evaluation of the leading B2B commerce suite vendors. During that time much has changed. B2B eCommerce transactions in the US have grown 40% from $559b in 2013 to reach an estimated $780b by the end of 2015. Furthermore, 74% of B2B buyers now research and 30% now buy at least one-half of their work purchases online. Manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers alike are investing heavily in next generation enterprise B2B commerce technology to ensure they are delivering world-class online buying experiences that are able to scale for anticipated growth. As a result of this wave of investment, manufacturing and wholesale trade firms will spend more on commerce technology by the end of the decade than their peers in B2C retail.

As eBusiness teams look for solutions in the market, not only are they benchmarking their future state online buying experience against B2B peers like Grainger, but also against B2C leaders like Amazon and Wal-Mart. This means they need solutions with a best-in-class foundation of B2C features such as robust marketing, merchandising and experience management tools upon which unique B2B capabilities such as contract pricing, quotes pricing lists, eProcurement, product configuration and customization, guided selling, bulk order entry, dealer management, and account, contract, and budget management are then layered on top.

Forrester found that only a subset of the commerce suite vendors in the market have truly invested in building domain knowledge in B2B and consequently have the feature-set to support B2B buying requirements. Andy Hoar and I spent the last four months putting eight of the leading B2B commerce technology vendors through a grueling process of due diligence, product demos, capability assessments and customer reference checks. We looked beyond features to examine toolset usability, extensibility, integration of suite modules, and innovation strategy. Here’s what we found:

  • IBM, Insite Software, Intershop, hybris and Oracle Commerce play head-to-head. These five vendors go head to head in the majority of B2B commerce RFPs today. All five have proven, mature B2B commerce capabilities, a large installed base of B2B customers and a focused product strategy for supporting B2B channels. Although each has its own merits, the total cost of ownership, time-to-market, geographical presence, existing vendor relationships and the strength of their respective implementation partner networks are increasingly influencing decision outcomes. All five of these vendors pack a heavy punch of leading B2B capabilities that in many cases represent a significant leap of maturity compared to the current operational B2B capabilities of prospective clients.
  • CloudCraze, Magento (eBay Enterprise) and NetSuite offer competitive options. Each of these vendors has a strong offering in B2B, but withal come with noteworthy caveats. CloudCraze is a native SalesForce application, and as such appeals to B2B firms standardizing their cloud infrastructure and applications on Magento offers a low-cost, highly customizable solution for firms that want to develop a B2B engagement platform without being beholden to complex solutions from the “big 3” software firms. NetSuite appeals to mid-market B2B firms who are attracted by the ability to run B2B commerce, ERP and CRM on a single multi-tenant SaaS based architecture.

So which solution is right for you?

Deciding on which vendor to pick depends in part on where B2B firms are on their path to digital maturity and the quality of the customer experience they deem appropriate to serve their digitally savvy B2B buyers. For those new to eCommerce as a channel, cost of ownership and time-to-market factors often drive decisions, whereas firms with existing B2B commerce experience may be more inclined to look at solutions that integrate tightly with their existing enterprise ERP and CRM investments. The goal of our Wave research is help to help our clients identify the solutions in the marketplace that will best support their long term growth of the B2B online channel. It is important to remember that this research is intended to be a starting point only. We encourage clients to review the detailed product evaluations and adapt criteria weightings to fit their individual needs through the Forrester Wave Excel-based vendor comparison tool and to engage with Andy & me directly via inquiry access to gain further insights. Forrester (via our consulting division) also offers a formalized vendor selection consulting to help clients with their requirement gathering and selection process.