B2B and B2C Commerce are alike… but a little different – Oracle Commerce named Leader in Forrester B2B Commerce Wave

We weren’t surprised to see Oracle Commerce positioned as a Leader in Forrester’s first Commerce Wave focused on B2B, released earlier this month [you can download a copy here]. The reports validates much of what we’ve heard from our largest customers – the world’s largest distribution, manufacturing and high-tech customers who sell billions of dollars of goods and services to other businesses through their Web channels. More importantly, the report confirms something very important: B2B and B2C Commerce are alike… but a little different.

B2B and B2C Commerce are alike…

Clearly, B2C experiences have set expectations for B2B. Every B2B buyer is a consumer at home and brings the same expectations to a website selling electronic components, aftermarket parts, or MRO products. Forrester calls these rich consumer-based capabilities that help B2B customers do their jobs “table stakes”: search & navigation, promotions, cross-channel commerce and mobile:

“Whether they are just beginning to sell online or are in the late stages of launching a next-generation site, B2B eCommerce operations today must: offer a customer experience standard comparable to what leading b2c sites now offer; address the growing influence that mobile devices are having in the workplace; make a qualitative and quantitative business case that drives sustained investment.”

Just five years ago, many of our B2B customers’ online business comprised only 5-10% of their total revenue. Today, when we speak to those same brands, we hear about double and triple digit growth in their online channels. Many have seen the percentage of the business they perform in their web channels cross the 30-50% threshold. You can hear first-hand from several Oracle Commerce B2B customers about the success they are seeing, and what they’re trying to accomplish (Carolina Biological, Premier Farnell, DeliXL, Elsevier).

This momentum is likely the reason Forrester broke out the separate B2B Commerce Wave from the B2C Wave. In fact, B2B is becoming the larger force in commerce, expected to collect twice the online dollars of B2C this year ($559 billion).

But a little different…

Despite the similarities, there is a key and very important difference between B2C and B2B. Unlike a consumer shopping for shoes, a business shopper buying from a distributor or manufacturer is coming to the Web channel as a part of their job. So in addition to a rich, consumer-like experience this shopper expects, these B2B buyers need quoting tools and complex pricing capabilities, like eProcurement, bulk order entry, and other self-service tools such as account, contract and organization management. 

Forrester also is emphasizing three additional “back-end” tools and capabilities their clients say they need to drive growth in their B2B online channels: i) product information management (PIM), which provides a single system of record for large part lists and product catalogs; ii) web content management (WCM), needed to manage large volumes of unstructured marketing information, and iii) order management systems (OMS), which manage and orchestrate the complex B2B order life cycle from quote through approval, submission to manufacturing, distribution and delivery. 

We would like to expand on each of these 3 areas:

As Forrester highlights, back-end PIM is definitely needed by B2B Commerce providers. Most B2B companies have made significant investments in enterprise-grade PIMs, given the importance of product data management for aggregation and syndication of content, product attribution, analytics, and handling of complex workflows. While in principle it may sound appealing to have a PIM as part of a commerce offering (especially for SMBs who have to do more with less), our customers have typically found that PIM in a commerce platform is largely redundant with what they already have in-place, and is not fully-featured or robust enough to handle the complexity of the product data sets that B2B distributors and manufacturers usually handle. To meet the PIM needs for commerce, Oracle offers enterprise PIM (Product Hub/Fusion PIM) and a robust enterprise data quality product (EDQP) integrated with the Oracle Commerce solution. These are key differentiators of our offering and these capabilities are becoming even more tightly integrated with Oracle Commerce over time. For Commerce, what customers really need is a robust product catalog and content management system for enabling business users to further enrich and ready catalog and content data to be presented and sold online.  This has been a significant area of investment in the Oracle Commerce platform , which continue to get stronger. We see this combination of capabilities as best meeting the needs of our customers for a commerce platform without adding a largely redundant, less functional PIM in the commerce front-end.  

On the topic of web content management, we were pleased to see Forrester recognize Oracle’s unique functional capabilities in this area and the “unique opportunity in the market to lead the convergence of commerce and content management with the amalgamation of Oracle Commerce with WebCenter Sites (formally FatWire).” Strong content management capabilities are critical for distributors and manufacturers who are frequently serving an engineering audience coming to their websites to conduct product research in search of technical data sheets, drawings, videos and more. The convergence of content, commerce, and experience is critical for B2B brands selling online.

Regarding order management, Forrester notes that many businesses use their existing back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to manage order life cycles.  We hear the same from most of our B2B customers, as they already have an ERP system—if not several of them—and are not interested in yet another one. 

So what do we take away from the Wave results? Forrester notes that the Oracle Commerce Platform “has always had strong B2B commerce capabilities and Oracle has an exhaustive list of B2B customers using the solution.”  What makes us excited about developing leading B2B solutions are the close relationships with our customers and the clear opportunity in the market – which we’ll address in an exciting new release in the coming months. Oracle has one of the world’s largest B2B customer bases, providing leading solutions across key business-to-business functions – from marketing, sales automation, and service to master data management, and ERP. 

To learn more about Oracle’s Commerce product vision and strategy, visit our website and check out these other B2B Commerce Resources:

- 2013 B2B Commerce Trends Report

- B2B Commerce Whitepaper: Consumerization, Complexity, Change

- B2B Commerce Webcast: What Industry Trend Setters Do Right

- Internet Retailer, Web Drives Sales for B2B Companies

- Internet Retailer, The Web Means Business: B2B Companies Beef Up Their Websites, borrowing from b2c retailers and breaking new ground

- Internet Retailer, B2B e-Commerce is poised for growth



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