Thoughts on the Forrester Wave for B2B Commerce Suites

The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q3 2018, has been released. After careful review and analysis, we’ve generated some thoughts and insights on what it all means.

General Impressions

Scoring factors have become more granular and specific to B2B needs. Parity of many core features related to role management, catalog management, checkout, order management and account management is expected from all platform providers. Leaders and strong performers differentiate with capabilities that address the complex, multichannel needs of B2B.

Sales channel support is critical to provide traditional field sales with digital tools to engage buyers. Most leaders and strong performers have credible offerings for field sales, and sales enablement will grow in importance when choosing platforms that have parity among core commerce features. Putting configure-price-quote (CPQ) into the hands of a mobile sales force will be a focus of platform providers.

Personalization of offers and experiences has become table stakes, among the leading platforms. Evolving beyond custom catalogs and custom pricing, personalization now delivers segmented experiences for research vs. reordering, recommended products and services, location awareness, device awareness, and customized workflows based on roles.

Business intelligence and analytics proves that not all buyers are created equal. Sellers than can identify the most profitable buyers can use the insights to deliver personalized sales channel support and onsite experiences to maintain loyalty. Promotions, incentives, and self-service can be selectively targeted to low margin buyers to influence more profitable buying behaviors and reduce high cost interactions. Leading platform providers can analyze data from the ecommerce, ERP, CRM, call center, and 3rd party systems to deliver recommendations of next best actions on the ecommerce storefront or for field sales.

Cost of ownership has been removed as a scoring factor as platform license costs converge, and the cost of implementation can vary considerably based on customizations required to deliver a seller’s value proposition. The scoring factor for delivery ecosystem has doubled in importance to reflect the value of experienced implementation partners in delivering successful commerce experiences. Choosing the correct partner with experience in the seller’s industry, experience in integrating to existing technology infrastructure, and alignment to the seller’s culture is of paramount importance.

Support services has been added as the largest scoring factor, reflecting the high touch support model demanded by B2B sellers. Smaller platform providers can outperform larger providers though a variety of support services including best practice coaching, oversight of implementation partners, training, documentation, and consistent releases of service packs.

Inclusion of artificial intelligence and machine learning as a scoring factor is an acknowledgement of an emerging area of interest that is receiving investment from global B2B sellers, but is not yet mainstream in the mid-market. Automated monitoring is commonplace on the factory floor, with the next step likely to be automated reordering based on algorithms that learn from usage, seller price, commodity price, weather, and other factors. Platform providers that can support auto-triggered transactions will be well positioned to capture market share.

Platform Perspectives

Thoughts on several of the Commerce Suite providers covered in the Wave.

+ SAP Commerce Cloud (formerly SAP Hybris) remains a leader in the Wave. SAP Commerce Cloud provides strong core capabilities well suited to a variety of B2B selling models and is a leader in emerging technology such as artificial intelligence. SAP Commerce Cloud will remain a leader in the Wave based on proven scalability, an extensive partner ecosystem, and a highly credible roadmap that includes integrating CPQ.

+ Magento is already growing rapidly as a standalone platform provider in B2B. Magento’s recent acquisition by Adobe enables sellers to combine the capabilities of a highly customizable ecommerce platform with market leading CMS and analytics. Extensibility, a deep partner network, and recognition for their leading strategy/vision to address the unique needs of B2B sellers are all strengths. Magento is a strong candidate to be a leader in the next Wave.

+ Salesforce B2B Commerce (formerly Cloudcraze) remained a strong performer after the recent acquisition. Similar to Magento, Salesforce B2B Commerce should have strong consideration from existing Salesforce customers with a sales cloud or service cloud. Salesforce has invested heavily in the product management and development teams to address feature and scalability concerns. Additional integration of native Salesforce sales cloud features such as CPQ or integration of marketing cloud features such as customer journeys into commerce is a natural evolution of the platform. Salesforce B2B Commerce will have increased market presence and is a strong candidate to be a leader in the next Wave.

+ IBM Watson Commerce is undergoing a refresh to provide modular capabilities required of modern commerce platforms. Already solid in transaction management and personalization, IBM is working to address user experience needs for both the buyer and the seller. Mature organizations with existing IBM infrastructure or those looking to invest in intelligence platforms should consider IBM Watson Commerce for their storefronts. (Editor’s note: the recent sale of IBM’s commerce products to HCL has left the future of the platform uncertain. Read our take on the sale.)

+ Episerver provides compelling personalization through a leading CMS, while building capabilities in transactional commerce. Episerver maintained its position in both capability and strategy, and a recent private equity investment in Episerver should fuel significant product improvements. Episerver is a likely candidate to be a strong performer in the next Wave.