The Four Pillars of Commerce

Forrester Research recently published an evaluation of business-to-consumer (B2C) solution providers — IBM, Oracle, Netsuite, eBay, SAP, others — that serve large, complex organizations.

While there are many substantive differences between B2C and business-to-business (B2B) transactions, a topic for another blog post, there was a particularly insightful and useful breakdown of a good eCommerce solution that is applicable to both.

Forrester calls them the ‘four foundational pillars’ and  we thought we’d pass them along.

  1. Experience management. Obviously this refers to providing an “Amazon like” customer experience (re: personal) and flow throughout a site — hard enough. But it also demands tighter collaboration between all departments of an organization (sales, marketing, warehousing, accounting) to insure that the customer has a satisfying experience interacting with the company after the credit card has been dinged. While most focus on the first part, many of our prospects could use real help in working through the second part.

  2. Product information management. As users spend more time researching online, the importance of high-quality and accurate product information becomes even more vital. More tools and guidance are needed to support complex data validation, syndication (Trade Service, Vendor Price Sheets), and creation. Without rich product information, important features that provide an “Amazon like” experience are impossible.

  3. Commerce management. Basically the nuts and bolts of the suite. Credit Card Processing, Cart/Checkout, Pricing Rules, Recommendations, etc. Forrester says, rightly so I think, that due to long and deep investment by vendors, these features are mature and make it difficult to differentiate among themselves during the evaluation process.

  4. Order management. Most eCommerce platforms have always offered very basic order management. Today, the expectation is for far more sophisticated capabilities that can route orders to multiple distribution centers, direct to retail, drop shippers, and third party logistic providers. Other important scenarios to consider are partial shipments, recurring orders, pre-orders, back orders, split orders, etc., etc., etc.

Other interesting tidbits from the report:

  • Over the past four years, eBay, IBM, Oracle, and SAP alone having spent in aggregate over $10 billion on commerce-related acquisitions.
  • Point-of-sale (POS) vendors, including Fujitsu and NCR, are facing real pressure to support omnichannel commerce, but they lack any real solutions. This lack will most likely result in more frenzied merger and acquisitions (M&A) activity and consolidation.
  • Lastly, Forrester points out that even though the B2C market is saturated, it is set to double from $1.2 billion to $2.1 billion by 2019. This is being driven primarily by large retailers ‘replatforming’ to better deliver the four pillars described above. Also, branded manufactures are starting to invest in direct to consumer channels.

If the mature B2C market is set to double in the next few years, what does that portend for the relatively untapped opportunity with B2B!



For those that wish to read the entire article, especially e-business & channel strategy professionals: The Forrester Wave™: B2C Commerce Suites, Q1 2015

About Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) — one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world, working with business and technology leaders to develop customer-obsessed strategies that drive growth. Forrester’s unique insights are grounded in annual surveys of more than 500,000 consumers and business leaders worldwide, rigorous and objective methodologies, and the shared wisdom of our most innovative clients. Through proprietary research, data, custom consulting, exclusive executive peer groups, and events, the Forrester experience is about a singular and powerful purpose: to challenge the thinking of our clients to help them lead change in their organizations.

Creative Commons photo credit: Intel Free Press on Flickr