While we have seen before that customer experience management technologies are becoming increasingly sought after, running parallel to their development is the development of e-commerce suites that are increasingly sophisticated, that provide multi-touchpoint solutions and that are becoming increasingly agile, according to new Forrester research.

As in other consumer software spaces, the pack is led by a small number of vendors, but according to the recently published "Forrester Wave for e-Commerce 2012 Q3" their position as market leaders is far from secure.

e-Commerce Platforms Adapt

At the moment, the pack is led by IBM, hybris, Oracle and Demandware, but Forrester evaluated ten vendors in detail after applying a list of 75 criteria to an ever-growing market, and says that even though there are four leaders, the other six vendors are snapping at their heels, with a whole bunch of other vendors that didn’t make it into the Wave, jostling to be included.

And with increasing volatility in this market, it is likely that in the coming 12 months there will be considerable changes. In a world where the enterprise customer is king, vendors have to respond to expectations around online, mobile and social interaction capabilities.

Where they don’t respond to these client demands, and where technologies become outdated, less effective and expensive to maintain, those that provide better features, more effective business tools and solution flexibility will become tomorrow’s top performers.

Generally speaking, vendors in the e-commerce space need to provide strong site management, content management, order management and merchandizing tools to win clients.

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Forrester Waver e-Commerce Q3 2012: e-Commerce activity

‘Significant’ e-Commerce Platforms

So who are the “significant” software providers in this space, according to Forrester? In alphabetical order they are: Demandware, Digital River, hybris, IBM, Intershop, Magento, Micros-Retail, Oracle (ATG), RedPrairie and SAP.

They are operating in a market where traditional retailers are under pressure to demonstrate even single digit growth for in-store trade, as more consumers are moving to online retailers.

In these circumstances many retailers have also turned online with 56% of companies stating that they will be spending 5% more on e-commerce technologies, and 18% saying that they will increase it by as much as 20%.

e-Commerce Market Drivers

This will be driven by growth in the online and mobile channels, with online sales expected to grow by 12% in the US and Europe. But there’s more at play here than just sales. Among the drivers here is the need for:

  • Cross-touchpoint solutions: These are solutions that support retail, but also support marketing and service capabilities across all customer touchpoints. To achieve this, vendors must provide consistent platform capabilities to manage products, orders and customer data across sites, mobile sites, and applications and call center interfaces.
  • Increased agility: In the face of an increasingly geographically and culturally fragmented internet -- referred to here as the Splinternet -- businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to market, sell and service customers across it. Even with the rise of HTML5 that will make the design of these experiences easier, it remains a challenge.
  • Better order management: Retailers are under pressure now to provide better order management capabilities, which are now considered critical to driving customer experiences. The technologies also need to come with flexible integration with a diverse supply chain, and customer service interfaces.
  • Support for multiple businesses and regions: Enterprises are increasingly looking for technologies that provide infrastructure to support multi-sites and multi-brand to businesses. This trend enables more specific and targeted marketing opportunities for customers.