b2b e-commerce, forrester waveIBM is the top B2B e-commerce vendor, according to the first-ever Forrester Wave report on the field.

The report, “The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013,” evaluated 66 criteria and identified the seven top providers. In addition to IBM, they include Commerce Server, SAP’s hybris, Insite Software, Intershop, NetSuite and Oracle Commerce. The report points out that, although the B2B e-commerce market in the US alone is more than twice that of the B2C e-commerce market, B2B is "far less mature" and less robust in terms of the online experience.

But that is changing, with companies beginning to invest significantly in the technology. Additionally, expectations are also increasing, not only looking for industrial strength performance but also customer experiences akin to those enjoyed by consumers, with the "Amazon experience" being the gold standard.

Partnering, Buying

Those kind of experiences involve not only clear user interface designs, but community features, 24x7x365 ordering, real-time customer service, expedited shipping when necessary and a full set of functionality for mobile devices. This is in addition to B2B's requirements for integration with back-office systems, fulfillment workflows and inventory management.

In fact, Forrester said that B2B systems are more than just a new channel for many companies, but have "become a way to transform a slow-growth off-line businesses into a high-growth online and multichannel enterprise." Many, in fact, are in the process of becoming companies that fulfill their sales orders primarily through their online e-commerce suites.

To meet this demand, the report points out that vendors are partnering with solution providers or buying the technologies they need. Key examples in recent years have been SAP's acquisition of hybris, Oracle's purchase of Art Technology Group, Endeca and FatWire Software, and IBM’s buying Sterling Commerce and Coremetrics. Perhaps most significantly, Amazon has entered the market with its AmazonSupply, using its global infrastructure to meet businesses’ needs, and Google Shopping for Suppliers has emerged as a referral site to qualified B2B suppliers.

Grouped into Three Categories

While this is the first Forrester wave report on B2B e-commerce, the research firm has regularly published evaluations of the B2C market. Most of those criteria have been used for evaluating these B2B vendors, but with such additional emphases as the ability to take bids, dealer management, product information management, order management systems and such specific needs as special tools for field-based sales reps.