ECOMMERCE IN 2016:
The Year of the B2B
2016 is right around the
corner. Business as you
know it is about to change.
In fact, that sea change has already begun. Manufacturers, distributors and other
companies that derive most of their revenues through B2B channels are rapidly
following their B2C cohorts, going digital, and moving complex operations to the cloud.
We reached out to industry thought leaders everywhere to get their take on the
biggest changes to expect in B2B eCommerce in 2016, changes so big they have the
power to transform your business. The experts’ predictions all have to do with one
important thing: the B2B customer. A customer-centric eCommerce strategy is the
key to a successful 2016.
Cloud technology, platforms, APIs and
the rise of large integrated ecosystems
are creating huge opportunities for
businesses to connect their systems, and
for developers to build modern eCommerce
solutions for their business which move
beyond the restrictions of the dinosaur
in-house and on-premise systems of
On the eve of 2016, publications such as
Fast Company, who just published their
20th anniversary issue, are documenting
the ongoing shift of digital technologies and
their impact on individuals, businesses and
the world. Their first issue in 1996, written
as if through the eyes of someone that had
already seen the next 20 years unfold, was
titled “Work is Personal. Computing is Social.
Knowledge is Power. Break the Rules.” This
too could be an apt title for our 2016
Enclosed are our 5 predictions for the state of
eCommerce in 2016: the Year of the B2B Customer
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
U.S. B2B eCommerce Sales Forecast
Source: US B2B eCommerce Forecast, 2015 To 2020,
Forrester Research, Inc., April 2, 2015
B2B eCommerce sales increase in correlation
with the rise of cloud technology, platforms,
APIs and integrated ecosystems.
The rise of Customer Experience
and Mobile empowerment.
Millennials take the lead!
In 2016, you’ll find that your customer or buyer is increasingly the “mobile millen-
nial”: younger, online and mobile. The millennial generation already represents the
biggest portion of your customer base, with The Economist reporting that millennials
occupy 34% of business positions in 2015 compared to 29% for baby boomers. 2016
will see further gains for this important and growing market segment.
It may seem as if B2C marketers are the only ones who need to focus on millennials.
That is not the case.
Almost half of all online researchers in the B2B space are millennials and 42% of
B2B buyers use a mobile device at some point during their purchasing process
(source: Think With Google). The digital-first generation requires a seamless omni-
channel experience, with 87% of them using between two and three technical
devices daily (source: Forbes). Responsivity is important for the design, but also
for the functionality. Consider mobile the ‘first screen’ for all of your marketing
activities, including your website, your landing pages, to your checkout process,
approval rules, and product search.
2016 Prediction #1
Forrester’s April 2015 B2B eCommerce
Forecast showed that 74% of buyers
already research at least half of their
work purchases online. 2016 will show
that trend continue to increase.
Smart marketers everywhere will begin
to make mobile millennials the primary
persona around which they optimize
their marketing efforts. The winner here
is the customer. Finally, in 2016 we’ve
hit the tipping point: B2B customers will
enjoy the majority of the same spoils
their B2C customers have been getting
with mobile, customer-first technologies
such as Netflix, Uber or Amazon.
Online Purchases by 2017
By 2017 56% of B2B buyers will complete
at least half of their purchases online.
Online Purchases Today
30% of today’s B2B buyers complete
at least half of their work purchases online.
Some 74% of B2B buyers
research at least one-half of
their work purchases online.
US B2B eCommerce Forecast, 2015 To 2020,
Forrester Research, Inc., April 2, 2015
Mobile and Millennials could easily be two predictions, but they’re intertwined as
they’ve come of age at the same time. For example, in 1996 a 56k modem was
still common, and cell phones were the size of a brick and not yet anything but
for having a conversation. But ask experts like Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson
Communications, about current state and you’ll realize how far the mobile pendulum
has swung. “Today, there are 7.2 Billion mobile subscriptions, and only 2.9 billion
people have broadband. By 2020, 90% of the world’s population will be covered by
mobile broadband networks.” Globally the shift has been even more mobile, rather
than traditional bandwidth driven.
Mobile has empowered individuals everywhere, and your B2B customer, whether
Millennial, GenX, or Baby Boomer, expects their work and personal life available on
their phone and their tablet -- at all times, 24x7x365.
Mobile continues to impact eCommerce, as smartphone and tablets continue to
gain adoption across touchpoints in user’s experiences. 2014 was the first year
when overall traffic on mobile devices outstripped desktop traffic. While initial
adoption focused on browsing and exploration, in 2016 it must include con-
version, such as ordering and product configuration. Responsive design is an
absolute must at this point, providing a good user experience and feature set,
regardless of the device that is accessing your eCommerce site.
- Darin Lynch, CEO & Founder, IrishTitan
APIs create new business speed,
agility and ecosystems
For businesses and developers alike, APIs are changing the way businesses buy and
sell online. Before the dawn of the API economy, businesses had to wait to be able to
integrate with other businesses until a partnership was established. Now, integra-
tions are easier and streamlined, and time-to-market is light-years faster.
APIs represent a new form of simplicity, which enables them to offer businesses a
new level of speed. Instead of heavy integrations, extensive planning of processes
and working every detail out with your vendor, developers are able to access only
the data that they need. This simplicity creates an accelerated speed to market that
the business world hasn’t experienced before. APIs give you the power to modify,
edit, and customize applications as you go in an uncomplicated manner. The ability to
create an application “on the fly” is vital in a constantly evolving business world that
has customers at the center of everything they do.
2016 Prediction #2
APIs create a pathway for companies to
support very unique business processes
without having a strong reliance on any
particular vendor. Instead, they provide
a flexible interface for developers to
take what they need, when they need it.
Reliance on the vendor to develop certain
functionality gives not only a lengthy
timeline, but a lengthy invoice too - time
it takes to implement, difficulties with
upgrades, the list goes on.
“The use of APIs will become more apparent — usage of APIs is directly tied to cloud software, and
both are on the rise.”
-Adam Roozen, CEO, Echidna
In 2016, vertical business aggregators of all kinds (software companies, product
aggregators, internet purchasing aggregators, professional associations, etc.)
will begin to work on platforms to create highly specialized eCommerce ordering
solutions for their clientele. All ERP and back-office software solutions will need
to create and deploy an appropriate, open, responsive B2B eCommerce Solution
that their customers can utilize for their specialized vertical businesses.
-Mark Johnson, CEO, Four51 OrderCloud
Web API Growth 2005-2015
A great example that resonates with most of those with tenure in the manufacturing,
or wholesale distribution space is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is a
common, nearly 30-year old integration method, very rigid in its approach. EDI
provides standards for organizations to exchange data, provided they adhere to
precisely the same, pre-specified, standards. Price Waterhouse Cooper, in their
paper “The Consumerization of APIs,” noted how the modern REST API provides a
significant leap in enabling integrations, with “Low complexity of integration” and
“Loose nature of coupling.”
Agile and continuous delivery finally meet architecture. Mobile, APIs, Internet
of Things, predictive analytics, and other application styles proliferate; delivery
cycles get shorter; and microservices decrease the size of each deployment while
increasing the number of components deployed.
- Forrester’s “Predictions 2016: Modern
Development Goes Mainstream”
November 19, 2015
2016 Prediction #3
Cloud Platforms drive down costs,
and increase scale.
In 2016, the “Digital Transformation” of business will continue to gain momentum
and become a key item the majority of business IT Roadmap items. The rise of cloud,
mobile and social computing has accelerated the need to put flexible software at the
core of what organizations do. With the customer at the center of the strategy, busi-
nesses will increasingly ditching servers in favor of cloud-based software.
In the late 90’s it was referred to as the ASP (Applications Service Provider), and
now newer versions of the “rent in the cloud” vs. “own on premise” are arising and
becoming the nexus around which businesses are building their entire technical
foundation. Salesforce pioneered this in CRM beginning in 1999 as Software as a
Service, or SaaS, providing new scale and lower cost to businesses not wanting to
own and update software on their own infrastructure.
In 2016, newer cloud technologies, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and
Platform as a Service (PaaS) will become king. Both are enabled by the power of
APIs described above. PaaS, specifically is becoming the choice of businesses need-
ing their unique business needs filled, while avoiding inflexible SaaS interfaces, or
expensive in-house systems. PaaS will become the preferred cloud technology as
businesses realize the increased scale, connectivity and agility it provides--ultimate-
ly creating significant economies of scale.
Businesses are increasingly ditching servers in favor of cloud-
based software. The rise of cloud, mobile and social computing has
accelerated the need to put flexible software at the core of what
organizations do. With the cloud, businesses are able to:
• Automate internal processes, reduce costs
• Speed-up processes to real time
• Access increasingly large amounts of data now available for
making business decisions
• Make work mobile-accessible
• Create efficiencies in legacy IT functions
2016 Prediction #4
Traditionally, B2B companies have had one content repository for sales agents
and a different tool/site for B2B customers to purchase. In the next few years,
those two things will converge into a single B2B website — essentially, a one-stop
shop for all constituents (including sales and distribution agents, and customers,
and customer service agents).
-Adam Roozen, CEO, Echidna
Developers Garner Speed
from Digital Toolkits
2016 unfolds massive adoption of “The Creator Economy.” Rather than focusing
on the end product, businesses are increasingly focusing on the value delivered.
Developers will begin to utilize combinations of 3rd-party tools, rather than modify
source code, to increase the value of eCommerce solutions in companies.
With a finely-tuned development environment, programmers are able to create
highly customized and comprehensive business solutions faster than ever before. In
2016, you’ll see business’ expanding their development teams to take advantage of
these toolkits to create B2B eCommerce experiences that fit their business’ unique
needs, rather than being forced to stick to a pre-packaged solution. Your ability to
get to market faster will be the new reality, further improving your ability to make
updates and improvements based on your buyers’ behaviors. Especially when
paired with PaaS, expect that software development kits (SDK’s) and feature-based
components will become indispensable tools for modern developers.
By 2017, over 50 percent of organizations’ IT spending will be for
3rd platform technologies, solutions, and services, rising to over
60 percent by 2020.
2016 Prediction #5
Strategic “Self-Service” will
become the new “Full-Service”
Businesses will strategically commit to becoming easier to do business with, not
only for their customers, but for the cost reduction potential it affords. As Andrew
C. Oliver said in his 2016 Predictions published on InfoWorld, “The old IT mantra,
‘say no first until someone makes us,’ doesn’t work anymore. [In 2016,] the best
companies will build cultures of performance and doing the right thing -- and will
make data and the processes around it self-service for all their employees.”
Not only will this transformation result in happiest customers, but it will also
result in happy stakeholders. Forrester reported that B2B companies can reduce
client service costs by as much as 90% by moving to a self-serve eCommerce
environment.* Strategic self-service will help to streamline processes, create
efficiencies and, again, improve the B2B customer and buyer experiences.
B2B users are beginning to expect more sophisticated user experiences
and features, similar to what B2C began demanding a few years ago.
Personalization, easy re-ordering, enhanced on-site search are expected.
- Darin Lynch, Founder, IrishTitan
2016 is the year of the B2B customer for sure, but perhaps it is an even bigger one
for the individual, all of the people that make up the fabric of the workplace from
management, to IT, to finance, to marketing, to operations, to distribution. Driven by
mobile empowerment, API connectivity, cloud platform flexibility, and personaliza-
tion of big data -- all of our lives are being revolutionized by technology, one person
at a time.
The benefactor? Your business. In 2016 the future for business and eCommerce is
bright. More business than ever will be done online, pushing costs of managing or-
ders to new lows, and customer satisfaction to new highs!
* US B2B eCommerce Forecast, 2015 To 2020, Forrester Research, Inc., April 2, 2015
LinkedIn: Four51, Inc
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